The shtick: What would happen if your neighborhood café went to culinary school.
The vibe: Airy Nordic minimalism, all attractive blond wood, white walls, and Instagram-friendly lighting. You’re likely to be shuttled to a high-top with backless stools, though—not exactly cushy if you want to linger for a while. 7 out of 10.
The food: The Winchester’s charm lies in its dedication to doing just a few things but doing them well, which is shorthand for saying you may not find your go-to brunch dish on this menu (better luck next time, omelet lovers.) So maybe this is not the place for your pickiest of picky friends.
Instead, make other friends and order a round of avocado toast ($6.50) to share with them. The dish comprises a mound of soft, mashed avocado with pieces of grapefruit and thin slices of chili, and you scoop a mix of all three onto hefty wedges of seedy whole-wheat bread. The whole thing almost tastes like a really streamlined guacamole, and since toast is basically the chip of breads, it works.
The place is getting a lot of attention for its house waffle, a Liège-style round coated in crunchy, caramelized sugar. And while you can order it solo, it’s especially tasty as the base for a sweet-and-salty eggs Benedict ($16), along with creamed kale, apple, and braised bacon. Somehow swapping heavy hollandaise sauce for a drizzle of maple syrup makes it seem almost delicate. Almost. Another often-leaden standby, biscuits and gravy ($12), though hardly light fare, wasn’t the typical nap-inducing fat fest. 8 out of 10.
The drinks: On past dinnertime visits, cocktails here have been zippy and potent, which is why it was the biggest shock of all to find their Bloody Mary ($8) weak and watered down. Perhaps we witnessed an off morning—it did take an awfully long time for said Bloody to arrive at the table—but the punchless drink remained unfinished long after we’d practically licked our plates clean. Stick to coffee, a far stronger (and superior) alternative. 5 out of 10.
The service: For the most part, our waitress was friendly and efficient, though occasionally things snagged—a delayed drink here, a long wait for the check there. It must take a little time for things to wake up here, as the same issues don’t seem to show up at dinner. 7 out of 10.
Overall: For simple yet chic food, the Winchester can’t be beat. We can’t wait for the rest of the place to catch up. 7 out of 10.
1001 N. Winchester Ave., Ukrainian Village, 773-698-8703