The shtick: Longstanding breakfast go-to and legendary granola-maker.
The vibe: At this 13-year-old counter-service spot, the quarters are cramped and the ordering process (receive a table number while you stand in line, grab your own silverware and coffee) is clunky, but you can expect a sunny room with a steady stream of 30- and 40-somethings and their kiddos, a caseful of pretty pastries, and stacks of bagged housemade granola by the register. We saw all of the above on our early Saturday visit. 7 out of 10
The food: Let’s first discuss the good stuff—namely, orange-scented French toast ($7.95) with toasted almond slices and powdered sugar. Two chunky slices of brioche are browned and crisped at the perimeter and tender in the center. The orange essence is neither overpowering nor undetectable. And it’s just a pretty dish. No doubt everyone at your table will be stealing forkfuls. The less good? That would be the inoffensive but unmemorable bowl of oatmeal ($5.75), with toasted almonds, blueberries, and brown sugar. With so many cheffed-up oatmeals these days (looking at you, Jam), there’s just no need to go this route. And now the icky. That caseful of pretty pastries we mentioned? Order at your own risk. Our two-inch-thick slice of strawberry-ginger quick bread ($3.75) was a dense, dry dud—the kind of past-its-prime pastry you expect wrapped in cellophane at a coffee shop. A side of limp bacon ($3.75) belongs under this heading as well. 5 out of 10
The drinks: The house coffee is Intelligentsia, so excellent by default. A Thai iced latte incorporating sweetened condensed milk and Jo Snow syrups is a clever concoction, but an unnecessary shock of sugar given what’s on your plate (if you order similarly to the way we did). 7 out of 10
The service: The aforementioned ordering system has potential to be unpleasant—especially on a busy day. Thankfully, the line moved at a decent pace, and the woman who took our order was sweet as pie. Food was delivered promptly, but our bacon was forgotten (which, in hindsight, didn’t matter) and we were nearly finished eating when it arrived. 7 out of 10
Overall: Group this one with Southport Grocery—a busy, yet welcoming environment, but middling food. Don’t expect culinary nirvana—and definitely don’t forget to buy a bag of granola for the road. 6.5 out of 10
1920 W. Division St., Wicker Park, 773-395-9434