Today's $40 groupon to CJ's Eatery, yours for only $20, will make you feel like Bluebeard the Pirate. Bluebeard found hidden treasure on an island, and then he never left that island. He just played with his treasure, jumping around and swimming in the rubies and golden coins. Much in this way, when you discover the relatively hidden gem of CJ's, tucked away in a corner of Humboldt Park, you'll probably want to linger there for an excessively long time, and swim about the oceans of comfort food and brunch items (the stacks of biscuits, the waffles & chicken, the fried catfish sandwich, etc.) as if you were alone on a desert island. You aren't, so don't. But it's OK to dream.
CJ's features a delicious menu of classic American cuisine. There's a heavy dose of hearty Southern regional dishes like biscuits and gravy and the Sausage Breakfast Casserole. There are even a few Southwestern items like the Southwestern Breakfast Burrito: eggs, chorizo, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and queso blanco, wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with fresh salsa. But the unifying force behind CJ's menu is that it's downright satisfying comfort food. Check out the menu. Weekend brunch is CJ's specialty, but their dinner menus is also tops - especially the local favorite barbeque meatloaf tower, which the Chicago Tribune claims "at least one guy at every table orders." CJ's is only open on Saturday's & Sundays. The weekends-only thing just makes people want it even more, just like those weekends-only hospitals that have lines around the block Saturday morning.
There are endless rave reviews from enthusiastic Yelpers who've recently discovered CJ's...giving them an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 possible stars on their Yelp page. But the most impressive review came from Chicago Tribune article by food critic Joe Gray, who tested CJ's menu up & down, finding endless golden nuggets amongst CJ's menu and giving CJ's 3 out of 4 "forks" - which by the Trib's rating scale qualifies CJ's as "one of the best." Try not to drown in your own saliva as you read the Trib's mouth-watering descriptions of the CJ's menu...
"There are lots of keepers on this menu, especially among the brunch items. The huevos rancheros were a great version with two 6-inchcorn tortillas fried to a shattering crispness, topped with a sauteed julienneof bell peppers and onions, then black beans and finally the eggs (I orderedsunny side-up), which were perfectly cooked. The waffle with fried chicken came crowned by a generous pile of crispy wing drumettes, moist inside, with pecan-maple syrup. The smoked pork, ham and mozzarella Cuban sandwich was deliciously, redundantly porcine – smoky, gooey and with just the right mustard bite. For dinner, the star is the barbecue meatloaf tower...a thick slab of rich ground chuck meatloaf anointed with house-made barbecue sauce rests atop a slice of toast and is topped with a mound of garlic mashed redskins. The whole is decorated with a filigreed pile of onion rings in an almost tempura-light batter. Don’t pass on the housemade desserts; we loved the Key lime pie’s tangy filling and rich topping." - Chicago Tribune 2/7/08
Yes, today's Groupon is the sea vessel that will bear you to 3839 W Grand in your quest for great comfort food. And what better way to unwind from such a satisfying brunch than by walking it off in a stroll through the actual Humboldt Park within Humboldt Park, which features a beautiful lagoon, and which, after the Olympics take over all our beautiful South-side parks, could be one of Chicago's last remaining 19th century Olmstead-style open parks along the green-belt of boulevards. The bucolic views on your Humboldt Park stroll and the delight of having just discovered CJ's may give you the urge to swim to the bottom of the Humboldt Park lagoon for further discoveries. Please resist this urge, for the treasure chest you will find in that great sea will be filled with neither rubies nor fresh biscuits. Definitely not rubies. Possibly some very unfresh biscuits. Certainly at least some sort of gravy.