Category Archives: cheap, tasty brunch

Restaurants that offer just that. Great brunch on the fly for around $10.

Guest post: A Brunch Best-Of

Ah, so many mystery post guessers…so little time. Last week we featured a bounty of bacon, and this week it’s all about brunch. When two awesome local brunch bloggers, Bunny and Brandy guessed the Ing mystery beer flight post correctly, I couldn’t wait to see what they’d choose for their guest post. How brilliant is it to try to scope out a new Chicago brunch destination every weekend, aaaand how do I get invited? For now, I will just salivate over their “sweet and savory” best-of list, which includes six dishes I have never had and enviably awesome food photos…

Bunny and Brandy’s Favorite Sweeties and Savories
(In no particular order)

1. Butterscotch Bacon Donut from Nightwood: One of the best combos of sweet and savory out there. If the name alone isn’t enough to tempt you, you have no soul. Nightwood, 2119 S. Halsted St.

Holy #%!^**#% these look good.


2. Eggs New Orleans from Big Jones: Not your ordinary Eggs Benedict, this one is served over a crab cakes and pop-overs. The potatoes on the side aren’t bad either! Big Jones, 5347 N. Clark.

Jonesin' for eggs Benedict at Big Jones


3. Spiced Apple Couscous from Hearty Boys: A twist on traditional oatmeal, this couscous is made with cream and dried fruit. Beats Quaker Instant any day! Hearty Boys, 3403 N. Halsted.
4. Chicken and Waffles from Nana: A savory waffle, amazing fried chicken strips, and pork sausage gravy. This is as far away from its Waffle House inspiration as you can get! Nana, 3267 S. Halsted.

No, I mean, honestly, stop...


5. Brioche French Toast at Socca: Served with creamy vanilla gelato and bourbon sauce, this little dish packs a punch! Socca, 3301 N. Clark.

GAAWW...I didn't even know they had brunch at Socca!...I am so there for this


6. Baked Egg with Polenta from M. Henrietta: As gorgeous as it is scrumptious, this egg sits on a bed of creamy polenta, wrapped in bacon, and is served with the most visually pleasing salad one could ever dream of. M. Henrietta, 1131 W. Granville Ave.

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Corned beef hash at Jam

The salty/sweet craving dilemma I often encounter at brunch isn’t a problem at Jam on Damen. Their special scone or muffin is usually amazing, or I just get an order of the malted custard French toast flecked with crunchy pink peppercorns on the side and call it a day. But the main salty event that eclipsed the sweet dishes few weeks back was the corned beef hash. Arranged on a plate almost too pretty to eat, the house-made corned beef is served with a rosemary-topped celery purée and potato, portobello, onion and tomato hash hiding in a cup and topped with a sunny-side up egg. Jam, 937 N. Damen, 773.489.0302

Corned beef with egg and potato hash and celery purée

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5 things I love about Nana…

1). Fresh yellow watermelon punch with sparkling water and blueberries..refreshing, not-too-sweet and would even be better with a splash of bubbly.

Watermelon punch


2). Delicious Mexican-inspired brunch dishes that are fresh, not-too-heavy and full of fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Huevos rancheros with crispy tortillas


3). The Benedicts…especially the Nanadict served on a pupusa corn flatbread with homemade chorizo.

Nanadict


4). Hearty waffles, like the corn oat with Greek yogurt and fresh raspberries. Other interesting options? Banana-hemp cakes and other whole wheat cake concoctions that change out.

Corn-wheat waffle with Greek yogurt


5). The bright, cheery room and Bridgeport bakery/antique exploration opportunities in the neighborhood…Nana, 3267 S. Halsted, 312.929.2486

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Baked eggs at Julius Meinl

Might the baked eggs at Julius Meinl be the perfect brunch dish? I already loved their European pastries, amazing teas and Viennese coffee service (served on a tray with a small glass of water and a cookie), but I had no idea they whipped up lovely ceramic-skillet baked concoctions like two eggs with smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill, and potato pancake, caramelized onion, aged Parmesan and truffle oil, and the one that had me at feta; two eggs with spinach, mushrooms and, well, feta. So much tastier and more original than a basic omelette, perfectly golden brown and crispy on top, and served with toast and preserves. Like I said, the perfect brunch… Julius Meinl, 3601 N. Southport Ave., 4363 N. Lincoln Ave.

Meinl baked eggs; spinach, mushroom, feta


And the coffee service, although two on one small cafe table can be cluttered, I still love the presentation details, and cookie, duh.

Coffee, water and a cookie at Julius Meinl

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Floriole Cafe and Bakery

Floriole Sign


Scorching hot Saturdays and Sheffield Garden Walk crowdification aside, I loved my quick lunch visit to Floriole last weekend. Even with a somewhat limited savory menu (a few sandwiches, a quiche, a salad or two), we probably spent a good 10 minutes drooling over the sweet-filled bakery case before ordering. I don’t love the idea of pre-made sandwiches sittin’ around, but the bacon, goat cheese, arugula and fig looked the freshest and most enticing. I wished the bread was a little less chewy and freshly toasted, but the date-cheese-bacon combo was the perfect array of salty, sweet and crispy.

Bacon, date, argula and goat cheese sandwich with carrot, ginger and pepitas salad


With mass dinner plans that night, we held back on the more serious desserts (fresh fruit tarts, chocolate croissants, milk chocolate caramel hazelnut tarts, pot au creme), and walked out with lemon-lavender macaroons that melted perfectly in our mouths. But a few photos of the rest…

Passion fruit and brûléed tarts


These almost looked too perfect to eat…

Chocolate and caramel pot de crème


Floriole Cafe and Bakery, 1220 W. Webster

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Alterra at the Lake

Alterra entrance


It’s rare when I pay a visit to Milwaukee to see my family, discover a new spot and wish I could somehow transport the entire entity to Chicago. Of course, this usually happens with the 1940s-era steakhouses, the super-dark and cozy bars stuck in a 1920s time warp, or in the case of Alterra Coffee, a historic Milwaukee River Flushing Station from 1888. I love the Milwaukee-based coffee brewer, and they actually have locations all over town (and here in town at places like Cookie Bar), but the Lake location is more than worth a visit up north. Head in for baked oatmeal and scones before a visit to the Calatrava, or sweet pea with mint soup and asparagus melts for a summer festival lunch retreat. No matter what you order, you won’t make it past the bakery cases (I love the mixed fonts, illustrations and general enthusiasm of the signs!) stocked with scones, muffins and more.

A bounty of coffee bar goodness


But you can easily get sucked in and stay all day with log cabin seating inside the industrial, exposed brick space, or outside where the world’s greatest chairs await…either these mean something to you, or they don’t, and it may have something to do with a quite lovely Terrace in another part of Wisconsin. Recognize them or not, they’re worth taking a seat on, and staying awhile. Alterra at the Lake, 1701 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, Milwaukee.

Outdoor terrace chairs at Alterra

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Brunch at Prairie Fire

Did you think I’d go to Prairie Fire for the first time and only do a mystery spot on the place? Especially when a bacon waffle is on the menu? Yeah, yeah, bacon waffles, we’ve seen them, but really, can you resist one? Luckily the brunch menu offers relatively heathy items like eggs benedict, local mushroom and goat cheese (I said, relatively) omelets served with potatoes or juicy red tomato slices (I love that this is a side option) and other egg dishes, so you can easily throw in a bacon waffle for the table. Slather it with maple syrup and you’ll be happy you did…the pork doesn’t seem off-balance or over-whelm the fluffy sweet cake. You almost can’t detect it for a few bites, but you soon discover that chef Sarah Stegner’s version of the ironic waffle-du-jour is perfection.

Simple, perfect, bacon-laden goodness


But just when you’ve gotten over that sweet dish, the lemon ricotta pancakes catch your eye. A light-as-air thin stack arrives, bearing specks of lemon rind and fluffy ricotta mixed into the batter. The only thing this dish maaybe needs is a side of blackberries or something colorful, a little tart and sweet, but really, they are just fine stacked up on their own.

Lemon ricotta pancakes at Prairie Fire


Now that decided on sweets to share, the aforementioned local omelette is basic, but delicious. For something heartier and with a kick, order the chiliquiles with sour cream, guac and two eggs.

Omelette with goat cheese and mushrooms


Chiliquiles, and the object of order envy when my companion got this


With a fresh but hearty brunch menu, I can’t wait to get back to Prairie Fire for lunch or dinner, especially on a Tuesday evening when their guest bartender series has guest bartenders shaking things up with mixologist Daniel Sviland behind the bar. 215 N. Clinton Street

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On the table: The Southern

Formerly Chaise Lounge, The Southern started brunch service this weekend with shrimp and grits, bananas foster French toast, chicken and biscuits and crab cake benedict

4 napkin rolls, 4 plates, 2 votives, 1840 W. North Ave., 773.342.1840

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