Answers from Our Experts (10)
Ending the week with heaping plates of huevos rancheros or stuffed French toast is a ritual in Chicago, a town that loves to brunch. From upscale hotel buffets with free-flowing mimosas to charming neighborhood boites with organic eggs benedict, here are the best restaurants for brunch in Chicago:
1. The tastemakers behind the established restaurants Blackbird and Avec have turned their focus to pork, oysters and beer in a German beer hall setting called The Publican. For Sunday brunch, executive chef Paul Kahan and chef de cuisine Brian Huston whip up dishes such as red wine poached egg and ricotta and zucchini bread with wildflower honey, pecans and strawberries. Those who dine at The Publican for brunch will appreciate the same dedication to cooking pristine, simple dishes that goes into preparing the dinner menu.
2. It's hard to discount hotel brunches, seeing as Chicago boasts so many outstanding hotels with equally as spectacular accompanying restaurants. In particular, Balsan at Waldorf Astoria Chicago is a find. There's simply nothing not to love about the restaurant, which has an antique European feel and is appropriately named after Etienne Balsan, who financed Coco Chanel's first hat shop. The two-course brunch starts with a complimentary wooden board of salumi, cheese, madeleines, baguette slices and scones. Four small bowls of addictive housemade chocolate-hazelnut spread, lemon curd, butter and raspberry preserves accompany the board. For the next course, choose among entrees like the rich stratta Benedict with wild mushrooms and a poached egg drenched in hollandaise sauce, or brioche French toast with season-appropriate toppings, like peaches and pecans in the summer, and spiced apple, squash butter and pumpkin seeds in the fall. Make it a three-course meal by finishing up with Bloody Mary variations like the Bloody Belly, with bacon-flavored vodka, lime and a shot of beer.
3. Another beloved brunch spot maintains a serious commitment to buying natural, seasonal and local ingredients. Located in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood, the quaint m. Henry is exceptionally affordable for the quality of the fare. Try anything from black bean cakes and eggs to smoked salmon and onion tarte Benedict at the unassuming restaurant that specializes in breakfast food, which we think is a plus. If the popular restaurant is full — which happens often — try its sister spot, m. Henrietta in nearby Edgewater.
4. If you're looking for an imaginative breakfast in a playful environment, you'd better head to the Bongo Room early. As early as 30 minutes before the doors open, the sidewalk outside this Wicker Park standby is packed with hungover urbanites anxiously awaiting a table. The breakfast burrito filled with guacamole and fluffy scrambled eggs is a favorite, but most come for the outrageously sweet concoctions that mix breakfast with dessert, such as Oreo cookie pancakes or chocolate tower French toast. The spot is a little less crowded when lunchtime rolls around, when the kitchen offers inventive fare like a tasty maple-and-mustard-roasted pork loin sandwich and a delectable baby spinach, golden beet and duck confit salad. If you can't stomach the interminable brunch wait, try the South Loop location, where it's slightly — note, we said slightly — less crowded.
5. Look no further than Sweet Maple Café if what you crave is a down-home brunch that tastes as fresh and simple as something your mother might have cooked. This authentic spot in University Village offers housemade sweet milk biscuits and pure Vermont maple syrup. The comfort-food menu — egg and cheeser biscuit sandwiches with a thick sausage patty, classic corned beef hash — drips in true Southern hospitality.
If you’re looking for the top brunch spots in town head to some of the city’s top neighborhood spots like Orange, Stanley’s, Zed451, the Bongo Room and Ann Sather.
The popularity of brunch has skyrocketed over the last five years and Chicago is leading the charge. One of the best brunch spreads in Chicago is at Sixteen, which puts out a spectacular array of brunch items on the buffet. From a personal omelet station to seared sea scallops to a pastry station to die for, guests will find everything they love to have in the morning. For those looking for some excellent spirits with their morning brunch, they should look no further than Rockit Bar & Grille, which serves delicious tavern food and outstanding mimosas. Further down the block is Mercadito, an exciting Mexican taco restaurant that offers a brunch of unusual breakfast tacos and dishes.
In summertime, a great brunch option is always Zed451. Its best feature is far and away its rooftop deck, which overlooks the city’s famous skyline. The brunch menu allows guests to pay a flat rate and, in turn, they are able to sample from a wide variety of Southern and contemporary dishes. Another terrific option is the RL Restaurant on Michigan Avenue. Particularly known for its seafood specials, everything on its brunch menu suits even the most discerning eater.
The Publican in Fulton Market, Longman & Eagle, Lula Café, Mindy’s HotChocolate and North Pond overlooking the water in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
I was a big brunch person until now; we’re open for brunch. Now I probably won’t eat out for brunch. [My favorites are] Ina’s down the street — she’s had her brunch place open for years — and actually, GT Fish & Oyster. They just opened for brunch recently. They have a really awesome brunch.
Yolk, it's right by the restaurant. Brunch [the restaurant], to me, is so brutal because there are no reservations, and you go and wait forever. I’m not a big waiting guy. I like Ina's — not just for brunch but for breakfast. I heard The Publican has a good brunch. I have to try that.
Lula Cafe. Old Town Social does a really rad brunch. The only places I’ve been to up north, where you can get a real biscuit, like a proper Southern biscuit.
I have to single one out — I love GT Fish & Oyster’s brunch so much. It’s probably my favorite brunch in the city. I know that’s one of my restaurants, but I have to say it.
I like Meli a lot. Meli is my breakfast- and brunch-of-choice place. It has a couple of locations, but one is right by where I used to live, and it does a great job.
My favorite place is The Publican. It has a great ambience, classic stuff — slab bacon and red-wine poached eggs. I recently went to Au Cheval and had their chilaquiles — fantastic. It’s more like a diner feel. Lula Cafe in Logan Square — very creative, great food. And one of my other favorite places I go to with my wife is Flying Saucer. A little bit indie — in the California-West Loop area, Wicker Park — classic brunch fare done well with fresh ingredients.
Chicagoans love brunch, and in every neighborhood there's at least one go-to at which locals will wait in line to get their fix. But the brunch elite know there's a shortlist of outstanding spots worth traveling to, no matter what neighborhood -- or suburb -- you're coming from, and no matter how long the line at the door.
At the top of my list is Lula Cafe, a Logan Square institution which, after 14 years, still draws crowds from 9am onward every day of the week. Beautiful, organic farm-to-table egg, pantry and vegetarian specials change daily, and there is always a selection of house-made sweets to nibble on. Lula's sister restaurant, Nightwood in the Pilsen neighborhood, offers meals of the same caliber, plus one incredibly popular addition: bespoke donuts.
For sweet brunches, the best in town is Mindy's HotChocolate in Bucktown. Chef Mindy Segal, who puts desserts on a pedestal, finally won the 2012 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry after being nominated every single year from 2007 through 2011. Her brunch entrees are epic displays of sweet pantry staples (french toast, buttermilk pancakes, warm donuts), and the savory items don't disappoint.
The airy, sunny Kingsbury Street Cafe recently opened as the permanent location for Work of Art catering, whose staff fed Oprah's for five years before the show aired its final segment. Situated on its namesake street near Chicago's largest Whole Foods, the full-serve restaurant thrives on its baked goods and thoughtful details.
Chicago's old guard brunch is represented by Ann Sather, a Swedish diner with a handful of locations scattered throughout the city. Now a catering empire as well, Ann Sather's cozy atmosphere was made famous by one particular item: the cinnamon roll.