Chicagoans take many things seriously: pizza; the Bears; hot dogs.
We’re also serious about brunch here in the City of Big Shoulders and Wide Waistlines. Which restaurants have brunches that rise above the rest? We’ve chosen 18 that we feel set the standard. Debate and discuss, please.
I love a Latin influenced breakfast, and Flo’s menu offers a fresh take on New Mexican cuisine. A longtime resident on the Noble stretch of Chicago Avenue, they use local produce and free range meats, and get their chili shipped directly in from a small farm in Los Cruses, New Mexico. Stay safe with classic dishes like Flo Combo (two eggs any style with bacon or chicken apple sausage), Flo Omelet and Huevos Rancheros or go crazy with more contemporary items like Chorizo-Tamale Hash and Fruity Pebbles French Toast. Their drink menu boasts three kinds of Bloody Marys and eight types of sparkling wine Mimosas, but the real gem is in their specialty cocktails list, all made with small batched liquors. There’s usually a wait on the weekends, but with free Big Shoulders coffee, all is forgiven. –Michelle Meywes
Flo is located at 1434 W. Chicago Ave.
For those of us who have long since lost our religion, Sunday brunch at Victory’s Banner provides a delicious helping of transcendence. The vegetarian eatery exists as a spiritual expression of acolytes of meditation guru Sri Chimnoy. Fortunately there’s no asceticism at work in the kitchen, and the French toast—the best I’ve tasted in this dimension—doesn’t stint on the whipped cream. Normally I like to keep brunch on the savory side, but for the Victory Banner’s raspberry French toast or apple-pecan oat bran pancakes I make an exception, though you’ll reap nothing but down-and-dirty sublunary pleasure from convincing your dining partner to order and share the pesto and goat cheese omelette. However transporting the food, the service is what really threatens to send you barreling toward enlightenment. I’ve never been here when the line wasn’t snaking greedily out the door and the servers weren’t woefully short on time to sing their version of “Happy Birthday,” sweetly intoning, “We love you and your soul,” to a pleased-as-punch birthday boy or girl but did so anyway, lingering through the chorus. Maybe there’s something in the chai tea. Maybe there really is such a thing as lasting inner peace. Whatever the case may be, it’s a brunch that soothes and feeds the savage best every time. –Melissa Wiley
Victory’s Banner is located at 2100 W. Roscoe.
Uncle Mike’s Place
If you tire of the age old brunch choices like eggs, crepes and toast, Uncle Mike’s Place is the perfect change of place. Its Filipino menu is adventurous enough to feel fresh and new but familiar enough to attract brunchers with picky palates. I personally adore the longaniza (chorizo sausage) and tocino (sweet pork shoulder)—both served with eggs, garlic rice and lugao (a chicken broth and rice-based porridge). If you’re a lover of Spam (because who isn’t?), then this place should be a no brainer. The best part? Portions are large enough to keep you full through the afternoon and provide you with leftovers once you’re hungry again that night. Double brunch! –Katie Karpowicz
Uncle Mike’s Place is located at 1700 W. Grand Ave.
Long before Twitter there was Tweet. Nestled next to (within-ish?) Big Chicks this is one of the few places we will travel to that takes forever to get to via public transportation and then willingly wait over an hour for a table (while happily sipping tasty beverages at the bar in Big Chicks). The food is gloriously decadent, and everything is drenched in butter and all sorts of other goodness that is probably terrible for your waistline. And unlike most other places that boast such long wait times, the service is always friendly and prompt. If you have nothing to do for the rest of the day load up on eggs, pancakes and bacon—our preferred order because we like things simple though their menu also features far fancier fare that is also ridiculously delicious—and maybe wear pants with an elastic waistband. We can’t eat at Tweet every day, our girlish figure won’t allow that, but we wish we could. –Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
Tweet is at 5020 N. Sheridan Rd.
Christian and Omar Solis have proven that if Chicagoans will travel south of Madison Street if you can provide them with a stellar brunch. Nana toes the organic line as best they can with dishes like the dishes like the Nanadict (poached eggs, chorizo, pupusas, poblano cream, and home fries) biscuits and duck gravy with two eggs atop smoked cheddar biscuits, duck gravy, spring onions, and market vegetables, baked chilaquiles with poblano cream, black beans and two eggs made to order and a breakfast burrito that will put you back to sleep teeming with scrambled eggs, potatoes, refried beans, sour cream, tomatillo salsa and chorizo. –Chuck Sudo
Nana Organic is located at 3267 S. Halsted St.
Bread & Wine
There are days when you want the greasiest pile of meats and eggs you can get in the shortest amount of time and there are days when you need to impress someone with your brunch venue. Irving Park’s Bread & Wine is the latter, with the hyper local, artisinal quality of its superb dinner menu spilling over into a Sunday brunch full of local cheese and charcuterie choices, house-cured breakfast meats, velvety eggs and made-to-order sauces. Try the Breakfast Bahn Mi (pork belly, ham, paté, kimchi and a fried eggs) or BLT (house bacon, grilled tomato, greens and a poached egg on sourdough with a pleasantly zesty malt aioli) to bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch. Or if you really need the traditional hangover cure, there’s the Classic Fry Up, paired with a Motor City Mary (made with spicy, briney house mix) to pull you through. –Lizz Kannenberg
Bread & Wine is located at 3732 W. Irving Park Rd.
When I need a fix of southern hospitality and chicken paraphernalia I head west on Chicago Avenue and grab my favorite diner breakfast favorites at Feed. Their standard roast chicken and homemade sides are wonderful on their own, but my favorite thing at Feed is their weekend brunch. They have breakfast during the week but they dial it up on the weekends with a mixture of specials and classic southern breakfast food. I have two modes at Feed, either getting my own meal or splitting the country fried steak with someone else. If I’m flying solo my standard is the pulled pork hash, filled with sweet potatoes and spicy pulled pork topped with a runny egg and a biscuit (by choice) on the side. My favorite option is splitting the huge order of country fried steak with gravy, fried breakfast potatoes, and toast. My boyfriend and I always choose a biscuit, add an extra one, a side of cheese grits or corn pudding and you have a hearty breakfast for two. The service is always super friendly, the wait during peak hours still isn’t bad and during the warmer months the back patio is lovely. Feed is cash only, although they have an ATM on-site if you forget and make sure to bring some quarters for the chicken game. If you win a golden egg (which I have) you get your picture taken and cash off towards your next meal. –Lisa White
Feed is located at 2803 W. Chicago Ave
West Town Bakery & Diner
Since it was still Bleeding Heart, West Town Bakery has been my go-to brunch option. The menu didn’t really change when the name did and it’s one of the most consistently awesome places for brunch in Ukrainian Village. The menu is entirely local, sustainable, and organic, with seasonal specialties like the Local Farmer’s Pride Home Skillet – eggs (or twice baked tofu) with a changing selection of veggies served with roasted potatoes and toast. There’s an entire section of benedicts that ranges from the traditional to the truly creative, such as the Wild Mushroom Polenta with roasted red peppers and persimmon hollandaise. If you feel like something sweet, pancakes and waffles come in flavors of hibiscus, carrot cake, salted caramel and vegan s’mores, to name a few. Or just wander over to the bakery side of things and pick out a few cakeballs or cupcakes. If you find yourself stuck between sweet and savory, go for the doughnut sandwich – your choice of “love” (bacon, ham, sausage, fried green tomato, spinach soufflé or pork belly) with cheese on a freshly baked vanilla bean doughnut. Most of the time, I just go for the Hullaballoo skillet or classic omelet, but I’ve never tried anything here that I haven’t loved. Portions and prices are both reasonable – which I love as I’m not a fan of eating myself into a coma at brunch, but then again no guarantees the doughnut sandwich won’t do that to you. The beverage menu is on point with a killer bloody mary, freshly squeezed juices, Italian sodas and a few other solid cocktail options. –Julia Weeman
West Town Bakery is located at 1916 W. Chicago Ave.
Flying Saucer is one of my favorite places for brunch because they have a nice range of dead simple done well (two eggs, any style with toast and home fries, mixed greens, or spiced apples for $6) to some more interesting options like the Tofu Sweet Potato Hash or La Bazza Bowl (brown rice, black beans, eggs, veggies, tofu, kale, chihuahua cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, tortillas for $10.50) Vegetarians and vegans have a host of great menu items to choose from and have the option of subbing vegetarian gravy, vegan cheese and margarine, and seitan chorizo or Italian sausage. If you want to start your day with something healthy, you’ll find lots of options here and if you’re feeling indulgent, the trucker bowl (two biscuits, home fries, two eggs, gravy, cheddar cheese, ham and scallions for $11.50) is a hands down my favorite version of biscuits and gravy I’ve ever encountered here in Chicago. The space is small – so despite the fact that their menu truly has something for everyone, it’s not a great place to bring a crowd. However, it’s cozy with a lot of natural light and plants and it’s a great spot to meet a friend for brunch. Everything is made from scratch, organic, and locally grown and though you won’t find booze on the menu, they have lavender lemonade, filbert’s sodas, and excellent espresso drinks. If you’re really hankering for a mimosa, they’re BYOB and you can order up some fresh squeezed orange juice to mix it in. Be sure to bring cash—they don’t accept cards. –Julia Weeman
Flying Saucer is located at 1123 N. California Ave.
Old Oak Tap
Now that it’s getting to be chillier out, my focus has shifted from brunch options with patios and people watching to cozier spots, preferably with fireplaces. Old Oak Tap actually has both but the warm, rustic interior is especially inviting when temperatures start to drop. I recommend ordering a round of donut holes for the table the moment you sit down, because teasing your palate with hot maple glazed nutella stuffed donut holes is the perfect way to warm up. I can never decide what to get – the menu is diverse and extensive. Benedicts and skillets both get interesting with options like the Caprese Skillet (sundried tomato and quinoa has, pesto eggs, fresh mozzarella, basil arugula, balsamic, $10) or the Southern Benedict (crispy polenta cake, bbq pulled pork, roasted red pepper buerre blanc, poached eggs, cotija, $10). They do a breakfast pizza that’s big enough to share, although you may not want to – it’s a thin crust topped with potato, rosemary, applewood smoked bacon, provolone cheese, truffle oil and a perfectly sunny side up egg ($10). If you’re erring on the lunch side of things, there’s a solid selection of sandwiches, including a burger with sweet onion jam, aged wisconsin cheddar and special sauce on an egg bun ($10) and fried chicken sliders with fried pickle chips and garlic aioli on buttermilk biscuits ($8). Their salads are both inventive and satisfying – the Crispy Artichoke Salad with fried artichokes, thyme roasted grapes, kale, arugula, toasted sunflower seeds, and goat cheese is one of my favorites. Brunch cocktails range from warming (Hot Toddy, $7) to complex (The Hummer – hum botanical spirit, ginger beer, cava, sour, bitters, $8) or you can get a bellini or mimosa for only $3. –Julia Weeman
Old Oak Tap is located at 2109 W. Chicago Ave.
Beverly Bakery and Coffee Roasters
Folks looking for both a hearty brunch and a quaint country store vibe in the city can’t do much better than this family-owned restaurant and bakery. They offer a full breakfast menu, hot and cold sandwiches and a wide array of baked goods, including cakes for weddings, graduations, birthdays and other special occasions. Take a cake and some fresh-roasted coffee home with you. –Chuck Sudo
Beverly Bakery and Coffee Roasters is located at 10528 S. Western Ave.
While there’s usually a wait for Feast on the weekends, but they’ve got a spacious bar where you can get smoothies, coffee drinks or a brunch cocktail. They also have a large outdoor patio for when the weather is nice, but let’s be honest, we’re here for the food. I’m a fan of breakfast foods for brunch (though they do offer a large selection of lunch entrees as well) and my favorite dish is their chilaquiles, with sauce that is just the right mix of smoky tomato. When I’m in the mood for something sweet, the pancakes of the day usually fit the bill, topped with their delicious cinnamon butter. Traditional breakfast lovers can go for the feast grand slam, or try one of their takes on the Benedict. If you just can’t get out of bed after a long night out, Feast also delivers their brunch menu, and we hear it’s pretty good. Friends tell us that they’ve ordered the eggs benedict on multiple occasions, and it’s always perfect. –Michelle Meywes
Feast is located at 1616 N. Damen Ave.
In my opinion no list of best brunches in Chicago is complete without a nod to the popular Taylor Street joint. Brunch here is served daily and features dishes liks a fabulous margherita pizza, a zucchini frittata with Slagel Farm eggs, soft herbs and goat cheese, breakfast poutine and their amazing Ace Burger. –Chuck Sudo
Three Aces is located at 1321 W. Taylor St.
Travel and Leisure named Paul Kahan’s Fulton Market beer hall one of America’s best brunches last year and with dishes like red wine-poached eggs with La Quercia prosciutto, weisswurst and a ham chop with Bird Mill grits and poached egg (above) it’s easy to see why. As I get older, brunch at the Publican becomes more of a treat than a necessity and I savor it more as a result. –Chuck Sudo
The Publican is located at 837 W. Fulton Market.
Gather is the great secret brunch spot of Lincoln Square. They’ve only been serving for a few months, it’s never full and, if we have any more nice weather, they have a wonderful covered back patio. The food, turned out by Trotter’s alum Ken Carter, has been spot-on every time we have visited. Start with decadent sticky bun bites, move on to the fried green tomato benedict, served with a tomato hollandaise and wash it all down with Rare Tea Cellar tea. No matter what you do, be sure to get their home fries, which my family has renamed “crack potatoes.” We’re not sure what they do to them, but they may be the best breakfast potatoes in the entire world. –Anthony Todd
Gather is located at 4539 N. Lincoln Ave.
The Bongo Room
The Bongo Room (either the South Loop or Wicker Park location) isn’t a brunch destination to be taken lightly. There will be a line and you might have to wait outside. Once you get inside, you will eat so much food (mostly consisting of butter and sugar) that you might fall into a coma and have to be rolled out. There will be tons of loud, gossiping people that will aggravate your hangover headache. Despite all this, about once every six months, we can’t stay away any longer. Their pancakes, always made in unique and delicious flavors, call out to us. Right now, they’re serving pumpkin carrot cake flapjacks with maple creme anglaise. How can you resist? Plus, if you happen to stop in on a weekday, they have one of our favorite sandwiches, a smoked chicken and apple club with shallot butter. –Anthony Todd
The Bongo Room is located at 1470 N. Milwaukee Ave. and 1152 S. Wabash Ave.
Is it the European charm? The delicious pastries? The unexpected biscuit that comes with their tea service? There are so many reasons to love Julius Meinl, but their food menu may top my list. Whether you’re looking for a healthy snack to top off an indulgent weekend (the kale salad with bacon) or a ridiculously caloric hangover remedy (the truffled croque madame), you can’t go wrong at Meinl. Top it all off with one of their beautiful cakes, like the key lime dome with a graham cracker crust, and you won’t need to eat again for a week. –Anthony Todd
Julius Meinl has three locations at 3601 N. Southport Ave., 4115 N. Ravenswood Ave. and 4363 N. Lincoln Ave.
This Bronzeville mainstay has been serving up soul food staples and hearty breakfast dishes for over 30 years with dishes like fried green tomatoes, farm-raised catfish and chicken prepared either baked, fried, smothered or jerk-style. (My recommendation: order the jerk chicken.) The comfort food belies a fine-dining atmosphere where management recommends guests show up in their Sunday best. If you do plan a trip, don’t show up in your lazy Sunday football watching brotastic best. Brush the hair, shave and remember to wear a tie. –Chuck Sudo
Pearl’s Place is located at 3901 S. Michigan Ave.