The shtick: Stephanie Izard takes on dim sum.
The vibe: Though you may struggle to get a reservation at Izard’s red-hot modern Chinese restaurant at prime dinner hours, during the day it’s practically a cakewalk to get in, so much so that the artfully curated, wallpapered dining rooms are stuffed with child-toting families. In fact, it was rare to see a table that didn’t have at least a couple of kids at it. This is not in any way a knock–in fact, it’s a little more fun to be here during the day, when the West Loop hype machine is at bay and you can actually hang out a bit. 8 out of 10
The drinks: The restaurant’s full slate of boozy beverages is available at brunch, but we gravitated right toward the iced bubble coffee ($6), a milky-sweet drink with just a little coffee and a hearty pile of boba at the bottom. Caffeine-wise, it’s not the most potent, but it’s more fun than your standard cold brew. 7.5 out of 10
The food: You can also find a lot of the same stuff from dinner service on their dim sum-style brunch menu. Problem is, a lot of what we tasted wasn’t quite as well-executed during the day as it had been during recent nighttime visits. A duo of puffy char siu bao ($11) packed too much bun and not enough barbecue pork, and what pork you could find was underseasoned. Same with the scallion pancakes, which were mostly just oily-tasting and came plated with a pretty bland slaw.
On the bright side, there was the octopus, cucumber, and peanut salad ($15), a chilled number with clean, lovely flavors and an undercurrent of numbing Sichuan peppercorn to keep things compelling all the way through. Our party’s requisite child, a two-year-old, was only interested in the youtiao ($9), puffy, just-fried crullers coated in sugar, and we agreed with him that these crisp-crusted doughnuts were mighty delicious. But overall, we weren’t in love. 6 out of 10
The service: Funny and totally chill about any number of child (and adult) diner mishaps and spills. 9 out of 10
Overall: If you’re aching to get in on the Duck Duck Goat action but don’t have patience to wait for a good table, this is is a viable option, but it felt a little overhyped (and expensive!) for what it was. 7 out of 10