THE SHTICK: The place that put Pilsen on the culinary map.
THE VIBE: As always: Cozy to the max but still effortlessly chic, with wooden accents every which way you gaze. Morning light pours through east-facing windows. Oftentimes, the seats are filled with artsy neighbors, but on this trip, we dined amongst toddlers and jersey-wearing Bears fans trying to psych themselves up somehow before heading to Soldier Field. 8 out of 10
THE FOOD: It’s rare for an excellent dinner place to pull off a destination-worthy brunch, and vice versa: Without question, Nightwood excels at both. In fact, it’s hard to rank one above the other. (Thankfully, the city’s tastiest burger is available at all hours.)
Starting with the doughnut du jour seemed like a no-brainer, but this one—a holiday special stuffed with Valrhona dark chocolate custard and topped with peppermint glaze and candy cane—was death by chocolate, and not in a fun way. We have an extremely high chocolate intensity threshold, but this was a straight-up toothache that even our server admitted she wasn’t a fan of.
A rolled omelet incorporating roasted celery root, queso fresco, fennel, marcona almonds, apple, and tarragon combined flavors and textures not typically housed in egg dishes to delicious results. You’ll notice the golf ball-sized tots take center stage in the photo. That’s because the crisp orbs were the sleeper star of the meal.
It’s not every weekend (or quite possibly ever) that you brunch on crepes stuffed with duck confit, maitake mushrooms, caramelized kale, and goat cheese and topped with arugula and a sunny side up egg. Maybe you should change that. This dish was equal parts flavorful, upscale, and—thanks to that kale—just a little weird. 7 out of 10
THE DRINKS: A Bloody Mary was perfectly passable, but nothing more. While it may sound ho-hum, the Beermosa (fresh-squeezed OJ with Allagash White Ale), is a must-order. The ale adds fizz and cuts the juice’s sweetness, making for an easy-sippin’ accompaniment to hearty grub. 7 out of 10
THE SERVICE: A well-oiled machine. Our server was professional but totally un-stuffy. Bonus points for not making one of our guests feel like a moron for asking what “confit” is (and pronouncing it incorrectly). 9 out of 10
OVERALL: In the wake of a recent chef change, Nightwood continues to be a godsend for Pilsenites and a destination-worthy brunch pick for everyone else. What’s not to love about a place where hard-core foodies and tailgaters convene for the most amazing tots in town? 8 out of 10
2119 S. Halsted St., Pilsen, 312-526-3385