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Nico Osteria Does Brunch on Rush Street Without Feeling Too Rush Street

Get some crab scramble in your life.

Crab scramble at Nico Osteria   Photo: Carrie Schedler

The shtick: Chic Italian-leaning brunch on Rush Street that doesn’t feel too Rush Street.

The vibe: The Italian seafood star of One Off Hospitality’s (Publican, Avec) empire is pretty sedate during the daytime, its bustling dinnertime scene giving way to a quiet murmur and plenty of room for walk-in brunchgoers. You feel insulated from the mishegoss of Rush Street’s weekend frenzy just outside the windows, like you’re dining somewhere else entirely. This is a very good thing. 9 out of 10

The drinks: There’s a sinus-emptier of a Bloody Mary ($13) that leans heavily on the horseradish, the kind of Bloody that makes its presence known with every sip. You can also take a dip into Salone Nico’s excellent cocktail list (the beet-infused Walk in the Park sips like pomegranate juice) or just stick to well-made espresso shots. No matter the choice, you’ll be happy. 8 out of 10

The food: The thing is, for a place that’s all about the seafood, there’s very little of it on the breakfast section of this menu (you can still find plenty of raw bar offerings and a clam tagliolini if you’re more set on fish than brunch food). If you want to make room for one of the two fishy dishes, make it the totally luxe crab scramble ($26), which takes a base of soft scrambled eggs and tops them with a chile aioli, bread crumbs, an herb salad, and a shower of flaked crab meat. Everything about it is spot-on, in perfect proportion, and worth every penny of its above-average price tag. The confit chicken hash ($17) gets the potato texture just right and puts a twist on your standard skillet dish thanks to the addition of smoked provolone. Even the pastries here are, as expected, steps above your average, particularly a fanaticism-inducing kouign amann ($3.25) that takes years off your life with every bite, so soaked in butter is the diminutive cake. 9 out of 10

The service: Friendly, if a bit mechanical. 7.5 out of 10

Overall: Another excellent addition from One Off Hospitality, Chicago’s brunching royalty. 8.5 out of 10

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