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Duck Inn is the Belle of Bridgeport’s Brunch Ball

Ready yourself for cheese curd grits.

Omelet at Duck Inn   Photo: Carly Boers

The shtick: Michelin-starred, former fine-dining chef and Bridgeport native Kevin Hickey (Seasons Restaurant, Allium) salutes his neighborhood roots and sprinkles in more than a few Wisconsin-style touches.

The vibe: One visit on a dreary Sunday morning and it’s clear that the darling of Bridgeport is this spot—a way unassuming, Chicago River-adjacent corner restaurant that once housed a pre-Prohibition tavern. The place oozes a relaxed coolness, and we were all about it from the moment we stepped inside. Both the front area (which feels very 1960s and includes a retro bar with some sweet yellow stools) and the slightly larger main dining room quickly filled, hosting mostly youngish couples, along with some tot-toting families and even a rather raucous group of dudes. (Were they still buzzed from the night before?) 10 out of 10

The food: When a dish both contains part of the restaurant’s name and is highlighted on the menu, you just order it. In this case, it’s duck confit hash ($15), a heap of indulgence that also includes Brussels sprouts, taters, soft-scrambled egg, a dash of breadcrumbs, and a smudge of Wisconsin cheddar sauce. The flavors meld favorably, but the slightly mushy veggies could’ve stood a crisping, and we wished the delicious, tender duck were more plentiful.

An omelet ($15) enveloping burrata and topped with crispy shards of Serrano ham and fresh shaved asparagus was a handsome, high-end creation Hickey could (and may) have served at the Four Seasons. With sides of seeded toast with housemade marmalade and perfectly crisped breakfast potatoes, it earns its Four Seasons-esque price tag.

A side of cheese curd grits ($6) is the most genius mashup we’ve brunched on in ages. As our server explained, “They’re essentially Southern cheese grits, but we mix in Wisconsin cheese curds—the un-breaded kind—so there are some nice chunks.” Sure, it’s lowbrow, and it may not sound especially appetizing, but just trust us on this one. 9 out of 10

The drinks: A semi-spicy Bloody Mary ($10) made with Aylesbury Duck vodka (nice touch) and San Marzano tomato puree held hints of lemon and looked pretty perfect in its vintage Mallard duck tumbler. Dark Matter’s Chocolate City iced coffee ($5) never disappoints; it served as a slightly sweet complement to the savory dishes. 8 out of 10

The service: Our server was friendly and tuned in but not a hovercraft, and he kept the meal moving at an appropriate pace. No complaints. 10 out of 10

Overall: If you live in or near Bridgeport, lucky you—you’ve got yourself one heck of a brunch destination in your backyard. If you don’t, it’s time to take a Sunday field trip to the Duck Inn. 9 out of 10

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