The shtick: An easygoing all-day spot carrying on its predecessor’s brunching legacy.
The vibe: A collective heavy sigh sounded across Wicker Park when news broke last fall that the beloved brunch hang Birchwood Kitchen would shut its doors. It takes some gumption to decide to open a similarly focused spot at the exact same address, and yet, here we are with Americano 2211. This newbie comes with an impressive pedigree—partners Chris Pappas (the Winchester) and pastry chef Nancy Silver (Blackbird) are running the show, with executive chef Fred Noinaj (Avec, Analogue) in the kitchen. Since it’s still early, things are a bit on the quiet side (it probably doesn’t help that there’s still a banner for Birchwood hanging up on North Avenue), but the space itself is well-designed, minimalist enough to let the streaming light from big front-facing windows serve as the main décor element. And lest you worry, the wonderful backyard patio from the previous resident remains intact. 8 out of 10
The food: Americano goes for the all-day café approach, populating its menu with light, sunny plates and pretty baked goods that make for solid options at breakfast, lunch, and/or in-between snacks. Make room on your table for both, preferably beginning with the tender-crumbed cocoa-crème fraiche coffee cake ($4), studded with dark hunks of chocolate and managing to avoid coming off too sweet. The banana-yogurt-cardamom tea cake ($3.50) reads like an airy banana bread, just spiced enough to keep things interesting.
Most of the savory options involve eggs, whether in the form of a silky individual square of quiche ($6.50) or on a biscuit sandwich ($6). The sandwich is a beauty, stacked high with scrambled eggs and a thick slice of housemade ham, and the rosemary-flecked biscuit stands up to some of the best in town. We were delighted to see shakshuka ($11), the Israeli dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce, make an appearance—it’s really an ideal brunch dish, especially when you’re dipping grilled bread into the runny yolks, swabbing up some mustard greens and extra-fresh herbs along the way. Across the board, clean, fresh flavors and thoughtful combos make for a roundly enjoyable meal. 9 out of 10
The drinks: No alcohol yet, but there’s Intelligentsia coffee and lattes. Our large coffees came on a wooden tray with an extra carafe for refills, a cute touch (albeit a little precarious to carry back to your table from the front bar). The brew was a bit on the weak side, though. 6.5 out of 10
The service: Delightful all around—inviting, chatty, and clearly happy to help. 9 out of 10
Overall: If we had to lose Birchwood, at least we’ve got something just as lovely to take its place. Thank goodness the address continues to be a brunching destination. 8 out of 10
2 months ago