The shtick: Brunch à la Française without a ton of bells and whistles.
The vibe: Mon Ami Gabi makes no attempts at being the coolest place you’ll ever eat brunch. There is no trend-chasing here—at least, no chasing of trends from anytime within the past ten years, save for the occasional mention of kale on the menu. The French bistro-inspired interior (dark wood, tulip lamps, those curlicue-backed chairs, tile floors) is either out of time or stuck in time or timeless or all of the above. Each table seems to have at least one parent or grandparent. None of this is bad. (Also, don’t sleep on their leafy patio, which peeks out onto Lincoln Park.) 8 out of 10
The food: The stronger the French accent on any given dish, the better off you’ll be. Brunch starts with a warm demi-baguette, and it leaves pleasing shards strewn across the table as you savagely tear off chunks to slather in jam and butter. An ace follow-up to this is the French Kiss breakfast sandwich ($13.95) with beef, mustard, a fried egg, and (most important) a little spread of chicken liver to gild the lily. A basic bacon, egg, and cheese has nothing on this rich mess (the liver adds some depth but isn’t overpowering), served alongside a tangle of fried potatoes. Another solid option is the chicken, mushroom, and kale crêpe ($12.95), which is your basic crêpe but served swimming in Mornay sauce, as all brunches should be. It is not the best-looking item on the menu. But the crêpe itself is delicate and the mushrooms are perfectly sautéed. The big problem is that there should be so many more of them. 7 out of 10
The drinks: Here is a thing we never anticipated being able to say while doing these reviews: There are some really stellar mimosas ($11.95) here. Mimosas (and bellinis and any other juice-and-Champagne hybrid geared toward day-drinking) tend to be overlooked in favor of the far-more-complicated Bloody Mary, an afterthought that gets plopped in a carafe and mindlessly guzzled. But MAG has seven (!) options for sparkling cocktails, with fresh-squeezed juices and flavorful blends to perk things up. Favorites included the pairing of grapefruit juice with Lillet Blanc (its honeyed notes smack the acidity right out of the tart fruit) and elderflower and quince sour. Also, you can get your café au lait in a bowl ($5.50), which is the most French touch of all time. 9 out of 10
The service: Our waitress was snappy and decisive when ordering queries arose. Exactly what you need at 10 a.m. on a Sunday. 9 out of 10
Overall: When you’re looking to impress someone with the hippest place in town, go elsewhere. But if you just need a dependably good brunch without a lot of fuss (or need to please diners across generations), don’t overlook this stalwart. 8 out of 10
4 months ago