Starting this week, Chicago’s dining team will be reviewing brunches—from places you spend hours waiting for to under-the-radar joints. We’ll post a new rundown each Thursday. A quick note: These aren’t a part of our official starred dining reviews, and we’re using a different rating scale to make sure nobody confuses the two.
As our gift to you, we’re kicking things off with two reviews of places we enjoyed quite a bit. You can find the other one here. Happy brunching.
THE SHTICK: Euro-chic takes on brunch standards.
THE VIBE: A10’s whole look is very “West Elm catalog come to life”—midcentury dining room furniture at every turn, rugs hanging from the walls like tapestries, petite flower arrangements sprouting from emptied-out salt shakers. When we dropped in around 12:30, the dining room was only half-full, with a mix of groups of twenty-something friends and older couples. This isn’t the place to nurse a monster hangover—it’s far too low-key for that—but it’s a great option for a quiet celebration or send-off for visiting guests. 8 out of 10.
THE FOOD: Here is a decision that I can make for you: You absolutely must order one of their warm brioche sticky buns ($5), the flavors of which rotate each Sunday. Ours was a white chocolate pistachio iteration that somehow managed to not be achingly sweet. Accordingly, it vanished within minutes. I am still talking about this pastry days later and pulling up pictures of it on my phone, showing it off like it was a snapshot of my own child.
The main list centers on trumped-up versions of your brunching basics: Pumpkin pie griddle cakes ($12) occupy the pancake’s territory; the dauphinoise crêpe ($15) slathered in melted Gruyère is like a black-tie version of a breakfast burrito (and it may be the heartiest version of the paper-thin pancake I’ve encountered in my crêpe-filled life.) And the chicken and waffles ($16), a crispy, juicy hunk of chicken crowning two fluffy waffle wedges doused in maple syrup, is like finding the missing link between breakfast and lunch. This is the stuff of brunching dreams. 9 out of 10.
THE DRINKS: The Bloody Mary ($10) leans pleasantly horseradishy, pungent enough that you feel it in your sinuses after a few sips but not enough to start your nose running. Coffee ($4) and iced tea ($4) both skew mellow, and the tea has a faint berry edge to it. 8 out of 10.
THE SERVICE: Smart, attentive servers (all dressed in That J.Crew Gingham Shirt) were quick with a gentle nudge toward a knockout dish and an iced tea refill. When we were seated, the hostess checked our coats in a front closet for us, a welcome nicety you don’t often see during weekend daylight hours. 9 out of 10.
OVERALL: Why are you not there already? Why was the restaurant only half full at peak brunch? The only thing holding this brunch back from a perfect score is the sticker shock—brunch is an egalitarian meal and should be priced a little more accessibly. Dig into the sticky bun, though, and suddenly a $16 main course—or, sigh, that bill—matters a little less. 8.5 out of 10.
1462 E. 53rd St., Hyde Park, 773-288-1010