Pasta for brunch—that’s a thing now.
By Laura Baginski, Julia Kramer and David Tamarkin
Eggs and bacon: These are brunch things. Pancakes and French toast: ditto. Doughnuts, muffins: obvs. Steak, ricotta, pork belly—crossover dishes.
Just like pasta.
Yeah, pasta. Have you seen how much gnocchi is on brunch menus lately? We’ve seen some form of the classic Italian dish on three brunch menus around town in the past few weeks (looking at you, 2Sparrows). Yet we doubt any version could top the fluffy semolina gnocchi at Bread & Wine (3732 W Irving Park Rd, 773-866-5266). Made with eggs and semolina flour—not potato—these rectangles are heavenly, custardy and, somehow, not too rich (even though they’re topped with a poached egg and hollandaise). And it’s light enough that you can devour it alongside a far-more-decadent open-face mortadella-egg-cheddar sandwich and still have room to split an order of airy johnnycakes smeared with lemon curd, maple syrup, blueberries and honey butter. Trust us. We’re living proof. Those johnnycakes are so good they’re criminal.
Speaking of criminal, it seemed like a satanic move for Yusho (2853 N Kedzie Ave, 773-904-8558) to unveil a hot noodle brunch in the middle of a 100-degree summer. Of course, in many parts of the world heat is fought by consuming more heat. America not being this type of place, we weren’t altogether surprised to be one of three occupied tables at Yusho’s brunch (though we were tempted to kidnap some of the Ray-Ban’d flock outside Longman & Eagle and see how they fared in a noodle-slash-hostage situation). Here’s how brunch here works: You get one noodle bowl, one cocktail or soda and one sweet little cup of astonishingly thick and creamy soft serve garnished with Thai basil and a couple of coconut macaroons. (About those macaroons: The restaurant should consider serving them with a waiver that signs away the chewer’s right to sue should their teeth or perhaps jaw be damaged during their consumption. Alternatively, they could just soften up the macaroons.) It’s the overall experience—all that for $20!—that makes this a worthwhile outing: We weren’t so hot on the hot noodle bowls (flat mushroom ramen, fishy grilled shrimp). But the cold soba noodles dressed in a spicy chickpea mayonnaise and accompanied by sticky chicken “drummies” (drumsticks) turned out to be our favorite dish (not just of this brunch, but maybe in life).
Gnocchi, soba noodles…by the time we got to Nellcôte (833 W Randolph St, 312-432-0500), we were noodled out. So we skipped the tagliatelle. We went for the uncommonly decadent quiche, and a juicy rib eye immersed in brown butter, instead. (Brunch here is an $18 prix fixe that starts with a plate of pastries, cheese and charcuterie. We inhaled this—especially the madeleines!) And we wanted for nothing, except maybe another Caesar Bloody Mary—the smoothest Bloody Mary we’ve had since, well, the beginning of time. Balanced Bloody Marys: definitely not a brunch thing, unfortunately. Can that be next?