Every Thursday, Chicago’s dining team posts an online-only review of everyone’s favorite weekend meal, brunch.
THE SHTICK: A pioneer in the still-trendy cheffed-up greasy spoon craze.
THE VIBE: “Diner” is not what jumps to mind at the sight of Stephanie Izard’s two-year-old emporium of eggs n’ fried fare: The mugs lack chipping and the clientele skews young and cosmopolitan. Sunlight warms the muted tones of the walls and booths and there are cushy booths in which to assemble your crew for drunk food—or park your double-stroller alongside at brunch. The music on this visit (earlyish morning on a weekday) was belt-along 80’s pop, the room was about half-full with smiling faces, and the vibe was, oh, let’s call it jubilant. 9 out of 10.
THE FOOD: Here’s where things go a tad south. The menu is divvied up into cutesy categories (Cereal Killers, Sammiches, Tater Town), which don’t actually seem to categorize their contents, in most cases. Cereal Killers somehow translates to the Parathas Burrito (where’s the cereal in this, exactly?) and the Kimchee & Bacon & Eggs & Pancakes Asian Style Breakfast Tasty Thing (again, please spare us with the preciousness.)
On the bright side, you may get lucky with a blue plate special like the omelet we scored: pickled mushroom relish mixed with copious amounts of Philly cream cheese inside; crispy-fried onion strings, scallions, and more of those shrooms smothered the top. It’s the kind of gluttonous stuff that a diner should have, but it’s still a combo that you’re highly unlikely to concoct at home.
The jury was hung on the Fat Elvis waffles, which are just the fat-kid feast you’re envisioning: buttermilk waffles topped with sliced banana, maple syrup with hunks of bacon in it, and a glob of peanut butter-flavored butter. (Those of us who didn’t read the menu closely enough ate a big ol’ spoonful of it expecting straight up peanut butter. Word to the wise: Don’t do that.) The peanut butter/bacon/carb combo can’t be beat, but these need fine-tuning. The waffles should be fluffier, the syrup thicker, and the peanut butter butter…just shouldn’t be. 6 out of 10.
THE DRINKS: This visit took place on a workday, so we begrudgingly refrained from trying the Bloody Mary. But since 8 a.m. is not too early for ice cream, we ordered up a milkshake. While a cookie-studded version on a recent visit was far too thin, the seasonal special—a wonderfully spiced pumpkin pie shake finished with whipped cream and caramel corn—was sheer bliss. 9 out of 10.
THE SERVICE: From the hosts to the food runner, service was unpretentious and flawless. When the omelet arrived tepid, our server handled the situation perfectly, replacing it with a brand-new, piping hot one. 10 out of 10.
OVERALL: Not everything you’ll try is “Top Chef” caliber, but it’s hard not to love a place that oozes such warmth. Stick to the eggy basics here, eat dessert with brunch, and leave happy. 8 out of 10.
820 W. Randolph St., West Loop, 312-888-3455