Pump Room

Guys, I’m moving to San Diego! Pretty soon, I am going to be one of those people that pulls out a hat and gloves instead of shorts when my weather app says 60 degrees. I’ve been making fun of those people (Californians, Floridians, etc.) since I met them in college, but really I’ve just been jealous all along. Even though I love love LOVE Chicago, it is time to try something new and reach outside my geographic comfort zone. That being said, there is a LOT of Chicago eating to do in the next couple months and a whole new food beginning waiting for me on the west coast (best coast?…too soon?).

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Who can resist a California sunset?

I started with this place. A place I have only ventured to for some fancy cocktails. But matching (into a residency program so I can be a real doctor) seemed like a good enough reason for fancy brunch. Also, side note, I am technically about to finish 20th grade…that’s over 75% of my life spent in school. The thought makes me want a cocktail from this place right now…

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Sunny Side Up Frittata

The Place: Pump Room; The Neighborhood: Gold Coast

The food is on the fancy side, with things like lobster scramble and a sunny side up frittata, but all of it was yummy. The brioche french toast with caramelized pears and smoked bacon with definitely my favorite. They soak the bread for 24 hours and it is crispy on the outside and so gooey on the inside. The organic egg sandwich was a table favorite as well with smoked jalapeño jack cheese and housemade pork or chicken sausage.

The coffee was good and even though we had done a lot of celebrating the night before, everyone was peer-pressured into cocktails. The Bloody Mary was simple, but on point and just the right amount of spicy. We did not indulge in other non-brunch cocktails, but this is an excellent place for cocktails. The people watching is awesome, because this is definitely a place to bring someone you are trying to impress…if you know what I mean.

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Future doctors of California and Wisconsin; Photo by Tina
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Nosh and Booze

I like to think I am a cool Chicago foodie but a swipe through Instagram makes me feel like everyone with a cell phone can call themselves a foodie these days. This pop up is my claim to fame as being a real foodie and not just someone who has been taking pictures of her food since before it was cool/socially acceptable…whatever a real foodie is…

The Place: Nosh And Booze; The Neighborhood: West Loop

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Country ham sandwich with gravy

Nestled in the remnants of Vivo (RIP) on Randolph St. this is by the same people as AMK in Logan Square. (Logan Square is a neighborhood the real foodies -like me -eat in too.) It’s snacks and drinks, sharable dinner and the most important meal of the week: brunch. I did all three in a week and a half. This place is actually that good.

Let me take a break from trying to convince you I am cool and talk about the food. It is so good! The snacks include spiced duck fat popcorn and cheese curds. It would be quite an accomplishment to make fried cheese bad so I’ll just say that even though spiced popcorn sounds boring they manage to make it sweet, salty and spicy all at the same time. Both times I got it, I could not stop eating it. Also shout out to the oxtail poutine and pimento burger. They make their own pimento cheese in house. It’s a good burger and not quite the food coma commitment Au Cheval is.

Next brunch. The fried chicken benedict is my jam. It is on top of a scallion and white cheddar biscuit which they also use for their biscuits and gravy. And everyone needs some fried chicken to go with their fried cheese curds. Go big or go home, right? These biscuits star in the country ham sandwich as well.

You could also just go here for the drinks and a snack while you wait out your intended popular West Loop dinner spot. The Violet Daisy and the IPA Jackass(MULE) are two of my favorites.

Anyway, even though Nosh and Booze will only be sticking around through December, it is a placeholder and taste of what is to come as AMK is promising a more permanent version later in 2017. And even though I’ve been sitting on this post almost a month now while I eat in airports and other cities, I will definitely be back at least one more time before it comes to a close in December!

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

Let’s talk about brunch. There is nothing better than Sunday brunch. It means you made it through the week, are not working the weekend (or at least not Sunday) and have every excuse to hang out with your brunch companions for an extended period of time. There is a reason no one does business brunch. No one rushes you out of brunch. But my real favorite part of brunch is that the sweet-savory debacle is easily solved by table pancakes. This place has awesome options for table pancakes.

The Place: Mindy’s Hot Chocolate  The Neighborhood: Wicker Park

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Sugar Puffs and Hot Chocolate

I usually start with the food, but given the name this is the place to start with the drinks. The hot chocolate is why you come here. It is basically creamy chocolate soup and totally acceptable to eat it with a spoon. Although, full disclosure, I might be saying that because that is what I do before my hot chocolate is cool enough to drink like a grown up. There are hot chocolate options for everyone: white, milk, dark, caffeinated and boozy. But no matter your choice, they are all topped with a homemade marshmallow or two. My favorite is the half and half which is half dark chocolate and half espresso. It is all kinds of delicious!

Onto the food. With a rotating menu there is no such thing as ‘I’ll try something new, because I have already had that before.’ It’s all new and all SO good. Lucky for me, my brunch companions today were all about the lets get stuff and share mentality. For the savory dishes, we had duck hash with sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts and a veggie omelet. This was one of my friend’s first time having brussels sprouts and she loved them! The omelet came with roasted potatoes that were so on point they could have been their own thing. Both dishes came with grilled bread, a small touch that is not to be underestimated. All bread is good with hot chocolate.

To satisfy our sweet tooth, we had the french toast of the day with chocolate cream and macerated figs. It was one of those foods where you put in your mouth and just float off to a magical place. My brunch companions and I are usually very chatty when we hang out, but once our food arrived we basically ate in the silence of brunch bliss. We also had the sugar puffs. These are soft, fluffy doughnuts and today came with raspberry preserves.

All in all, this Wicker Park staple was perfect for a rainy Chicago October Sunday.

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Half and Half

Summer House Santa Monica

This morning was one of those mornings where I woke up and all I wanted was some good company and pancakes with a side of benedicts. Something I have learned is that you have to pick your brunch buddies carefully. The sweet-savory dilemma is real and comes out in full force at brunch. Lucky for me, the brunch stars were in alignment this morning at Summer House Santa Monica.

The Place: Summer House Santa Monica; 1954 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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Summer House is such a great spot. They have awesome, creative and sunny drinks to make you forget that your flight to New York was canceled and you probably commented on how warm it was in Chicago today when you stepped out and it was 35 and sunny.

The menu is California-inspired American, which actually means for brunch there is a ton of kale on the menu. This is good for all those eggwhite-no-bread-extra-celery friends we all have to invite to brunch sometimes. I chose no kale since there was lemon in the pancakes. Also, punch and mimosas are mostly fruit I think.

The lemon cottage cheese pancakes are light, moist and not too sweet. There is syrup and a lemon curd on the side to sweeten the deal if that is your style. Next time I go, I want to try the orange chocolate chip pancakes.

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Some of their benedicts come on hash browns. It’s genius. Hash browns and bacon are basically brunch essentials. Sometimes the drawback of the benedict is that they tend not to come with those things. At Summer House you can have your hollandaise served up on your hash browns. The smoked salmon hash brown benedict really hit the spot.

Some things to consider: This place always has a wait. I tried to make a reservation on a Monday for Sunday brunch and my options were 9:30am or 2:00pm. When my friend showed up at 11:00am on Sunday, the wait was 1.5 hours. That being said, we were able to sit and eat at the bar right away. They have the full menu, so a good option for 2 people trying to brunch at brunch time. This is also an awesome spot for a happy hour! I will definitely be going back soon.

Toast Two

Yes, there are lots of great places to brunch in Chicago. And yes, everyone has his/her neighborhood favorites. But, if you like to try new things, this is one spot to add to your to-brunch list. If you like to stick to your spot and not branch out, people probably think you are boring…Take a little trip to Bucktown and check this place out!

The place: Toast Two; 2046 N Damen Ave Chicago, IL

Pancake Orgy
Pancake Orgy

Local brunch spots all have their benedicts, pancakes and stuffed french toast. But Toast Two sets itself apart on all fronts.  Toast doesn’t just have your standard chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes. They have a pancake orgy -one blueberry, one banana pecan and one lemon poppyseed topped with vanilla yogurt and homemade granola. If that isn’t enough to get you going, the whole thing is drizzled with honey. It was so good! We got one for the table to share -by that I mean my friend and I just split it in addition to our benedicts. They also have a Stuffed French Toast Orgy. Next time, I want to try the regular Stuffed French Toast. Not that there is anything regular about it. You get one of each -strawberry mascarpone and mexican chocolate. They make it so easy for you to try a few different things in one dish!

Next, get ready for truffle hollandaise topping the benedicts. It really takes a great benedict to the next level. It was amazing on the Crabby Benedict. I hear it was also great on the Tenderloin Benedict. I can only assume their scrambles and omelets are also out of this world, but I will definitely be back to test that hypothesis.

Crabby Benedict
Crabby Benedict

Some things to consider: They are BYOB! So bring your favorite bloody mary alcohol and you can add it to their bloody mary mix. There is FREE street parking! For real. I didn’t think it existed in Chicago anymore. I searched and searched for a paybox before the thought of free parking even crossed my mind. This place is popular. By 11:30/noon it was full on a Thursday! I can imagine there is a wait on the weekends. But it would be so worth the wait! Toast also has a Lincoln Park location for those of you in that direction!

For more information: http://www.toast-chicago.com/index.html

Expand your brunch horizons!

Jam ‘N Honey

Brunch is the place to start when your friends come to Chicago to visit. That way, you can decide that you actually miss them so much that you want to spend the whole day with them eating and re-exploring (read: showing off) Chicago. While everyone wants to run to the Mag Mile, a great place to start is Lincoln Park. After brunch you can walk around, do a little boutique-y shopping and grab a cupcake at Molly’s. This newish, Nutella-heavy brunch spot is the perfect place to start.

The place: Jam ‘N Honey; 958 W. Webster Chicago, IL

Nestled in the DePaul area, it had some buzz even on Monday morning. It looks like it’s a DePaul student favorite and is also popular with the young families that live in the area. And why shouldn’t it be? Each table is equipped with salt, pepper and Nutella!

Nutella Banana Waffle
Nutella Banana Waffle

The Nutella on the table is almost (not really) overkill, because the menu is pretty Nutella heavy. For example, the Nutella Banana French Toast is a must try at Jam ‘N Honey. Get one for the table to share if there are other things you want to try. The Italian Benedict was a big hit on our table. Poached eggs top bacon and cheddar risotto cakes. With spinach and tomato jam in the mix, it is healthy too. They have 5 different benedicts, which is extensive for any breakfast menu and I will be back to try them all! The oatmeal pancakes -served with lemon-blueberry compote and vanilla honey butter- is on my list of things to try when I go back.

They also serve lunch and dinner, but with a name like Jam ‘N Honey, it is definitely a breakfast/brunch place.

Italian Benedict
Italian Benedict

Some things to consider: Despite being in the DePaul neighborhood, this is a very kid friendly place. It has a neighborhood feel and is close to some LP boutique shopping. It is a great place to show off a different, but still glamorous, part of the city. There is off-street parking, but if I lived within a mile or two, I would definitely walk and enjoy the neighborhood -especially if the weather ever decides to dry up and warm up.

For more information: http://www.jamnhoney.com/index.html

Let Nutella sweeten up your brunch soon!

Little Goat

Just a stone throw away from Girl & the Goat, this is not your average diner. Here your comfort food goes a little crazy. This place can stand alone -out of the shadow of its mothership- despite its proximity.

The Place: Little Goat; 820 W Randolph Chicago, IL

Sloppy Goat with Rosemary Slaw
Sloppy Goat with Rosemary Slaw

Don’t be fooled by the interior of this place. Little Goat Diner is not your average diner. You won’t find sloppy joe, ice cream sundaes or apple pie on the menu…well at least not the kinds you are use to. Little Goat is Girl & the Goat’s more accessible child with typical diner hours. 7:00AM until 2:00AM. Literally across the street from Dragonfly (Chinese restaurant turned club at night), I wonder what the crowd looks like in the wee weekend hours. Don’t confuse Little Goat with your late night Wrigley taco joint that is oh-so-satisfying only when you are in an altered state. Little Goat earned the honor of being one of Bon Appetite’s Top 5 Hottest Restaurant Openings in 2012.

Little Goat sticks to diner tradition and serves breakfast all day. Nothing is off limits here they serve Breakfast Spaghetti and Clams which includes eggs, parmesan, guanciale and bok choy. Before you turn up your nose to the idea, try it. Stephanie, the mastermind behind it all, seems to get everything right -even when it sounds wrong. For the less adventurous, the menu includes dark chocolate chip pancakes and pork belly benedict.  But really, this is not the place to be a chicken.

Wing Burger with Kilgus Goat Patty
Wing Burger with Kilgus Goat Patty

The food is all fantastic. The sloppy joe is made with goat and has a rosemary slaw on top. You can get burgers many different ways including wing style (which I highly recommend), Korean or Loco Moco. After you choose your style of burger, you can choose your patty. Your options include a regular beef patty, goat (obviously) and veggie. The goat is really good, especially on the wing burger.

Save room for dessert and if you don’t, your stomach will make room. Trust me; it’s science. Next time, I will be trying the apple pie! The Choco Toco sundae was really good. It had some kind of chocolate truffle ice cream and sour cream ice cream. Again, don’t freak out. It is like vanilla ice cream but cooler. Just trust Steph!

Choco Toco Sundae
Choco Toco Sundae

Some things to consider: Little Goat can get busy! So if you go during peak hours, be prepared to wait. It is totally worth the wait though. I went on a random weeknight and didn’t have to wait, but it was still pretty busy. They have a separate brunch menu, which I am so excited to go back for! Don’t bring your picky-eater-friends. They will be hungry and you will be annoyed. Take your cool-foodie-friends or friends that live in New York and think nothing comes close to eating in NYC. Also, next to the diner is Little Goat Bread which is Steph’s spin on a coffee shop. Stay tuned for that post.

For more information: http://littlegoatchicago.com/ Even the website is really cool, so check it out.

Enjoy your diner food out of the box!