Everyone knows that Chicago is a great steak town, a great ethnic-dining town, the hotbed of molecular gastronomy (food faddists will know what I'm talking about) and a top restaurant destination in general.
It is also, I'm happy to report, a terrific place for weekend brunch.
That's the conclusion drawn by me and some 35 Tribune colleagues, who have spent the last two months sampling brunches all over the city and suburbs. We visited more than 70 spots, and we could have sampled a great many more, given the nominations that poured in when we asked our readers for suggestions. But lacking unlimited time, space and funds, we were necessarily fussy about which places we'd try.
For one thing, we decided that breakfast restaurants that merely kept weekend hours didn't qualify (though Bongo Room, which has a separate menu available only on weekends, did). We eliminated dining rooms that only offered brunch on Easter and Mothers Day (the biggest brunching days of the year). A few places we attempted to visit had discontinued brunch service, or had recently closed altogether. And -- how to phrase this delicately -- not every restaurant we visited was worth recommending.
But that still left us with more than five dozen places we're happy to recommend, from budget-friendly bargains to the sort of big-bucks buffets best visited when your rich uncle is buying. (Please note that prices, and selections, may be different for Mother's Day; call ahead.)
Visit one of these places every weekend, and Easter will come rolling around again before you're finished.
Note: Prices and menu items are subject to change.
Sunday; reservations recommended
Cost: $8-$15 a la carte entrees
The great thing about the Wicker Park location is the special brunch menu, the availability of more parking than Adobo's Old Town location and the more conversation-friendly atmosphere. Not your usual bright brunch, the dimly lit space feels more intimate, with red walls and Mexican-inspired paintings and wall-hangings. Spanish music plays not so loudly. The table-side guacamole was delicious; the chips fresh. "Eggs Benedictine" is the specialty on the very corny (in a good way) sopes instead of the traditional English muffin. There are various small plates, such as empanadas, tortilla soup and tostaditas (mini tostadas). Take a pass on the way-too smoky tamales. There's plenty of spice available to soothe that hangover. The orange-flavored cafe de olla was strange; they should have skipped the orange and kept the cinnamon. The 1610 N. Wells St. location is open for breakfast and lunch at noon. The table-side guac is still there, but there are some menu difference. -- Melissa Clay
Sunday; reservations recommended
Cost: $22.95 prix fixe; also $14-$24 a la carte entrees
At this Sunday jazz brunch, our table afforded a wonderful view of Pearson and all the little girls heading over to American Girl Place nearby. The ancient jazz musicians provided a nice soundtrack, but the food was the star. We opted for the three-course prix-fixe menu. Eggs Louisiana, which was eggs Benedict on crab cakes, was so rich our arteries will never recover, but it was worth it. The French Quarter frittata, with roasted red and green peppers, also was scrumptious. Our meal included an appetizer (I had French onion soup, my companion had salmon) and dessert (I had an apple tart, she had creme brulee). Among other menu items are quiche Lorraine, a Crescent City waffle, steak and eggs, shrimp gumbo, smoked salmon carpaccio, sandwiches and salads. -- Maureen Hart
Sunday; reservations recommended for large parties
Cost: $19.95 buffet; $12.95 for children 12 and under
This restaurant has a sophisticated, grown-up vibe, with the decor's natural tones and soft colors giving it a romantic feel. When we arrived about noon for the buffet brunch (the price of which includes coffee, juice and one mimosa), there were just a few people and it was a nice, quiet time. But an hour later, a live band arrived and began belting out soulful gospel music. The selection of dishes included both breakfast items and lunch/dinner items. In addition to the eggs, sausage and grits, there was also pasta, fried catfish, chicken wings and soul food staples such as collard greens and peach cobbler. In addition to the buffet, they had omelets (our cheese, spinach and sausage omelet was darn near perfect) and waffles made to order. The only downfall? The selection was very typical. Our waitress was friendly and attentive, and buffet items were replenished frequently. -- Lolly Bowean
The ultimate brunch guide
The lowdown on brunches around the city, from big hotel buffets to tiny cafes
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