The shtick: Brunch plus booze in a Bay Area–inspired lounge.
The vibe: On Sundays, the cozy newish inhabitant of the former Bluebird space dares to do brunch next door to the always-slammed Hot Chocolate. When we rolled in, the crowd was sparse, so we were confused when the hostess told us the dining room was “fully committed” for the next hour-and-a-half. We shrugged and took our pick of seating in the empty, eerily quiet lounge—not a huge deal. But considering that the dining room never got more than half-full, this was downright puzzling. 6 out of 10
The food: Breakfast burrata ($14) achieves that elusive cross between sweet and savory. Spongy raisin bread forms the base for silky Burrata; pickled sultanas, pepitas, and a squiggle of honey. To the side sits a bowl of honeyed seasonal fruit (currants and raspberries on our visit). Not sure if the two are meant to be married or eaten separately, but regardless, this is one sexy creation.
The heavy, spicy Thai shrimp and grits ($16)—coconut-scented grits and curry; fried shrimp; a poached egg; and a confetti of chilies, bamboo shoots, and cilantro—is probably not the first thing you want to put in your stomach for the day. But consume with the mindset that you’re out for a Thai meal and you’ll likely enjoy—that is, if yours isn’t delivered lukewarm like ours was. 6 out of 10
The drinks: Lest you forget you’re brunching at a bar, the cocktail list is downright impressive. You can order from the full bar list or opt for the Mission Mary ($10), which promises flavors of mango and Cholula, but instead tastes like your garden-variety Bloody. You’re better off with the non-brunchy Presidio Punch #1—a tropical number involving Thai chili-infused Pisco and mango that tastes just as excellent before noon as any time. But $13? That’s tough to swallow. 7 out of 10
The service: The crew seemed aimed to please, and we even got a “hi, how are ya?” visit from the manager. But maybe because our previously on-point gal was tied up with those phantom guests in the dining room, toward the end of the meal we witnessed a classic case of Disappearing Server. 7 out of 10
Overall: Props to the kitchen for putting out some inventive dishes, but we much prefer Presidio after dark, when the food and vibe make it one of our favorite date night destinations. 6.5 out of 10
1749 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown, 773-697-3315