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North Pond Excels at Special Occasion Brunching

Even better, you get to taste some of its signature seasonal cuisine for a steal.

Pheasant at North Pond Photo: Carrie Schedler

The shtickMore lunch than brunch in one of Chicago’s best restaurants.

The vibe You’re probably most familiar with North Pond as a special occasion spot, the kind of place you take someone when you’re ready to level up in your relationship. By daylight, there’s still some of that same sparkle—credit a particularly lovely vista of Lincoln Park and a handsome, wood-accented dining room. You can, however, swap dress clothes for jeans and a nice sweater.

Most of the tables seem to be marking some sort of moment, be it impressing an out-of-towner or celebrating an anniversary. This leads to it not being the kind of place you can select on a hungover whim, as reservations require a credit-card number and the menu is a three-course, fixed-price affair. And this is the kind of place you can actually have a conversation about the moment you’re marking—no obtrusive music, tables well-spaced. If you’re willing to work a little harder to secure a table, it’s a great place to celebrate. 9 out of 10

The drinks:The fixed price for your meal does not include a beverage, but you do have a selection of brunch cocktails and wines by the glass to purchase as an accompaniment. In a surprise move, the basic Bloody Mary ($13) here is actually one of the best we’ve had, with a just-barely-boozy burn and an intense, vine-ripe tomato flavor. 9 out of 10

The food This is brunch in name only. You won’t find much in the way of pancakes or waffles, and there’s barely an egg in sight. Think of this more as a $35, three-course Sunday lunch that starts early. You pick from four options for each course: a sizeable appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert, all with North Pond’s signature seasonal bent.

Of the openers, we preferred the velvety cauliflower-apple soup adorned with a peekytoe crabcake, delicate and herbaceous, to the blunter pheasant with an overly crunchy crêpe. Keeping the positive seafood vibes going, our overall favorite dish of the day was a lovely, gleaming filet of skin-on rainbow trout floating on a smear of carrot pudding, surrounded by roasted root veggies. Substantive but light enough to leave plenty of room for the stellar squash tartlet (both kabocha and pumpkin) covered in dabs of cinnamon cream. 9 out of 10

The service Absolutely on point: warm and gracious with the greetings, well-paced with the plates, and ready to send us off with a souvenir menu as we departed. 10 out of 10

Overall Can every weekend be a special occasion? 9 out of 10

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