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.

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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!

Dunlays on Clark Chicago

We rush through our entire lives and “eating on the run” is something you hear every day. Sometimes I wonder how it is possible that we all got too busy to take care of our most basic needs. You know, those things like eating and sleeping. Really, who wants to eat a sandwich alone at a desk staring at a spreadsheet or while walking to a meeting? No one. I believe Sunday brunch is part of the solution to our bad busy habits. Its later start time means no angry alarm is waking you up and it is one of those meals you are not allowed to rush through. The point is to sit, talk and eat great food. This place is the perfect stop to build some good brunch habits.

The Place: Dunlays on Clark, 2066 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL65116_535603503118248_1356672460_n

It is a smaller neighborhood restaurant and bar serving the surrounding Lincoln Park community and they are lucky to have it. It is an inviting space with an outdoor patio. The servers and staff are friendly and welcoming and don’t be surprised if the owner makes the rounds over to your table to make sure you are enjoying yourself.

This is a regular restaurant that does a good brunch. The iron skillet cornbread to start is awesome with maple butter. The Strange Daze omelette, with mozzarella, bacon, mushrooms, spinach and hollandaise  is my favorite. It is a pretty healthy/unhealthy yin/yang kinda of omelette. Dunlays on Clark  is good for very late brunchers who may have had a light breakfast already and are ready for lunch. It is also good for people who are skeptical of complicated brunch entrees and want to go for burgers and salads.

Some things to consider: It might not be the best place for a very large group, the space and tables are on the smaller side. But it is a great setting for a small casual brunch…perhaps to celebrate a friend’s engagement. At least that is what I did there….It is also close to Molly’s Cupcakes -as in Molly’s is literally down the street. So there is no excuse not to stop in, even during Chicago winter at its best.

For more information: http://www.dunlaysonclark.com/

Happy Sunday Brunching!

Yolk

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Everyone knows that, but we rush through it anyway. Or worse, we skip it all together. And no, a cup of coffee is not the same as breakfast. This place is so good that it can make breakfast a priority again.

The Place: Yolk, 355 East Ohio Chicago, IL (multiple locations)

Yolk can add  sunshine to your morning even as rainy Chicago autumn threatens to dampen your spirits. The inside is casual, non-threatening and inspired by an egg, I’m assuming. Everything is yellow and white. There is a huge breakfast bar looking into the kitchen, which seems to be favored by those eating alone or just grabbing a quick muffin and coffee (still not really breakfast, but better than nothing). The Yolk staff is super friendly and welcoming. Despite how busy it can get, it never feels like you are being rushed out the door. The overall experience leaves you feeling happy, relaxed and satisfied.

The food is so good! I know I say that about pretty much every place. However, I also only write about places I enjoy. I want Not Just Dinner and a Movie to be a positive place! But the food really is good. The menu is pretty big for a breakfast place and includes some lunch items as well. The menu items are not too complicated, but have a touch of creativity and a dash of indulgence. The Santa Fe fritatta has avocado, jalepenos, green onions, cheese and potatoes baked right in with sour cream and salsa on top. It is a must try if you like to get a little spicy in the morning. Get it with pancakes! The Irish Benny is also really good. It is a benedict on top of corned beef hash and sauteed tomatoes. It comes with potatoes and really fresh fruit. If you are feeling indulgent or need a cure for your sweet tooth, they have red velvet french toast and cinnamon roll french toast. Yolk has such a great menu, so check it out!

The coffee is pretty good and I would stop in here for a cup of joe to go even though Starbucks is just down the street. Although I guess Starbucks is always just down the street in Chicago. Either way, this place has better coffee and some seasonal coffee creations if you are into that kind of thing.

Some things to consider: This place gets CROWDED. The wait for four on a Sunday around 10:30 can be around 40 minutes. It is totally worth the wait. Now that it is getting colder less people may be willing to wait outside. I am hoping this will mean the wait time will decrease, but am not going to hold my breath. During the week or later on Saturdays and Sundays the crowds are more manageable.

For more information and other locations: http://eatyolk.com/ I think they have such a cute website!

Enjoy some breakfast sunshine year round!

Orange Chicago

Who says funky can’t be a little fancy? Not me and not this unique brunch spot. I went on my first real date here -you know the kind where your parents don’t have to drop you off and your friends aren’t sitting next to you giggling the whole movie. It’s been six years since that date and that boy is long gone, but this place continues to be a refreshing staple in my life.

The Place: Orange; 738 N Clark St., Chicago, IL (one of multiple Chicago locations)

Orange is definitely contemporary from head to toe. It features an open and airy dining area with cream walls and orange lighting that make me feel like I am inside a cream puff, but in a really good way. Go with people (or someone) you will to want to spend some time with and not eat and run. Orange is a place to eat slowly and enjoy a cool meal with good company.

Everything from the drinks to the fruishy are funky-fancy. They have orange roasted  coffee which proves you don’t need a ridiculous, sugar-filled, high-end coffee concoction to liven up a cup of joe. Since you have taken care of your coffee and orange juice needs in one pot, you can get a brunch cocktail! They have everything from bloody marys to ginger-orange mimosas. You can also build your own juice. Go ahead, get creative. This place is sure to inspire you.

The brunch options are broken into sweet and savory. In the sweet section you will find things like Chai Tea French Toast. These are thick, ricotta filled brioche dipped in chai tea batter and baked. They are served in a slightly off-center bowl and topped with caramelized apples, honey and a chai tea reduction. This dish is the definition of funky-fancy! It is on the sweet side so I would recommend some bacon on the side to balance it out! Or, have your brunch companion get something savory and share. I will definitely be trying the green eggs and ham in the near future -pesto scramble with ham, tomatoes and mozzarella on top…yum!

Onto their signature menu item: Frushi. It is made with fruit infused sushi rice and fruit. The combinations are always changing, but the last time I went it was coconut-lime rice with strawberry and apple pieces. The portion is not large and is meant to be an appetizer to your brunch. Do not pass them up even if you order lunch!

Some things to consider: Check to make sure the location you plan to visit has a liquor license if you plan to have a brunch cocktail with your frushi. They do not take reservations. This might be a good place to take your friends with dietary restrictions. They are careful not to put nuts in their pesto and they use gluten free sausage. They buy organic products locally and I always like to support businesses that do that! They also have a great tag line: Orange, contemporary brunch with a peel. (Say it out loud if you didn’t get it.)

For more information and additional locations: http://orangerestaurantchicago.com/

Happy Funky-Fancy Brunching!