Who doesn’t love brunch, that genius mash-up of breakfast and lunch, eaten on weekends when late-night shenanigans make early-morning breakfast an impossible dream? Thoughtfully, some of our favorite restaurants have recently jumped on the brunch bandwagon, dishing out miraculous egg-centric meals, entrée-sized desserts and hair-of-the-dog beverages that will happily bite back. So roll out of bed, take some Advil, and head out to one of our new favorite brunch spots.
(Please note that all restaurants listed here have either opened since last year’s brunch roundup, or have recently started serving brunch.)
Brunch served Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Let the trumpets sound … Balena is now serving brunch. And like everything that the über-talented Chef Chris Pandel does, the food is magic. Enjoy Italian-influenced delights like Crispy Polenta Hash with Pork Ragu and Fried Egg, Baked Eggs with Caponata and Fennel Toast, or the Sweet Crespelle with Mascarpone and Roasted Grapes. La Colombe coffee, Balena’s housemade Panettone and wood-fired pizzas round out the meal. Hallelujah! 1633 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-867-3888
Brunch served Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Whether you start the meal with a breakfast cocktail (perhaps a citrus-forward Tequila Sunrise or an oh-my Spicy Bloody Mary) or a fresh-squeezed juice (I love the Carrot, Orange & Ginger Snap), you’re on your way to something tasty. Go healthy with “A Wonderful Egg White Omelet” stuffed with white Cheddar cheese, spinach, avocado, tomato salsa and turkey bacon, healthy-ish with the filling Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs and tomato-basil sauce, or full-on decadent with a House-Made Belgian-Style Waffle with strawberries, vanilla syrup and sweet cream. P.S.: the Raspberry-Ricotta Toast is to die for. 671 N. St. Clair, Chicago, 312-642-0001
Brunch is served Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Think outside the standard brunch box at Bill Kim’s bellyQ, where you will fall in love with full-flavored dishes like his Sticky Rice, loaded with pork sausage and braised beef cheek, sauced with mushroom gravy and topped with a fried egg, or maybe the Quinoa Bibimbap, which features shrimp, lemongrass chicken and scrambled eggs. Wash it all down with a mescal-spiked Mango Lassi; just don’t miss the cinnamon-scented Vietnamese donuts or you will kick yourself. 1400 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-563-1010
Brunch is served Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Eastern Europe might not be known for light eating, but they know all about sustenance. At Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos’ table, you’ll find German Knackwurst with vinegary sauerkraut and smooth horseradish cream; Bavarian Pancakes topped with apples, brandied prunes, toasted pecans and smooth farmer’s cheese; and Steak & Eggs with inventive mushroom-pepper spätzle, sweet onions and aged Gouda cheese among other inventive takes on Hungarian, German and Mittel Europe cuisines. You’ll want to order a big old Potato Pancake — topped with sour cream and apple preserves, natch — for the table, as well as an Apricot Kolacky or three. Need a Pick Me Up? It’s a coffee-based drink here with maple syrup, rye whiskey and Fernet-scented whipped cream, and the answer is yes. Yes, you do. 11 W. Illinois St., Chicago, 312-955-0439
Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hello, Stone Ground Oats with cashews, dried cherries and brown sugar. You make me happy to be alive. I’ll start with you for funzies, and then switch to the chili-rich Pork Pozole Rojo with fried egg, topped with crunchy cabbage, radish and cilantro for textural contrast. And I’ve never been to Boltwood without a genuflection at the altar of Chef Brian Huston’s Crispy Potatoes fried in garlic schmaltz, destined to be dipped extravagantly in the accompanying “special sauce.” And another new must at brunch: Apple Fritter Bites with Salted Caramel Sauce … so decadent! 804 Davis St., Evanston, 847-859-2880
Brunch is served everyday (!) from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Chef Pete Coenen found his way to the new and improved Cherry Circle Room after stints at Boka and The Gage; here he is making what I think of as updated club food to reflect the history of the Chicago Athletic Club. So you’ll find a perfectly fried Scotch egg with still-runny yolk; “Surf ‘n’ Turf” Eggs Benedict with house-smoked pork belly and nova-style salmon under a blanket of smooth Béarnaise; and even a New England Lobster Roll with Old Bay fries. The Sticky Bun is an ooey-gooey stunner, especially when accompanied by a revitalized Gin Fizz flavored with Earl Grey tea. Need a break? Grab a cue and play a game of billiards in the Game Room. 12 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-792-3515
Brunch is served on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Clearly, you are required to order SOMETHING with duck, and Chef Kevin Hickey’s Duck Confit Hash happily fits the bill, the tender duck morsels combined with Brussels sprouts, Cheddar cheese, toasty breadcrumbs and softly scrambled farm eggs. The Chorizo Omelette (with salsa roja, black beans, avocado and crema) is another solid savory choice. Don’t forget the must-have sweets: the Funnel Cake with Cranberries, Pumpkin Glaze Honey and mascarpone, but also the moist and rich Carrot Cake topped with cream cheese frosting and crystallized ginger. Yummity yum yum. 2701 S. Eleanor St., Chicago, 312-724-8811
Brunch served Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If you’re a Benedict fan, you’ll be a happy camper. Firefly’s “Bennys” give you the option of crab cakes, filet, house-smoked pork or spinach Florentine, perched on a toasty English muffin with a poached egg and just-right Béarnaise sauce. Simpler tastes? Try the Breakfast Mac & Cheese with bacon, sausage AND egg, or the satisfying Breakfast Sandwich (egg, bacon, avocado, tomato, Gruyère cheese and arugula on toasted brioche) with Lyonnaise potatoes. A Passion Fruit Bellini will cut right through the richness and soothe your soul. 111 Green Bay Road, Wilmette, 224-408-2464
Brunch served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Come early to avoid the boisterous River North crowd — they tend to sleep in, unless they had an early morning spin class at the nearby East Bank Club. Tuck in to the Banana Bread French Toast, eggy brioche replete with caramelized bananas, caramel, candied pecans and mascarpone whipped cream, and you will buzz the rest of the day, no caffeine required. The Lobster Mac & Cheese is a signature dish, and the Frittata, laden with house-made lamb sausage, roasted peppers, grilled onions, olives and Manchego cheese is my go-to brunch dish here. As for potables, I’m a big fan of the Southampton Smash, made with Pimm’s #1, Ford’s gin, lime and muddled cucumber and finished with ginger beer. It’s a Mule on steroids. 353 W. Hubbard St., Chicago, 312-464-0500
Brunch served Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
An oasis of calm in our busy, busy world, Hearth is a place where you can have brunch AND hold actual discussions with everyone at your table. It’s the unicorn of brunch restaurants, people. The service is so civilized, and the warm streusel-topped Coffee Cake (spread with apricot compote) so tasty, you might just hang out until dinner. While you’re there, try the Biscuit and Gravy, a buttery, flaky biscuit topped with chorizo-accented gravy and an egg of your choice (FYI: These people know how to poach an egg). The juice is fresh, everything is made in-house, and Sundays are happy time. 1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston, 847-570-8400
Brunch served Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Come to the palace of all things cheese, and be amazed. I’m talking Ricotta Fritters with smooth and tangy grapefruit curd; Baked French Toast with goat cheese, cherry preserves and ginger crème anglaise; or perhaps the sage-bèchamel-covered Croque Monsieur with poached pear, prosciutto and Gruyère. I mean, COME ON. And then you find out that they make their Hot Chocolate with Katherine Anne Confections chocolate. There is truly no rest for the wicked. 5212 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-358-7181