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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[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

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