Breakfast–the most important meal of the day and if you play your cards right, the most delicious. Recently breakfast has evolved from the bland-but-necessary start of the day to a meal of startling creativity, and Chicago’s culinary scene has embraced it. Whether you favor the traditional or the unconventional, you’re bound to find a breakfast that suits you in the Windy City.
For a Chicago classic, head to Ann Sather in the heart of the Lakeview neighborhood. Serving up delicious Scandinavian fare for over fifty years, Ann Sather is the place to go for limpa, a traditional Swedish bread and lingonberry pancakes. But for all of their delicious ethnic delights, Ann Sather is famed for its amazing cinnamon rolls. Chicago natives can’t get enough of the gooey treats, and weekend mornings will find a line out the door.
For the more adventurous breakfaster, Orange With a Peel is just around the corner from Ann Sather. Known for its whimsical take on classic dishes, Orange serves plates like French Toast Kabobs and Frushi-a signature dish of fruit wrapped in sweet rice. Orange also has a full fresh juice menu, all served up in a colorful and chic dining room. This is a gourmet breakfast, so if you’re there on a weekend, plan to wait for a table.
If the line at Orange is a bit daunting, saunter down the street a few blocks to the Pick Me Up Café. A funky little eatery, the Pick Me Up serves classics likes eggs and toast as well as a wide variety of veggie and vegan meals. The portions are generous, the prices fair, and the kitchen open late-an unbeatable combination in a city that doesn’t stop.
If you’re closer to the Loop than the North side, check out Lou Mitchell’s, a classic diner and Chicago icon. Your eggs won’t be organic or cholesterol-free but they will be piping hot and served promptly. Try the enormous omelets, or whipped-cream and Milk Dud-topped pancakes for the kids.
Further south in the Loop you’ll find the auxiliary location of the Bongo Room. The original restaurant is still serving delicious goodies in Wicker Park, but the South Loop location provides a minimalist haven from the morning rush. Piping hot coffee balances out the sweetness of the raspberry lemon pancakes, while the stunning breakfast burrito packs an impossible amount of flavor onto a single plate.
If you’re looking for flavors of the South in your morning meal try Wishbone, a Chicago staple. Warm corn muffins will tide you over as you browse a menu which includes treats like crab cakes and grits. Wishbone has carved out a niche in Chicago, and has a loyal customer base that has come to depend on its homestyle cooking and Southern hospitality.
The Sweet Maple Café, on the south side of the Loop, is another great place to get a dose of the South in the heart of the Midwest. Heavy on fried foods and old-fashion biscuits, Sweet Maple also offers lighter dishes like amazing blueberry pancakes. The dining room is small, so be prepared to wait for a table.
Another small-but-worth-it eatery is Toast, where you can get everything from berry-stuffed French Toast to a spicy jalapeno breakfast burritos. A trendy local institution, Toast gets creative without going wild, and you’ll recognize everything on the menu. The ingredients are fresh and the staff is friendly-an unbeatable combination.
Another trendy and fun breakfast can be found at Kitsch’n on Roscoe. Home to all things retro, you’ll dine on coconut-crusted French toast or spicy chilaquiles amid Gumby memorabilia and old Colt 45 signs. For a truly great meal resign yourself to a 30-minute wait and check out the weekend “Hangover Brunch.”
What & Where:
Orange With A Peel (3231 N Clark St; 773-549-4400)
Pick Me Up Cafe (3408 N Clark St; 773-248-6613)
Bongo Room (1470 N Milwaukee Ave; 773-489-0690)
Kitsch’n (2005 W Roscoe; 773-248-7372)
Ann Sather (929 W Belmont Ave; 773-348-2378)
Lou Mitchell’s (565 W Jackson Blvd; 312-939-3111)
Toast (746 W Webster Ave; 773-935-5600)
Wishbone (1001 W Washington Blvd; 312-850-2663)
Sweet Maple Café (1339 W Taylor St; 312-243-8908)
Beth Grimaldi is a freelance writer and jack-of-all trades who lives on the north side of Chicago.