What, did you think we were just gonna give you a hood-by-hood guide to boozy brunching in Chicago and stop there? Today we tackle Chi's best all-around brunches, because you don't NEED alcohol* (*lie) to enjoy coffee-braised short rib waffles and chocolate French toast towers.
Brunch goes BBQ at this Downtown favorite. Sip $20 bottomless mimosas while filling up on smoked-chicken Eggs Benedict with honey-butter cornbread and carrot cake pancakes.
People-watch from the patio while brunching on cupcake pancakes and Cuban sandwiches at this casual neighborhood café. After you’re finished, peruse the grocery shelves for an array of baked goods and locally sourced specialty items, like GrownUp KidStuff’s Grand Marnier-infused chocolate sauce.
We were all-in for their foie gras Pop-Tarts, but 2 Sparrows’ savory options are equally buzz-worthy. Try the pork belly sandwich with bacon jam, fennel & tomato relish or the biscuits and lamb gravy. Also, check out their cocktails, but in particular, the new “Strawberries in Kentucky” bourbon and Prosecco punch -- the Spring iteration of their new whiskey punch series.
A perennial favorite among famous chefs and everyday eaters alike, Lula’s has long been one of Chicago’s brightest brunch stars (we're talking stellar magnitude 6.5 or brighter). The whole wheat griddlecakes with candied pecans, white chocolate custard, and whipped brown butter provide a bit of stick-to-your-ribs satisfaction, while “The Royale” tries to redefine the common breakfast sandwich. And succeeds.
Have your pick of more than a dozen sweet and savory waffle options at this all-waffles-everything stop, including the coffee-braised short rib waffle topped with Wisconsin cheddar and scallions.
The formula at The Publican is simple. Order a cocktail, some fresh oysters, and the Breakfast Bollito Misto (w/ maple sausage, corned beef heart, pork belly, and a poached egg), and the flavorful smoked Arctic char omelet (w/ dill, crème fraiche, and salmon roe), and their $3 bottomless coffee. You can't go wrong.
Chef Abraham Conlon’s cha gordo (“fat tea”) menu is still pretty new, but it’s also still pretty delicious, thanks to a variety of Macanese-/ Cantonese-influenced dumplings, and well as a Macau pork chop sandwich.
Wicker Park, South Loop, Andersonville
When the word “sinful” is emblazoned across the top of a menu, chances are good you're about to make a few bad-for-the-waistline decisions. At The Bongo Room, those decisions include a chocolate French toast tower, beef tenderloin Benedict, and a massive breakfast burrito.
One of Chicago’s most prominent organicstainable restaurants, Nana still manages to do epic brunch fare like huevos rancheros, grilled shrimp and fried oyster po’ boys, and cinnamon-apple pancakes drenched in crème anglaise.
This whimsical raw bar and absinthe den is home to an under-the-radar brunch menu (!!) that includes 1) the oyster-adorned Morning-After Mary, 2) a crab cake BLT, 3) house-cured salmon gravlax, 4) biscuits and gravy with prawns, and 5) how could you possibly need a #5 after all that?
Eat your way through the choucroute latke, poached Seckel pear Dutch baby, and oyster hash, then go back the following weekend, and the weekend after that, and the weekend after that until you’ve tried every extraordinary thing on the menu. Challenge... accepted?
Score pretzel bread pudding laden with white chocolate, pastry cream & cherry jam, hash brown poutine, and a bright, blood orange Radler at this German-leaning bohemian beer hall. And for the bacon purists: your choice of crispy or limp bacon.
Trenchermen’s list of brunch offerings reads like a Goosebumps book: plenty of oohs and ahhs, and the more you read, the more excitement builds inside you. If you’re like us, you’ll get stuck at the part where you’re presumably supposed to choose between house bacon, bacon-stuffed bacon, and thick-cut coffee-cured bacon. Beermosa us, please; we’re about to make a very difficult decision.
Mindy’s is one of Damen Ave’s brunch heavy-hitters. The Good Lookin’ Bird cocktail is good for quenching your booze thirst, and the curiosity-piquing Lyonnaise Toad in the Hole (house-made whole wheat bread, sunny-side-up egg, frisée, lardons, herb butter, and Sherry vinaigrette) is good for quenching pretty much anything else.
Although it’s the birthplace of the coveted doughscuit, Endgrain is about so much more than just ethereal pastries. Try the braised pork hand-pie and smoked Arctic char for something savory, or induce a food coma with the dessert-y bread pudding French toast.
BJ's brunch menu spans from Awendaw (ancient spoonbread) to crawfish-stuffed omelets, with plenty of charcuterie and sunny cocktail options in between.
This quiet hideaway offers classic brunch fare done right. Sink a fork into the Sunday Omelet, or choose the chicken-fried biscuit smothered in Béchamel for a comfort food commingling of epic brunch-portions.
Four words: Fruity Pebbles French toast. Granted, it’s an outlier on an otherwise Latin-influenced menu, but who cares! You can also get your brunch game on with three varieties of Bloody Marys, eight different mimosas, and a Breakfast Shot with house-made bacon-infused bourbon and butterscotch Schnapps with an OJ chaser.
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Kailley Lindman is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago, as well as a food blogger, bacon enthusiast, and devout user of the Oxford comma. Follow her at @KailleysKitchen.
1. Chicago Q1160 N Dearborn, Chicago
2. Lula Café2537 N Kedzie Blvd, Chicago
3. 2 Sparrows553 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago
4. Waffles Cafe Lakeview3617 N Broadway, Chicago
5. The Publican837 W Fulton Market St, Chicago
6. Fat Rice2957 W Diversey Ave, Chicago
7. The Bongo Room1470 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
8. Nana3267 S Halsted St, Chicago
9. The Savoy1408 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
10. Dusek's1227 W 18th St, Chicago
11. The Radler2375 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
12. Trenchermen2039 W North Ave, Chicago
13. Mindy's Hot Chocolate1747 N Damen Ave, Chicago
14. Endgrain1851 W Addison St, Chicago
15. Southport Grocery & Cafe3552 N Southport Ave, Chicago
16. Big Jones5347 N Clark St, Chicago
17. Gather Chicago4539 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
18. Flo1434 W Chicago Ave, Chicago
A solid member of Chi's increasingly crowded smoked-meat scene, Chi Q gets fancy with spartan black leather furniture and white linen light fixtures. The gut-busting plates feature fare like bacon/cheddar hushpuppies, pork-infused "pig powder chips", and seriously good Brussels sprouts.
This Logan Square restaurant has been embracing the farm-to-table philosophy long before the term was so ubiquitous. Open since 1999, Lula Café is a weekend brunch destination with lines running out the door for unreal breakfast sandwiches and veggie-centric mains. The menu is always changing given ingredients' availability, but you'll find it hard to be disappointed by whatever's in store. The garden patio area is the perfect spot for sipping morning cocktails and people watching on Sundays.
Famous for its breakfast, 2 Sparrow serves comfort foods perfect to cure your hangover (we're onto you). Allow the biscuits & gravy, eggs in purgatory, and housemade doughnuts soak up last night's bad decisions.
This breakfast spot has evening hours in case you sleep through breakfast and lunch and find yourself craving a cheddar and short rib waffle, which you can then wash down with a hot chocolate flight selected from a dozen flavors like toasted marshmallow and gingerbread.
Paul Kahan's West Loop restaurant feels like the Midwest; big and welcoming with communal tables, it's a farmhouse and a beer hall at the same time. The menu focuses on three things: beer, pork, and oysters, but you'll also find vegetable and fish alternatives. The beer selection features brews from all over, with a fair share from Belgium and Chicago.
This perpetual hot spot in Logan Square specializes in the cuisine of Macau, which translates to a mix of European and Asian comfort foods. The signature dish is arroz gordo, aka fat rice, a paella-meets-bibimbap bowl of layered rice packed rich with clams, prawns, sausage, chicken, eggs, olives, and chilis. Everything about Fat Rice is conducive to sharing, from the appetizers and entrees to the communal tables.
Brunch at The Bongo Room is not for the faint of heart (or those determined to be skinny of waist). A chocolate French toast tower, beef tenderloin Benedict, and a massive breakfast burrito make up just a part of a brunch menu on which every item is listed under "Sinful".
Nana's breakfast (no, not your Nana) is prepared with local, organic, sustainable, and seasonal products that are all mainly made in-house. That's some fresh b-fast that you'll be having, like the "Nanadict" (eggs Benedict, yo), blueberry pancakes, and poblano & cheddar grits. Typically with po-boys, you'd have to choose between the shrimp or oysters for a sandwich, but this friendly organic spot loads copious amounts of both grilled spicy shrimp and perfectly fried oysters -- along with a zesty cajun mayo and house-made giardiniera -- onto a hearty baguette.
At The Savoy you'll find a raw bar with East/West coast oysters, inventive seafood dishes, and pre-prohibition era cocktails. Also offered: a 40-strong list of absinthe, served either traditionally or in cocktails. Enjoy your evening filled with hallucinogens and aphrodisiacs!
Helmed by Longman & Eagle's Jared Wentworth, this Michelin-starred restaurant in Pilsen serves upscale American pub food. Dusek's takes everything you love and makes it better, whether that's cooking French fries in beef fat or topping a juicy hamburger with bacon marmalade and serving it on a house-baked pretzel bun. There are more than two dozen beers on tap -- some are from Chicago, others are from abroad -- and daily beer specials. The late-night menu serves the aforementioned burger and fries until 1am every night.
The Radler's a beer hall that's serving up tons of different sausages, sessionable and unique brews, and an opportunity to chant "PROST!" outside of Oktoberfest.
Trenchermen is modeled after the hospitality offered by a Turkish bathhouse that previously occupied its location -- "a place where vodka was at hand and a bowl of borscht and a cold beer was a staple." Today you'll find a classier menu with dishes like braised lamb shank served over goat cheese gnudi, that still captures the comfort of the food formerly served here. Oh, and 30+ beers on tap.
Pastry chef Mindy Segal's Bucktown restaurant is synonymous with comfort food from both the sweet and savory sides of the spectrum. Open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, Mindy's Hot Chocolate serves soul-warming dishes, like the Slagel Farm beef burger topped with a fried egg, creamy mac & cheese, and daily soups with crusty sourdough bread. Of course, a meal here isn't complete without dessert, which should include an order of the amazingly rich hot chocolate and a slice of the daily cake (or anything off the dessert menu -- it's all addictive).
Endgrain is a Roscoe Village, farm-fresh restaurant that's turning out innovative cuisine (think fried chicken with PORK GRAVY and bacon/butterscotch donuts).
This grocery store AND breakfast/brunch hotspot is known to whip up some pretty delectable french toast, egg plates, and other treats.
If you’re looking for real Southern comfort in Chicago, then Big Jones in Andersonville is for you. The menu is filled with authentic Lowcountry dishes adapted from antique cookbooks, like cornbread muffins taken from an 18th-century plantation recipe and traditional Cajun gumbo. The sustainable menu changes seasonally, but no matter what, expect the signature fried chicken every night. Big Jones’ weekend brunch is also a stunner, especially if you nab a table on the back patio.
A seamless infusion of European cuisine with American touches, Gather boasts a strong wine list and cultivates a warm, open vibe with their Sunday Dinner events. They've got a can't-miss brunch, serving up some of Chi's best Bloody Marys.
This Latin American brunch spot is the perfect place to treat yourself to great comfort food in Noble Square. Aside from free coffee, their French toast is super tasty and their Bloodys are strong and delicious.