Best Breakfasts in Chicago and the Suburbs

SUNNY-SIDE UP: Whether you’re in the market for a healthy meal or a carbo-bomb of yesteryear, morning in Chicago is better than ever—and we’ve got 75 ways to prove it.

Longman & Eagle   Photos: Anna Knott

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The breakfast spots in this town may be endless, but all the good ones radiate the same optimistic attitude: No matter what happens to you today, we can at least give you a good start. Here, we present 75 great starts, from the healthy tofu scrambles of Prasino to the decadent chicken-fried steak and cheese grits of Feed. We appreciate restaurants that want to wrap us in their warm arms with homey fare the way Milk & Honey does with its French toast or Nana with its pancakes topped by apricots and cherry compote—but also the ones that wow with creativity, like Sprout with its lamb eggs Benedict and a pea-purée-injected croquette in hollandaise. We even like places that seem to think we’re all hung-over. (G’morning, Bristol and Mercadito. . . . Now could you turn it down, please?) Welcome, Chicago, to a new day.

[W] = WEEKEND ONLY  [S] = SUNDAY ONLY

THE BAGEL RESTAURANT AND DELI
A well-stocked refrigerator case up front, families with three generations in line, fresh challah and crisp bagel chips on the tables. You can drop by this beloved Jewish deli for breakfast anytime and get an honest lox platter or fried matzo with onions, just like Bubbe used to make. 3107 N. Broadway, 773-477-0300; 4999 Old Orchard Ctr., Skokie, 847-677-0100

BANANAS FOSTER CAFÉ
UPDATE: CLOSED AS OF OCTOBER 20, 2011
The chefs in towering toques are the first hint that this Edgewater store-front does not house your usual breakfast joint. Then there is the Brit-crazy menu, with clever updates like Green Eggs and Ham Benedict in a glorious pesto hollandaise that you will soak up with your toast—while realizing how outdated jokes about English food have become. 1147 W. Granville Ave.; 773-262-9855

BISTRO CAMPAGNE
CRITIC’S PICK
The noise! The crowds! The bacon-fried bacon! In a city where brunch can border on carnival sideshow, I had almost given up hope of finding an urbane oasis. Then I strolled into Bistro Campagne: no clatter or clamor, no aroma of stale beer, and no wait. The menu is simple: French classics, meticulously executed. I loved the fall-off-the-bone duck confit with sunny-side-up eggs over grilled Poilâne toast. The flavors are so precise and the portions so appropriate—dare I say un-American?—that I felt compelled to go overboard and try the pot de crème au chocolat for dessert (no regrets). Bring your paper, order the delicate crab cakes deftly dressed with herb beurre blanc, and breathe a sigh of relief. [S] 4518 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-271-6100

BITE CAFE
Apparently some people like a side of Minor Threat with their eggs. The hip café next to the Empty Bottle gets points for its attitude—and music—and for hearty fare like the breakfast poutine, a mess of skin-on french fries in smoked bacon gravy with bacon nubs, cheese curds, poached eggs, and pickled chilies: equal parts showstopper and heart stopper. 1039 N. Western Ave.; 773-395-2483

BODEGA N. 5
When you want a $5 breakfast, Mercat a la Planxa probably doesn’t come to mind. Surprise! Mercat’s tiny downstairs lounge, Bodega N. 5, has one of the top daybreak bargains in town. Like an herby egg custard on a basil ciabatta or a fluffy scramble with scallions and chorizo packaged as an empanada—each with chips, a pastry, or fruit. Five bucks. Think about it. Blackstone Hotel, 638 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-542-3605

THE BRISTOL
There are many reasons to avoid The Bristol: The noise level is off-the-charts loud, the fashionable crowd will make you regret wearing your weekend jeans, and the menu is loaded with diet-obliterating temptations. A yeasty, bourbony, dessertlike cinnamon roll is so delicious and so large you’ll eat yourself sick. The Hangover Breakfast—fettucine and a coddled egg surrounded by a heady star-anise-scented pho broth—is the cure. [S] 2152 N. Damen Ave.; 773-862-5555

BRUNCH
For breakfast purists, there’s textbook eggs Benedict, and for the more intrepid, there’s the Slumber Party: juicy chicken sausage blanketed with moist French toast, meant to be consumed like a hot dog. With a conference room, seven flat-screens, and a coffee and pastry takeout counter, it seems Brunch thought of everything—though the name may be the ultimate search engine faux pas. 644 N. Orleans St.; 312-265-1411

CAFÉ BA-BA-REEBA!
Sweet or savory? That’s the biggest question whenever you open a breakfast menu. Ba-Ba-Reeba!’s tapas and pintxos make it easy to have your hotcake and eat it too: Delicate deviled eggs, waffle-battered chicken sausage, and the shortest-ever stack of pancakes are all small enough and cheap enough that you could try pretty much everything. Which you will most likely do. [W] 2024 N. Halsted St.; 773-935-5000

CAFÉ SELMARIE
The most perfectly situated neighborhood restaurant in Chicago, Selmarie rules Lincoln Square day and night. But the sunny spot especially dominates in the morning, when homemade pastries all but fly off the shelf, Intelligentsia coffee eases you into the day, and fresh, hefty dishes like the scrambled eggs with smoked Atlantic salmon nullify lunch. 4729 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-989-5595

CHICAGO CUT STEAKHOUSE
Surf and turf before noon? On a weekday? It can be arranged. Just ask for one eggs Benedict with jumbo lump crab and another with wet-aged prime filet. There’s an impeccably poached egg and hollandaise atop each one, and grilled asparagus spears and hash browns complete the deal. The power breakfast: alive and well. 300 N. LaSalle St.; 312-329-1800

CITY PROVISIONS
CRITIC’S PICK
After sampling the Sunday brunch at this year-old artisan deli and grocer, I wondered how I could ever love another morning meal. The too-good-to-be-true home fries made with duck fat and scallions, dreamy breakfast quinoa, habit-forming java drinks, and sublime weekly specials—like custard-layered French toast bursting with a bounty of seasonal berries—flaunt the most vivid flavors around. And it’s all served without an ounce of pretension. Sure, the seating is cramped, and the steep tabs elicit gasps, but I’m too smitten to care. 1818 W. Wilson Ave.; 773-293-2489

COUNTRY KITCHEN
The Dimitrious have played morning host to Highland Parkers for decades—first Peter and now Ruby, his daughter. Decked out in flowery wallpaper, wooden booths, and oilcloth table coverings, CK is the most modest spot in town—and the friendliest. Its tiny entryway is always crowded, but no one leaves—not without the fresh OJ, bacon and eggs, and pancakes. Besides, the customers feel like part of the family. 446 Central Ave., Highland Park; 847-432-7500

DEPOT AMERICAN DINER
Austin’s irresistible Depot American Diner, with its train-stationy menu and Nighthawks details, wants you to think it’s been around for years. It may as well have been: The satisfying steak and eggs, golden-crisp fried chicken, and steaming made-to-order doughnuts all hark back to an era when men were men, dames were dames, and arteries were hardened before 9 a.m. 5840 W. Roosevelt Rd.; 773-261-8422

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comments
3 years ago
Posted by whitesox25

What? No Pauline's? That's a tough one to leave out.

3 years ago
Posted by Blondie123

Whoever wrote this overlooked the Bongo Room. I have been to at least five of the restaurants on this list (mostly in wicker park), and while they are very good, the Bongo Room blows them all out of the water.

3 years ago
Posted by Tom G

Wow--there isn't a single good breakfast place in the south or southwest suburbs? That's amazing!

3 years ago
Posted by Cnydly

How could Ann Sather's not be on this list?! Great food, terrific value and the best cinnamon rolls in the world!

3 years ago
Posted by joe a

I'm sorry, but if you exclude 'The Original Pancake House' (excepting, however, the Walker Bros venues), you lose all credibility. The one at Armitage and Clark has been there 30+ years and you ignore them? I used to go to the one in Wilmette til I quit being a slave to the car I'm grateful for their accessability in the Lincoln Park hood. You do however include the trendy NEW places who may not be around in a year. You've shown your hand as 'followers of fashion'. Shame on Chicago Mag.

3 years ago
Posted by Kid33

No Glenn's Diner?

3 years ago
Posted by boos33

Great list! I can't wait to try some of the restaurants that are listed. I'm surprised that Orange isn't on here. It seems to be a breakfast/brunch staple of many. Additionally, I know that Angel Food Bakery is somewhat of a hidden jem but Marmalade is on here and they aren't...interesting.

3 years ago
Posted by sully

Clearly the authors conspired to leave Bongo Room off the list only to misdirect uninformed readers in an attempt to shorten their own wait times at Bongo Room on weekend mornings. That's the only plausible theory...I'm sure a publication as reputable as Chicago Magazine could never embarrass itself with such an egregious omission as leaving Bongo Room off a list of best Chicago breakfast restaurants. Not only must Bongo Room be on the list, it is without debate the #1 breakfast restaurant in the free world.

3 years ago
Posted by Breakfast junkie

No Toast and their mascarpone-stuffed French toast and the best home fries around? No Tiztal and their amazing oatmeal shakes?
How can this be?

3 years ago
Posted by Foodie9

Come on Chicago Magazine! Bongo Room was the inspiration for most of the restaurants on this list (and I have been to more than 3/4 of the restaurants that you list). You can go to almost any foodie blog for almost any major city in the USA (and some foreign foodie blogs as well) and the reviewers consistently recommend that foodies visiting Chicago go to the Bongo Room for breakfast. I have been going to Bongo Room since it was a 6 table operation under the Damen Blue Line L Station and they have always impressed me with both their creativity and their ability to excel and both the sweet and the savory. I do have to admit that I am secretly a bit happy that you did not put them on your list because that will reduce the wait time next time I go there.

3 years ago
Posted by ArunaAdvaney

Where are these places? Not the most reader friendly layout and editing for us suburbanites.

It would be possible to choose a place if they were in sequence by locations, instead of alphabetical order.

Most of them only tell you the street address, and not the city. I would have to Google almost every single place to know if any of them are in the desired vicinity.

3 years ago
Posted by Elizabeth Riley (Chicago magazine)

Thanks for commenting, ArunaAdvaney. We appreciate the feedback and I'll let the Web editor know about your suggestion. As for the addresses, we only mention specific cities if the location is outside of Chicago. So if you do not see a city listed, then it's within the city limits. Hope that helps.

2 years ago
Posted by slooprealtor

How in the World did you miss Wildberry on Randolph in the AON Building. It is incredible...pot roast eggs benedict - yum - the best in chicago right now.

1 year ago
Posted by claudio

did any one try lucky grill restaurant for breakfast on jefferson park 4454 n Milwaukee mmmmm you mees ing the beast

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