Brunch time: 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Cost: $5-$9 per person

The scene: Even if brunch spots weren't so few and far between on this stretch of Grand Avenue, Humboldt Park newcomer CJ's Eatery probably still would be the only place around where you could order a Lavazza cappuccino with your fried chicken and waffles. Here, in a bright, loft-like space with exposed brick walls and ductwork, trend meets tradition. There's a fancy coffee bar that churns out those foamy Lavazza delights. But there's also a old-school chalkboard shouting out comfort-food specials like bread pudding. And, while efficient, the casual, chatty servers lend a down-home feel to the place. The crowd is just as comfortable: young couples easing into their lazy Sundays over pancakes, groups of women catching up over coffee and families filling up on bargain breakfasts.


The cuisine: A breakfast burrito for $3.50? We had to do a double-take. And when we did, we discovered it wasn't an aberration. There were more options under $4--lots more! We went for the gravy and biscuits, two homemade biscuits smothered in rich sausage gravy ($3.50). We could've walked away satisfied after sopping up every last bit of gravy with those buttery biscuits, but we're glad we didn't. Then we wouldn't have tried the breakfast casserole ($5.50), a hearty baked dish of eggs, cheese, sausage, tomatoes, onions and peppers that reminded us that breakfast doesn't have to be fancy--or expensive--to be darn good. Weekend brunch options, including chicken and waffles with pecan-maple syrup and huevos rancheros over a crispy fried tortilla, top out at $7.


Better than a bloody mary: We loved the homemade blueberry lemonade ($1.99), which tasted more like fresh blueberry juice with a splash of lemon than a typical flavored lemonade. CJ's is BYOB; if you want to booze it up at brunch, we suggest bringing vodka for this one. CJ's charges a $2 corkage fee.


The wait: None.


Loved it: Sticky-sweet banana bread pudding, topped with peanut butter anglaise ($3.49). Who says you can't have dessert before noon?


Hated it: Standard-issue restaurant booths, tables and chairs that didn't quite jive with the otherwise bright, modern space.


[ M. Kathleen Pratt is the Metromix print editor. ] kpratt@tribune.com