The shtick: 1920s Russian bathhouse→one of Wicker Park’s hottest restaurants→oh hey, they do brunch!
The vibe: There are brunch restaurants and there are restaurants that add brunch service. Three-year-old Trenchermen falls firmly into the latter camp. The moody space—with exposed pipes and tangled ropes as part of its décor—does not suddenly turn all cheery and dinery when the sun comes up. Instead, the dining room remains one of the classier joints in the ‘hood, and the bar switches from one of the finer spots to pull up a stool and down a burger to the ideal location for nursing hangovers. 8 out of 10
The food: Don’t go if you’ve got a hankering for omelets and short stacks. Do go in search of a solid pastry program (a thick slab of warmed banana bread with sweet maple glaze served as a fine prelude, but could’ve been moister) and well-conceived dishes you won’t encounter elsewhere. The best riff on bagel and lox we’ve tasted consisted of a toasted housemade pretzel (!) bagel speckled with salt, an ample heap of smoked salmon, mustard-infused cream cheese, and bright veggies. Don’t think—just order this one.
The house take on biscuits and gravy comes doused with spicy pepperoni-flecked gravy and finished with a fried egg. We adore a good buttermilk biscuit, and sadly, this poor specimen gets lost amidst the other elements. This is one heavy dish, and after about three spoonfuls, we threw in the towel. 7 out of 10
Drinks: Coffee is a must, and far from an afterthought. The restaurant teams up with a different roaster each month to craft its pourover. Boozy brunchers will find options aplenty. We opted for the beermosa, a tasty mix of Deschutes Fresh-Squeezed IPA, grapefruit juice, and honey that’s a bit too easy to drink. 8 out of 10
Service: Things got off to an awkward start when we arrived five minutes after opening and were informed by a smug host that the entire dining room—which was still nearly empty, of course—was “fully committed.” (Maybe that was true, but when we left, there was still plentiful seating available in there.) We love the bar room and were happy to brunch there, but our group of three was awkwardly cramped at the high top where we were sat. Our server, however, was a charmer—and not shy about offering her honest take on specific dishes. 6 out of 10
Overall: Trenchermen sticks to its guns at brunchtime: Just like at dinner, you’ll find serious fare geared toward adventurous eaters and drinkers. 7 out of 10
Wicker Park, 2039 W. North Ave., 773-661-1540