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Spoke & Bird Goes Easy and Breezy at Brunch

The South Loop really needed a casual spot like this.

Chicken sandwich at Spoke & Bird   Photo: Carly Boers

The shtick Morning and afternoon grub made with locally sourced ingredients, plus housemade breads and pastries, served up inside the park district’s Chicago Women’s Park & Gardens building.

The vibe A neighborhood-y joint was so desperately needed in the South Loop’s concrete jungle, and this nearly year-old spot seems to have filled that niche: On our weekday visit, we sat among young couples and single diners with laptops and lattes. Surely we could (and will, come summer) linger hours over lunch in the beer garden—a spacious and shaded oasis bordering the landmarked Glessner House on Prairie Avenue. Luckily, the indoor space isn’t too shabby either. After ordering at the counter by the cramped entry, you retreat to the modern-yet-cozy seating area. 8 out of 10

The food As previously mentioned, we are suckers for savory grain/egg creations. Therefore, the quinoa porridge ($12) with scallions, a runny egg, and Pecorino cheese shavings was a must-try. Its texture was soupier than expected, but the textures and tasty simplicity of it won us over in the end.

From the lunch/dinner menu, a honey and tea-cured chicken sandwich ($10) served on Spoke & Bird’s own honey wheat bread was a mess to eat, but fresh and light. The chicken, which sounded like the most intriguing part of the sandwich, was sadly bland. But crumbly white cheddar and pickled beets picked up the slack.

Instead of ending the meal on a sweet note, a Belgian chocolate brownie ($5)—shaped and wrapped up as a muffin, curiously—was dry as the Sahara, and hardly worth five bucks. Since ownership recently opened an artisanal takeout bakery in Pilsen and supplies wholesale baked goods for clients across the city, the lackluster brownie must have been an unfortunate fluke. We’re willing to go back for a re-do. 6 out of 10

The drinks They pour Counter Culture coffee and espresso, and the special, a rosemary mocha ($4.50), called out to us. Glad we answered the call, because it was a not-too-sweet delight that nicely balanced the savory dishes. 8 out of 10

The serviceA young dude manned the counter with a breezy coolness that neither invited conversation nor rushed things along. He offered suggestions when asked, and managed the short line with ease. In our brief interaction, our only qualm was that he briskly said the mocha could only be made with whole milk, and offered no explanation why. 7 out of 10

Overall Should you find yourself hungry for a super-casual brunch and in the vicinity, this is a contender for your best bet. Should you find yourself thirsting for a locally produced draft beer al fresco this summer, it’s a no-brainer. 7 out of 10

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