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Chop Shop Has a Solid Brunch—and a Fantastic Patio

Hope you like meat.

Banger-stuffed portabella at Chop Shop   Photo courtesy Carrie Schedler

The shtick: Meat. Lots of meat. Did we mention there’s meat?

The vibe: This trendy take on a butcher shop is another entrant in the “busy at night, dead in the daytime” category of restaurants. You’re given the option of sitting indoors (in the restaurant’s lighter, brighter second floor, with exposed brick, white walls, and light wood to go with its industrial touches) or out on their outstanding rooftop patio strung with bulb lights and decked out in umbrellas. It’s one of the better patios out there, especially since it’s tucked away from the brunt of the neighborhood’s noise. But, as it was one of the hottest days of the summer, we wimped out and stuck ourselves in the dining room, which sat mostly empty through our meal. Probably should’ve toughed it out outside. Life’s full of regrets. 7 out of 10

The food: When you walk into the restaurant, you stare down a pretty impressive butcher’s case, a statement of meaty purpose. Though there are plenty of choices for vegetarians (lemon-blueberry pancakes, DIY omelettes) and pescatarians (a lobster polenta-cake Benedict), that’s not really what you’re coming here for. You’re coming here for a banger-stuffed portabella ($13), with a mushroom hollowed out and overflowing with mild and crispy crumbles of caprese sausage, the whole thing soaked through with runny egg yolk. You’d think it’d be leaden, but it’s surprisingly well-portioned—not light by any stretch of the imagination, but not enough to induce a nap, either.

The pastrami-smoked salmon ($13) is another option for the meat-avoidant, and it should be a slam-dunk. The salmon itself is smoky and sweet-spicy, and it takes well to the mellow yogurt cheese spread. But there’s barely enough salmon to assemble a proper sandwich with the (undertoasted and bland) bagel provided—a few extra slivers would be much appreciated. 7 out of 10

The drinks: Again, the whole meat thing led us to believe (or hope at least) that the Butcher’s Bloody ($10) would be an over-the-top knockout, if only for its garnishes. There’s a whole case of sausage and cheese downstairs to work with! The place is like a Bloody Mary playground. So we prayed for excess but instead got restraint—a dainty cornichon, a chunk of excellent and spicy sausage, and a wedge of Swiss. The drink itself was fiery and fantastic at first, but as we continued to sip we noticed the thing wasn’t well-mixed (that vodka burn kept creeping up stronger as the drink went down until it was all we could taste.) 6 out of 10

The service: For a pretty empty dining room, we found ourselves waiting around quite a bit for refills, especially since we could see our waitress standing at the bar and chatting no less than 20 feet away. As the room got busier, she made herself more available—things picked up considerably in the second half of the meal. 6 out of 10

Overall: This is a good brunch. Not a great brunch. But a solid pick if you’re in the area and want to eat right this second or want to get your patio fix. 6.5 out of 10

2033 W. North Ave., Wicker Park, 773-537-4440

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