The shtick: The spot that will ruin you for all other hotel breakfasts.
The vibe: Housed in the city’s coolest inn (Hotel Lincoln), across the lobby from the ridiculously adorable coffee shop (Elaine’s Coffee Call), in the most picturesque Lincoln Park-adjacent setting, you’ll find chef Paul Virant’s ode to the local bounty. Despite Hotel Lincoln’s excessive charm, the restaurant is a mélange of beige. While classy enough, the overall look is a smidge blah. Come summer, however, the al fresco scene is one of the best around—especially when the Green City Market is in session across the street. 7 out of 10.
The food: “Eat what you can and can what you can’t” is the M.O. here (seriously), and this means you’ll see all sorts of pickled and preserved ingredients used in dishes. And even though we’re stuck in the wintriest phase of winter, you’ll still find fresh veggies—a carrot here, a sunchoke there—sprinkled throughout the menu.
Brunch started with a bowlful of multicolored local lettuces and sliced radish mixed with pleasingly perky pickled tomato vinaigrette, and finished with chewy, buttery croutons that put their garden-variety counterparts to shame. (Really, when was the last time you noticed a crouton?) No finer way to work a little green into your meal. (And no finer way to cancel out that virtuous start than with a side of home fries and—get this!—squeaky cheese curds. Just so good.)
On the sweet side, the French toast is a revelation. Pastry chef extraordinaire Elissa Narrow makes the bread in-house—a complex loaf with a longer-than-normal fermentation process that yields a sturdy yet custardy treat. The prep on the day of our visit enlisted preserved cherries, milk jam, and pistachio brandy snaps (heavy on the brandy!). 9 out of 10.
The service: Lest you forget you’re dining at a hotel, the staff will remind you. Service is professional and prompt, if a bit impersonal. Our clean-cut server kept showing glimmers of personality, but it was as if he reined it in each time he almost let loose. This calculated aloofness probably works at dinner, but a.m. meals call for some lightening up. 6 out of 10.
Overall: No doubt the city’s best hotel brunch, and a fine pick for Sunday morning staycationing. 7 out of 10.
Hotel Lincoln, 1800 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park, 312-981-7070