The Chicago Tribune named Nightwood the Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year in 2011, praising the eatery as “the best example of a very welcome trend in Chicago dining—casual enjoyment”. Jason Vincent, 2012’s Grand Cochon champion, builds each Sunday’s brunch menu with ingredients from nearby markets, and might offer bacon-butterscotch donuts or chicken pot pie.
"Breakfast Queen" may seem a boastful nickname, but Ina Pinkney’s extensive resume more than qualifies her as the reigning monarch of the morning meal. She’s concocted recipes for everyone from The World Book Encyclopedia to Quaker Oats, and rules her own dining room with signature menu items such as veggie hash with yams, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms.
Nearly 20 years ago, Bongo Room set up shop in a Wicker Park where culinary gems were still quite rare. Today, amid the neighborhood’s now bustling gastronomic scene, longtime diners and newcomers sip raspberry-pear mimosas as they peruse a menu that touts some of the eatery’s original items alongside seasonal rench toast, including a chocolate-chunk version stuffed with maple mascarpone.
The dining room is striking: grape-green placemats and Plexiglass chairs punctuate an otherwise monochromatic space aglow with damask sconces. If the décor doesn’t win you over, the food will—former Charlie Trotter’s chef Jeffrey Mauro whips up blueberry pancakes so seductive, the recipe was featured in an issue of Details.
Sure, you can wolf down fried-egg sandwiches, but the real draw here is the bloody mary menu. The Road Rash Classic whisks beer into the eatery’s homemade mix, chipotle-pepper vodka and chorizo ignite the Smokin’ Salma, and lime-infused gin replaces vodka for a Bloody Queen crowned with shrimp and green onion.
Larry Anderson and Patty Rasmussen's love fed on food. After discovering their mutual love of French bistros and their common Scandinavian heritage, the two became a couple, and the couple became owners of Tre Kronor. The restaurant's Swedish delicacies—pancakes with lingonberry, an Oslo omelet with smoked Norwegian salmon—were enough to attract the attention of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,
Orange’s chefs use locally grown and organic products to build earthy dishes such as chai-tea French toast stuffed with ricotta cheese and black-bean herb frittatas with melted white cheddar. Diners wash down these meals with glasses of juice made from the fruits and vegetables they check off on the eatery’s lengthy list of available ingredients.
Under pressed copper ceilings in the Biggs Mansion carriage house, patrons dig into Southern-inspired Sunday brunch from Art Smith, who grew up on a family farm near the Florida-Georgia border before becoming Oprah’s personal chef. By Smith’s design, wild shrimp color stone-ground white corn grits, and barbecue pork accompanies Yukon-gold potato hash with scallions and bell peppers.
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If you’re in the mood for a quiet brunch, don’t come here. Since 1965, the crowds have piled into this diner, where the kitchen bustles with cooks who can prepare sandwiches in less than three minutes. The most popular item is the Loretta sandwich—grilled bacon, onions, and peppers encased in fresh french bread—which pairs well with cheesy hash browns.
Looking for brunch on a Tuesday at 2? Visit Toast, which serves breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day (until 4 on weekends). Sliders of organic buffalo meat and grilled red onions are sandwiched by, of course, toast, and crepes hang onto crushed pecans with help from a sticky swipe of nutella.
Yes, it’s a burger bar. But Grange Hall also boasts a farmer’s breakfast on the weekends, with meals that range from the not-so-simple Simple Man (two eggs, rosemary-fried potatoes, and apple turkey-sausage patties) to, of course, a grass-fed beef burger with bacon and an egg on cinnamon-raisin rench toast.
Irish chef Dan McCauley initially rebelled against baking scones, a UK breakfast staple, because he never liked them much. But he rose to the challenge, and after 21 attempts crafted a version even he couldn’t resist. Over the years, the scones have been adored by the Sun-Times, the Tribune, and the Reader.
According to CLTV, “if you’re gonna go for a hangover brunch, the one spot you need to go is Kitsch’n”. As patrons shake off last night’s booze binge with chilaquiles (which the menu bills as the “ultimate hangover cure”), they wax nostalgic over vintage pop-culture décor the owner culled from his parents’ basement and acquired while thrifting with his wife.
As Time Out’s Julia Kramer said, “If there were ever a…restaurant I could imagine treating like my second home, it’s Bite.” Patrons feel the same once they realize they can bring their own alcohol and ask chef Rodney Staton (a Longman & Eagle alum) to swap out eggs for tofu in dishes such as a breakfast taco with black beans and pepper jack.
Located an egg’s throw from Mercury Theater and the Music Box, Deleece produces brunches with multiple acts: appetizers such as cinnamon-caramel beignets set the scene, and breakfast pasta with goat cheese and scrambled eggs steal the show before diners take their curtain call with a final glass of bottomless mimosa.
Infused with unexpected flavors, Waffles’ waffles take on both sweet and savory variations. Strawberry compote and candied walnuts sweeten a red-velvet version, and coffee-braised short ribs and scallions pile on a waffle made with 4-year-aged cheddar. Beyond the restaurant’s namesake, the menu also saves room for omelets and sandwiches.
Named after the Greek word for “green”, Prasino follows a farm-to-table philosophy that revolves around hormone-free meats and organic produce. The seasonal menu collects internationally inspired eats such as an Irish skillet with corned beef hash, and the Paris: poached eggs, brie, and truffle hollandaise over a pretzel croissant.
Weekend brunch often means waiting in line, but it rarely involves drinking free Julius Meinl coffee while you do. As patrons sip on their complimentary cup, they peruse a menu that changes weekly, rotating in spicy chilaquiles alongside perennial favorites such as banana-spiked french toast with rum-caramel sauce.
Almost 70 years ago, Ann Sather pooled her life savings and began what would become a Chicago breakfast establishment. Now run by 44th-ward Alderman Tom Tunney, the Scandinavian-style eateries known for their cinnamon rolls (prominently featured on the sign) also tout Norwegian smoked-salmon omelets and Swedish pancakes with Swedish meatballs.
Though Yolk’s sleek design and colorful blue-and-yellow décor seem lighthearted, Dining Out gave this Zagat-rated spot some serious praise, saying “Yolk gives Chicago the breakfast it deserves”. Specialties include a pulled-pork sandwich topped with pineapple-mango salsa and a fried egg, and their own proprietary blend of coffee roasted by Metropolis.
Though the menu items are ephemeral, they’re not forgettable. In 2011, the eatery’s soufflé-esque quiche landed on Time Out’s 100 Best Things We Ate and Drank This Year. The seasonal bistro-style menus have boasted everything from duck-confit hash to Parisian gnocchi stuffed with summer squash. Chef Gregory Ellis, a veteran of the kitchen at Charlie Trotter's, even makes his own gourmet pop tarts.
Deal or no deal, our editors strongly recommend these businesses based on their reputation, popularity, and quality of service.