January in Chicago means cold. It’s the kind that gives your face a pink glow one shade below windburn, chills you to the bone and makes you long for meals that will warm you from the inside out. Delivery is tempting, but few things are more rewarding than a warm meal spent in good company. So this year, when you get the urge to retreat to the comfort of your home and order in, call up your friends and head to one of our favorite brunch spots instead.
For a taste of Tex-Mex: Dove’s Luncheonette
With it’s speckled floor, wood-paneled walls and Southern-inspired menu, the convivial Dove’s Luncheonette will make you feel like you’ve traveled 40 years back in time and 1,500 miles south. Sit at the retro countertops and enjoy bottomless cups of Dark Matter coffee alongside generously portioned Tex-Mex plates, like the Chicken Fried Chicken smothered in chorizo verde gravy and Red Chile Enchiladas topped with a beautiful mess of queso fresco, cilantro, onions, serrano chiles and more.
1545 N. Damen Ave., 773-645-4060
For pancakes upon pancakes: The Bongo Room
Fluffy pancakes laden with butter, syrup and whatever other toppings The Bongo Room has dreamed up will leave you full and happy you indulged in a sweet brunch (even if they’re technically on the breakfast menu). The recipes constantly change, so one visit you may find flapjacks studded with crushed Oreos and blanketed by praline cream and crème anglaise or topped with a heap of fresh fruit and dusted with powdered sugar (with plenty of butter nearby, of course).
1470 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-489-0690 (Wicker Park)
5022 N. Clark St., 773-728-7900 (Andersonville)
1152 S. Wabash St., 312-291-0100 (South Loop)
For shareables to savor: Southport Grocery & Café
Come for the bread pudding pancakes – a cross between a barely-cooked pancake and a center slice of bread pudding, doused with cinnamon-sugar butter – but stay for Southport Grocery’s delectable shareable plates. These dishes will satisfy cravings for both sweet and savory, from a sizable square of veggie quiche that toes the line between eggy custard and fluffy omelet to a pop tart that really is a loose interpretation of the traditional toaster pastry – homemade preserves, mascarpone and vanilla walnuts slathered between a griddled bready wrap.
3552 N. Southport Ave., 773-665-0100
For a different kind of diner: Little Goat Diner
Top Chef Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner transcends omelets and French toast, serving an all-day breakfast menu strewn with ethnic-inspired dishes. From Crumpets with Chorizo Maple Syrup to Kimchee & Bacon & Eggs & Pancakes to a South Asian Parathas Burrito, the menu is just familiar enough but with flavorful twists to keep dishes interesting. To wash it all down? Order “The Little Goat” – an espresso, goat milk, whipped cream and caramel treat.
820 W. Randolph St., 312-888-3455
For house-ground grain-centric fare: Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse
At this newly-opened Lincoln Square shop, husband and wife Dave and Megan Miller (formerly of Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits) are milling their own grain into flour and transforming it into an array of homemade and whole grain breads, pastries and breakfast items. True to their roots, they still serve pie. But a carb-lover’s breakfast is incomplete without a slice of seeded rye, a frosting-laden sourdough cinnamon bun or a bowl of hearty (and vegetarian) grits from Baker Miller.
4610 N. Western Ave., 312-208-5639
For a Michelin-star meal: Longman & Eagle
The PBR Breakfast is a testament to how good Longman & Eagle’s food really is; this Logan Square spot can serve an ice cold can of Pabst Blue Ribbon alongside eggs, bacon, sausage and potatoes and still earn a Michelin Star. L&E’s breakfast fare features layers upon layers of complex and delicious flavors, including a Whole Hog Crepinette with cheese grits, collards and natural maple jus and Housemade Challah French Toast loaded with spiced pudding, candied pecans, bruleed marshmallows, graham cracker and rum panna cotta.
2657 N. Kedzie Ave., 773-276-7110
For a seasonally driven, sustainable menu: Perennial Virant
Based on the philosophy that you should “eat what you can and can what you can’t,” chef Paul Virant’s Perennial Virant offers a menu that is hearty, fresh and sustainable – and loaded with pickled and preserved foods. Right now, you’ll find pickled sweet pepper relish served with grilled cornbread, pickled tomato vinaigrette atop local lettuces and pickled garlic along with squash, bacon and capriko in a skillet. Brunch fare that honors the Midwest’s harvests? Yes, please.
1800 N. Lincoln Ave., 312-981-7070
For brunch libations done right: Dusek’s Board & Beer
After a long week, there’s something to be said for a good, strong Beermosa to accompany a benny. True to its name, Dusek’s Board & Beer features a range of beer-driven brunch cocktails that pair IPA with grapefruit, hefeweizen with passion fruit (and malort!), dark lager with ginger and more. Dusek’s also gives a nod to its downstairs neighbor Punch House with a Brunch Punch made with gin, fresh orange, clove, lime and sparkling wine. With carefully concocted flavor profiles, these libations will compliment most menu items, from scotch egg to Dutch baby.
1227 W. 18th St., 312-526-3851
For a Midwestern spin on the Mediterranean: avec
Few brunches are better than those that involve thick slices of toast piercing a poached egg – especially if they include avec’s coddled eggs. Silken eggs and taleggio fonduta surround earthy roasted mushrooms, and the toast, of course, isn’t just toast; it’s garlic crostini waiting to become a vehicle for the eggs. Feeling bold (and hungry)? Order the Chorizo-stuffed Medjool Dates, too, and a Harissa Bloody Mary to wash it all down for a brunch that is savory beyond compare.
615 W. Randolph St., 312-377-2002
For crepes and coffee: Café Versailles
This quaint Irving Park café features a crepe-centric menu of sweet and savory creations – when paired with an espresso, you’ll almost forget you’re in a bustling city and not a leisurely café in Europe. Try the Nutella, Banana and Three Berry crepe that’s topped with luscious whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate and strawberry syrups à la Jackson Pollock. The more exotic Café Versailles house crepe – loaded with honey, kiwi and pistachio – will also satisfy, even on the coldest of days.
4102 N. Pulaski Ave., 773-283-8891
Lead photo: Courtesy Derek Richmond