I’ve been living in Chicago for more than five years. I can’t believe how much time has passed and how quickly it has flown. There is much that I miss about my old stomping grounds. In Colorado, I skied like a maniac, had a killer vegetable garden and played golf whenever I pleased. Before that, in Nashville, I listened to live music, walked “the loop” around Vanderbilt’s campus and mastered the art of margarita consumption. But here in Chicago, we’ve got the Cubs, the lake and – of course – the food. Ask someone what their favorite restaurant is, and you may never get the same answer twice. That’s because this city is a breeding ground for creative, innovative chefs to practice and perfect their arts. Whether it’s taking a simple hot dog to new heights at Hot Doug’s, making a mockery of all the other sushi in the world at Kaze or surprising us with the simplicity of fresh, local ingredients at Uncommon Ground, Chicago’s dining scene has something for everyone.
Without fail, I get to tempt my tastebuds every week at brunch – the official weekend meal of true Chicagoans. By mid-week, my friends and I are already discussing weekend plans, who’s free for brunch and, of course, where we’ll go. There truly seems to be a brunch spot for every situation. Consider the following:
- Ladies Who Brunch – for my birthday last year I eschewed the idea of a meet-up at a bar in favor of a fun girly brunch with my gals. A perfect setting for this gathering was Jane’s. It’s a convenient location and has wonderful food.
- Big Spenders (aka “Mom and Dad are in town…let’s go to brunch!”) – there’s something quintessentially Chicago about the Ralph Lauren restaurant on Michigan Avenue. With the high-backed leather chairs and beautiful service, you can’t help but feel like fashionable, urban royalty while eating their steak tartare followed by crab cake benedict.
- Hangovers – this is an obvious one. You go out on a Saturday night and tie one on. The only thing that can cure what ails you on Sunday morning is a stiff breakfast cocktail and grease. Definitely go to Stanley’s. This place has a serious buffet that includes macaroni and cheese, an omelet station, lox with bagels and – my favorite treat – the waffle boats with fruit and whipped cream. The bloody mary bar is also a winner.
- Kid AND Adult-Friendly – Recently, my friends and I have been hitting Wilde when their kiddos are in tow. It’s big and noisy (thanks to the crowds and the excellent tunes the DJ spins) but features very good pub fare. I’m a major fan of the fried egg sandwich with grilled tomatoes, caramelized onions, thick-cut bacon and sharp white cheddar.
- Sports Watching – Any other day of the year, you wouldn’t catch me at Duffy’s in Lincoln Park. But when a non-stop set of football games are on, this place is excellent. The brunch buffet has a little something for everyone, and the umpteen flavors of mimosas keep me entertained almost as much as the games.
- Cuddly Morning with your Sweetie – When l’amour is in the air, the surroundings should simply nurture your inner love-bug. Think about hitting Big Jones in Andersonville or Hot Chocolate in Bucktown. Someplace where you won’t have to wait, and you’ll be encouraged to linger at your table long after the French press coffee is finished.
- Healthy Habits – It sounds abhorrent to go for the low-cal, no-fat, all-healthy approach on a weekend morning, but on the off chance I’m seeking a dose of goodness, I head to the Chicago Diner in Boystown or Lola in West Town.
Of course, one of the best ways to spend time with friends over our favorite combo meal is to host your own. That’s exactly what Tiz and Mike did for Tiz’s recent birthday celebration. Everyone brought a dish (still dreaming about Lindsay’s breakfast casserole!) and we all plopped down for food, drinks and relaxing conversation in the comforts of a friend’s home. When in doubt about where to break your fast, open your pantry doors, bust out the speed-dial invite list, tune up some good music and prepare for a great time!