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

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Green Eggs and Ham Benedict in a glorious pesto hollandaise that you will soak up with your toast—while realizing how outdated jokes about English food have become. 1147 W. Granville Ave.; 773-262-9855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

 

[W] = WEEKEND ONLY  [S] = SUNDAY ONLY

 

DIXIE KITCHEN & BAIT SHOP
This homage to Southern cooking has so much bric-a-brac, it looks like a rummage sale gone wild. But someone in the kitchen must have the patent on fried green tomatoes, eggs Sardou (hooray for artichoke hollandaise), and fried catfish (a giant juicy, crispy fillet) with eggs. The grits should be better, but the Bloody Mary means business. 825 Church St., Evanston; 847-733-9030

DODO
Usually the problem with taking kids to breakfast is not their behavior, for once—it’s the line. Dodo, a cheerily grungy spot in the meatpacking district, never seems to have one, and its playful menu shifts from ambitious stuff like Japanese pancakes and hash with andouille sausage to a triple stack of pancakes with melty chocolate chips. 954 W. Fulton Market; 312-226-5300

FEED
With kitschy barn décor, including a mounted jackalope, this child-friendly Southerner feels like the most fortuitous of road trip discoveries. And fortunately, there’s no attempt to gussy up the grub. Straightforward chicken-fried steak with cheese grits—in all its gut-busting glory—is exactly what we crave as a vacation from froufrou brunches. 2803 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-489-4600

FLO
This Southwestern café, with its Bloody Marias and tremendous breakfast tacos and burritos, is tough to resist. Exhibit A: the Smothered Burrito, a thick spinach tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, black beans, Jack cheese, and pico de gallo, capped by a homemade sauce made with red chilies that come straight from a farmer in New Mexico. 1434 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-243-0477

FLYING SAUCER
The blasé crowd, which seems to consist of artists, musicians, and people with beards, is way too cool to express its love for the veg-friendly fare at this rugged hipster clubhouse. We’re not. The La Bazza Bowl (brown rice, eggs, black beans, sautéed veggies, tofu, kale, and Chihuahua cheese wrapped in corn tortillas) is great. 1123 N. California Ave.; 773-342-9076

FRED’S AT BARNEYS
Hidden inside an opulent Gold Coast department store, Fred’s has a breakfast that beats those at nearby hotels by a Mag Mile. Window seats offer a morning-after view of Rush Street, and the kitchen offers indulgences such as double-cheese omelets, brioche French toast, and smoked pork hash (with alluring burned edges). If Fred’s is too rich for your blood, forget Barneys. [W] 15 E. Oak St.; 312-596-1111

GAIL’S CARRIAGE INN & PANCAKE HOUSE
So what if you’re the youngest person eating here? Gotta love a place that has a menu of weekend breakfast specials as long as your arm, with the likes of biscuits and gravy (which often sells out) and French toast featuring homemade blueberry bread. That’s in addition to oodles of regular dishes, such as burrito-size hash-brown-encrusted omelets and oven-baked apple pancakes. They are pretty special too. 1145 S. Elmhurst Rd., Des Plaines; 847-758-9407

HOTCHOCOLATE
It’s a given that Mindy Segal is going to nail the sweet stuff, but the true finds are her breakfast sandwiches. Simple in theory but well executed, with bright vegetables and fluffy eggs stacked on house-made buttery brioche or pumpernickel, these beauts more than hold their own next to the toothsome doughnuts. [W] 1747 N. Damen Ave.; 773-489-1747

INA’S
Only Ina Pinkney, the self-proclaimed Breakfast Queen of Chicago, could make scrapple into something romantic. She serves a pan-fried brick of cornmeal (studded with corn kernels, black beans, and Cheddar), eight thick andouille sausage wedges, and two perfect sunny-side-up eggs separately. As you dig in, flavors mix slowly, like teenagers at a dance; soon they’re waltzing like old flames. 1235 W. Randolph St.; 312-226-8227

JAM
As is commonly the case with spots named for a particular item, Jam’s jam isn’t its pièce de résistance; in fact, this neighborhood haunt excels in nearly everything. Savory and sweet share the spotlight, so opt for a half order of tender malted French toast and chase it with the egg sandwich stuffed with pork shoulder. 937 N. Damen Ave.; 773-489-0302 (mid-October, Jam expects to relocate to 3059 W. Logan Blvd.; 773-292-6011)

JAM N’ HONEY
Nutella plays a prominent role at this decidedly unhip newcomer near DePaul. Pancakes, French toast, and waffles can all be prepared using the stuff, but there’s also a giant jar of it on every table—just in case something needs a little fix. The regular waffles did. The veggie burrito, however, got everything right, and how often is a place willing to adjust the overhead vent to make you more comfortable? 958 W. Webster Ave.; 773-327-5266

KAPPY’S
The aromas of bacon and coffee hit you the moment you walk in the door, so by the time you wind your way through this big old-fashioned dining room, your tummy is doing nip-ups. Calm it down with soft scrambled eggs loaded with nubbins of zesty kosher salami or tender blintzes filled with a rich, fluffy cheese blend. 7200 W. Dempster St., Morton Grove; 847-470-1900

LA FRANCE CAFÉ & CRÊPES
At this sweet 25-seat boîte, the galette aux oeufs can be had with two eggs any style, three ingredients from a selection of five, and one cheese from a list of five—meaning the permutations are many. In a classic case of less is more, eggs over medium paired with a buckwheat crêpe gently folded around spinach, ham, and Gruyère was un grand succès. 939 S. Main St., Lombard; 630-613-9511

 

Photograph: Anna Knott; Food Stylist: Mary Valentin

LITTLE BRANCH CAFÉ
If only the B-grade dishes measured up to the A-plus décor and the drinks. (No dipping jam for our dry Monte Cristo? Harrumph.) As it is, we’ll be content to sit on one of the adorable tree-stump barstools and sip a chocolate-cherry mocha or a coconut-caramel latte from the list of fun and funky coffees—a delicious, if dangerously convenient, indulgence for residents of the surrounding condo town. 1251 S. Prairie Ave.; 312-360-0101

LONGMAN & EAGLE
With a menu devoid of colossal portions and yuppified creations (an order of bacon and eggs comes with an optional can of PBR), Longman’s laid-back daily brunch instead showcases seasonal goods. We adored the ultrafresh morel mushrooms and house-made fromage blanc in our Market Omelet—and the Dark Matter custom coffee blend. 2657 N. Kedzie Ave.; 773-276-7110

LOU MITCHELL’S
Lou’s refuses to fade into the sunset, still packing in both suits and tourists by offering the fluffiest omelets in town, delivered by servers as vintage as their surroundings. Unexpected winners, like a moist malted waffle studded with hefty bacon chunks, dot the booklike menu. 565 W. Jackson Blvd.; 312-939-3111

LUCKY PLATTER
The décor is eclectic (colander chandeliers), the crowd diverse (families, singles, blacks, whites), and the menu global (apple-ricotta blintzes, Swedish pancakes, Omelette Mumbai). Amid such variety, huevos rancheros with chorizo makes perfect sense. The feisty combo of crumbled sausage bits, tomatoes, and avocados is right on—and mixed with the soupy black beans, it’s even better. 514 Main St., Evanston; 847-869-4064

LULA CAFÉ
You can’t order WRONG at Lula. Whether you fancy a superbly foamed Intelligentsia cappuccino or a gin-tinged Bloody Mary, griddlecakes teeming with farmers’ market berries or a savory strada, you know you’re in for a top-notch brunch. The crowd waiting out front—even after an expansion—shows everyone else knows too. 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd.; 773-489-9554

MARMALADE
Manny Mejia, M. Henry’s ex-chef, helped craft the menu, and his dynamite hotcakes, layered with fruit, mascarpone, and granola, made the cut. M. Henry food minus the enchanting M. Henry atmosphere—but minus the full morning’s time commitment? Not a bad swap. 1969 W. Montrose Ave.; 773-883-9000

MELI CAFE & JUICE BAR
Most everything on the menu at this breakfast nirvana sounds good, and whatever you order probably will be. Save yourself the mental energy and get Dad’s Skillet: Two organic cage-free eggs melt into tender grilled skirt steak and chunks of andouille sausage swimming with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and provolone, all on a bed of crisp baby red potatoes. 540 N. Wells St., 312-527-1850; 301 S. Halsted St., 312-454-0748

MERCADITO
If you believe in hair-of-the-dog hangover cures, then Mercadito’s brunch is like an Afghan hound. Bloody Marys, micheladas, and sangritas flow like the Rio Grande, a DJ spins everything from hip-hop to jazz, and you might as well get a refreshing guava mimosa with your Pan Mexicano, a custardy French toast drizzled with goat’s milk caramel. The rest of your recovery is your business. [W] 108 W. Kinzie St.; 312-329-9555

M. HENRY
CRITIC’S PICK
Here’s what I demand from a breakfast joint: fresh-squeezed orange juice, bottomless coffee cups, fluffy pancakes, good pig in some guise, and fast servers. They don’t even have to be nice. (There’s nothing in there about décor, because that early in the day, who cares about such things?) M. Henry fulfills the above requirements and goes far beyond, with wonderful sides like apple-maple chicken sausage and crisp sheets of yuba. The menu boasts Chicago’s best breakfast sandwich, Fannie’s Killer Fried Egg Sandwich: an enormous crispy sour boule layered with over-medium eggs, thick applewood-smoked bacon, plum tomatoes, oozy Gorgonzola, and fresh thyme. And, as ambassadors of a new day, the servers are pretty darn pleasant. 5707 N. Clark St.; 773-561-1600

MILK & HONEY CAFÉ
Brioche French toast, hearty dishes like weekend-only huevos rancheros jammed with layers of scrambled eggs and grainy tortillas, and mugs of Intelligentsia coffee continue to lure the stroller set to this vibrant counter-service spot. The ordering system is awkward, and the staff can be snooty, but we’ll put up with just about anything for that granola. 1920 W. Division St.; 773-395-9434

NANA
Bridgeport’s breakfast darling knocks it out of the park with seasonal specials such as pancakes topped with fresh Seedling Farms apricots and cherry compote or a skillet chock-full of homemade chorizo and grilled shrimp. Regular menu items, like grease-laden huevos rancheros, don’t fare nearly as well. 3267 S. Halsted St.; 312-929-2486

NIGHTWOOD
CRITIC’S PICK
You know you’re in good hands when your doughnut arrives shellacked in the butteriest butterscotch ever, with bacon chunks piled in the middle and three tiny doughnut holes on the side. Nightwood’s constantly evolving brunch demonstrates the right way to do farm-to-table cuisine, with thoughtful but not overwrought dishes served with cordial restraint by friendly Chicago hipsters. I skip simple favorites—house-made granola with yogurt, Slagel Farm eggs cooked to order—and go for Sopa Verdolaga, an umami-rich Mexican beef and fish broth supporting a perfectly poached egg, and the raisin-nut bread pudding alongside a revelatory farro salad studded with guanciale and spring peas. From the bracing michelada beer cocktail through the ham and cheese “Pop-Tart” and pour-over coffee for two, there’s not a false note. How nice is that? [S] 2119 S. Halsted St.; 312-526-3385

NORTH POND
CRITIC’S PICK
The seasonally changing $33 prix fixe menu at this sanctuary perched next to a swan-dotted lake doesn’t overwhelm with choice—you pick one of four options for each of three courses. But the dilemmas this poses are endless. Example: Trout cucumber salad with chive sour cream and cucumber sorbet, or warm corn-on-the-cob soup with a blueberry-lemon pancake and paper-thin smoked bacon crisp? Best bet: Bring a group, have each person order something different, and sample it all. Yet even this approach is fraught with danger. The corn soup, with its tuffet of a pancake afloat in the middle, was so killer I didn’t want to share, incensing my tablemates. And a war nearly broke out for the last bite of the amazing semisweet cucumber sorbet. Just agree beforehand to play nice. 2610 N. Cannon Dr.; 773-477-5845

 

Photography: Anna Knott

 

[W] = WEEKEND ONLY  [S] = SUNDAY ONLY

NOSH
CRITIC’S PICK
You enter this colorful café from the back of a strip mall—an inauspicious start. Chances are, you will encounter a wait. Wait. Nosh is one OMG breakfast spot. It’s crazy tough to choose between the supersoaked and tender vanilla-orange challah French toast and the savory baguette version, moist with herb butter and accessorized with applewood-smoked bacon and caramelized onion. Just order tasting sizes of both. The pipérade is an astonishingly tasty soufflé-like casserole of scrambled eggs with onions and red peppers, but best of all is the brûléed steel-cut Irish oatmeal served in an oversize coffee cup. Adding sugar or—God forbid!—milk would be blasphemous. 211 James St., Geneva; 630-845-1570

OLD OAK TAP
The name evokes a DUSTY English pub, but Old Oak Tap is pure West Town modern. The brunch leans to imaginative creations such as fried chicken sliders and apple fritters with a maple-brandy glaze and also boasts spicy standouts such as the Santa Fe, a skillet with chorizo, jalapeños, Cotija cheese, avocado, and crisp hash browns. Frankly, the owners can call the place whatever they want. [W] 2109 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-772-0406

OVER EASY
This cozy spot with eggshell décor is easy to find: Just look for the crowd milling around the door. Cinnamon butter melts nicely into airy blueberry crunch pancakes (boo to the canned whipped cream), and provolone envelops every forkful of the Acelga Picosa, a Latin-inclined omelet. A tip: Take Champagne for a DIY mimosa. 4943 N. Damen Ave.; 773-506-2605

PRASINO
Not your mother’s hippie-dippie veggie restaurant. This sophisticated spot is all about eco-friendly practices and organics, but the tofu scrambles, fresh juices (honeydew, celery, cucumber, ginger), and soy sausage need not bother carnivores and Bloody Mary drinkers, who will also be satisfied. Bonus: Pancakes (blueberry graham cracker, anyone?) can be made with gluten-free, buttermilk, whole-grain, or vegan batter. 93 S. La Grange Ave., La Grange, 708-469-7058; 51 S. First St., St. Charles, 630-908-5200; 1838 W. Division St., 312-878-1212

THE PUBLICAN
CRITIC’S PICK
The Publican’s mood is totally different in the morning, but it ain’t mellow. The usual crowds pack in under the famous pendant globe lights, but rather than competing for space to down Kusshi oysters and Belgian lambics, diners are dead set on revolving items such as duck confit hash and Honduran coffee. And instead of the brunch menu of lip-service regulars, here you get smart creations such as red-wine-poached eggs with a thick hollandaise balanced by a nutty multigrain sourdough that absorbs the runny yolks. You’d almost forget the lovely La Quercia prosciutto on the plate . . . if pig weren’t the whole reason for The Publican. [S] 837 W. Fulton Market; 312-733-9555

RAMOVA GRILL
Like a Tom Waits song come to life, Ramova Grill is so scruffy that it would be a stretch to call it a greasy spoon. But the homemade chili, a fiery elixir thick with ground beef and beans (optional), is so beloved by Bridgeporters that they buy it by the quart, forgetting that chili is not breakfast food. It should be. 3510 S. Halsted St.; 773-847-9058

ROOTSTOCK WINE & BEER BAR
Sometimes it’s tough to get out of bed for brunch, but Rootstock’s goes until 4 p.m. Rather than sugary a.m. eats, the focus is on lunchlike seasonal dishes that just happen to incorporate eggs—like marinated Gulf shrimp with sweet corn and a sunny-side-up egg. After a few charcuterie-skewered Bloody Marys, you may want to head back to bed. [S] 954 N. California Ave.; 773-292-1616

SALONICA RESTAURANT
Everyone wants a booth, and Hyde Park’s legendary Greek diner—right out of central casting, down to the breath mints behind the cash register—has been giving people want they want since 1979. That means rib-sticking grub at silly- low prices and standouts such as the Salonica, an omelet with feta, sautéed veggies, and luscious gyro meat straight from the spit. 1438 E. 57th St.; 773-752-3899

SHUI WAH CHINESE CUISINE
By dim sum standards, Shui Wah is a maverick—no carts. That’s how you know your steamed spare ribs (look ugly, taste yummy), shrimp and mango roll (phenomenal fresh seafood), vegetable crêpes (Chinese greens with soy sauce), fried taro (amazing ground pork meatball), and best-of-show stuffed eggplant (shrimp mousse) are all made to order. 2162 S. Archer Ave.; 312-225-8811

SOLA
The vibe at North Center’s favorite date-night restaurant turns playful at breakfast: You’ll spot Carol Wallack chatting up regulars and pressing upon them house-made malasadas, chewy Portuguese-style doughnuts popular in the chef’s beloved Hawaii. The Pacific Rim theme is everywhere: A dense upside-down banana pancake gets invigorated with mascarpone combined—brilliantly—with salty miso; Wallack’s famous lemongrass short ribs grace her eggs Benedict; and French toast layered with ham and Gruyère goes yin and yang with a dose of bright red plum preserves. Don’t resist; just say, “Mahalo.” [W] 3868 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-327-3868

SPROUT
While not all of Dale Levitski’s plates are showstoppers (skip the shrimp and grits), the eggs Benedict with lamb sings: rougey and tender, with a pea-purée-injected croquette in a puddle of hollandaise. The rules (no kids under 12, reservations strongly recommended) seem harsh, but we’ll play along and raise a frisky Rumaki Fizz (house vodka infused with bacon, honey-soy reduction, and ginger beer) to this special-occasion spot. [S] 1417 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-348-0706

SUNDA
Geologically speaking, Sunda is the name of a partially submerged landmass near present-day Indonesia; brunchwise, we define the word as “global breakfast for a big crowd, including the one person who wants to order sushi before noon.” The River North hot spot’s Bloody Mary bar offers off-the-wall garnishes, such as wakame and kimchi; the braised pork belly on crisp patties of sweet and savory rice evokes a Chicago-style nigiri; and even French toast gets the Asian treatment—tempura covered with sticky pieces of fried banana. [S] 110 W. Illinois St.; 312-644-0500

SUZETTE’S CREPERIE
For the ladies-who-brunch crowd. Light fare, lovely china, heavy flatware, sparkling French lemonade, desserts baked on the premises. Hangover relief food it’s not, but the Suzette’s Benedict (ham and cheese soufflé on a brioche with a bright lemony sauce) is terrific, as was everything we sampled, from lovely salads with fresh fruit to the free croissants and rolls. 211 W. Front St., Wheaton; 630-462-0898

 

Photography: Anna Knott; Food Stylist: Mary Valentin

 

[W] = WEEKEND ONLY  [S] = SUNDAY ONLY

SWEET MAPLE CAFÉ
The ramshackle look of this Taylor Street haunt sets the stage for the homiest breakfast in town. It’s not just the Diaz y Noches, a scramble of juicy chicken and punchy jalapeños, or the exemplary egg folded around Fontina, tomato, basil, and Italian sausage; it’s also the forties music, the ceramic maple leaf décor, and the oniony home fries and warm biscuits you will want with whatever you order. 1339 W. Taylor St.; 312-243-8908

TABLE FIFTY-TWO
Kudos to Art Smith for making fried chicken a special occasion. Don’t bother with the more healthful choices. Opt, like all the well-heeled folks in the room, for the melt-in-your-mouth fried chicken atop a golden waffle, and go for broke with a jumbo side of bubbling mac and cheese. [S] 52 W. Elm St.; 312-573-4000

TAKASHI
On Sundays, this modern Bucktown bistro takes it down a tiny notch and serves noodles—authentic Japanese ramen as well as udon and soba—starting at 11 a.m. Arrive early to snag a table downstairs, where the sun streams in: You’ll want a good view of Takashi’s lacy tempura batter, the creamy whiteness of the house-made tofu, and the droplets of porky richness sparkling on the surface of your ramen broth. Slurptastic. Is that a word? [S] 1952 N. Damen Ave.; 773-772-6170

TRE KRONOR
Everyone seems to describe Tre Kronor as cute. Yes, Albany Park’s Swedish stronghold is a picture-perfect bistro, but it deserves credit for a menu that balances nuance and heartiness, even in familiar offerings like French toast—here, a thick cinnamon-dusted egg bread saturated with vanilla and fortified by an orange flavor that kicks cute in the ass. 3258 W. Foster Ave.; 773-267-9888

TWEET
Why did the tofu cross the road? To prove it wasn’t chicken. At Uptown’s ever-pleasant Tweet, the humble bean curd proves a lot more, particularly in the tofu scramble with sautéed tomatoes and peppers. Spritz on some lime, sprinkle cilantro, and dab with green chili sauce, then fold it all into warm, crisp tortillas, until tofu seems like the boldest food on earth. 5020 N. Sheridan Rd.; 773-728-5576

VICTORY’S BANNER
A helping of Zen in the morning never hurts, and neither does ultrafresh veggie fare. Savory options like the scrambled eggs studded with tofu and served with brown rice outshine pancakes and French toast. If you have a hankering for something sweet, look to the creamy made-from-scratch Indian-style chai tea. Namaste. 2100 W. Roscoe St.; 773-665-0227

VINCENT
Sometimes the only way to start your day is with a bloody pig’s ear. This Dutch-inspired American bistro pays homage to Van Gogh with a hilariously obscene Bloody Mary, but the rest of the menu grabs you too, especially an uitsmijter plate of toasted brioche with a sunny-side-up egg, brown sugar bacon, Gouda, and a pickle; and the brawny Dock Worker, a plate heaped so high with pork products that you’d fall off the dock if you tried to work after eating it. [S] 1475 W. Balmoral Ave.; 773-334-7168

WAFFLES
Liege and Brussels waffles are not new—just new around here. For the uninitiated, liege waffles are chewy and dense, with caramelized bottoms, while Brussels boast thin, brittle floors and airy squared-off walls (especially good with a side of fig compote). The menu smacks of waffle creativity with flavors including green tea and red velvet—and the glitzy W hanging from the ceiling never lets you forget the mission. 1400 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-854-8572

WALKER BROS. ORIGINAL PANCAKE HOUSE
The six suburban locations of this legend all look the same (brass hanging lamps, stained glass everywhere), but the food at the actual original in Wilmette is still the best. You can get melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk pancakes or puffy oven-baked omelets big enough for two. But the showstopper is the hallowed apple pancake—a dense marvel the size of a small deep-dish pizza—filled with fresh apples and drizzled with a gooey cinnamon-sugar glaze. 153 Green Bay Rd., Wilmette; 847-251-6000

WHITE PALACE GRILL
The emergence of the modern ShowPlace Icon Theatre along Roosevelt Road underscores just how stuck in time this 24/7 diner remains. Matronly waitresses serve patrons in Naugahyde booths from a colorful menu so encyclopedic it has seven different takes on chicken and waffles alone. Our favorite: the Homeboy, which includes three gently battered chicken fingers that are more like chicken hands. 1159 S. Canal St.; 312-939-7167

WISHBONE
Grab the bone and make a wish. If you’re smart, it will involve a steamy stack of Wishbone’s buttermilk pancakes—fluffy, buttery, and enriched with real maple syrup. If your companion wishes for a Southern Benedict (poached eggs and ham over biscuits topped with sausage gravy) and a side of wonderful beef brisket hash, you win either way. 1001 W. Washington Blvd., 312-850-2663; 3300 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-549-2663

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