Eater Chicago | Jeffy Mai | January 17, 2020
Behold, the 16 hottest brunch restaurants in Chicago
Brunch, not quite breakfast or lunch, is one of the best parts of the weekend. After a long week, people deserve to kick back and relax over omelets and Bloody Marys. Don’t ruin things by making the wrong choice. The Eater Chicago Brunch Heatmap is here to help by highlighting the newest restaurants offering killer brunch options.
This month’s additions include luxe Gold Coast restaurant and club Stockton, breakfast and brunch specialist Lizzy J Cafe, and Lettuce Entertain You’s popular riverside destination Pizzeria Portofino. They join a growing number of eateries dedicated to having midday menus that are more than just an afterthought. So start Sunday Funday off right with eggs (and much more) at these 16 hotspots.
1. Lizzy J Cafe – 2205 W Montrose Ave
With more than 20 years of catering experience, Lizzy J Cafe owner Jamie Gilmore has plenty of well-honed recipes to share. Her new breakfast and brunch spot in North Center dishes out comfort food with twists, and Chicagoans can stop in Tuesday through Sunday for chicken and sweet potato waffles, salmon stuffed with crab meat, shrimp and grits, and more.
2. Papa Cenar – 2445 N Milwaukee Ave
Spanish-style small plates are the main draw at this Logan Square tapas spot, which replaced funky Midwestern restaurant Twain. The cafes of Europe serve as inspiration for Papa Cenar, named in tribute to Ernest Hemingway, and the menu has choices that include a Spanish omelet, salted caramel French toast, and pastrami hash.
3. Centre Street Kitchen – 1224 W Webster Ave
Lincoln Park’s new positivity-promoting restaurant gives Chicagoans a place to eat well and make a difference. Centre Street Kitchen, a project from Big Onion Tavern Group, devotes part of its operation to supporting pediatric cancer patients. Customers can choose to donate funds to the Never Had a Bad Day Foundation and try seasonal vegetable dishes. Brunch options include chai French toast, greens and grains skillet, and a breakfast banh mi.
4. Old Pueblo Cantina – 1200 W Webster Ave
The cooking of Northern Mexican state Sonora is on display at this Lincoln Park eatery in the former White Oak Tavern & Inn space. Ballyhoo Hospitality — the team behind Gemini and Walton Street Kitchen — and executive chef Miguel Ortiz came up with a menu that leans on the kitchen’s mesquite charcoal grill. Customers can order grilled steak tacos, a smothered green chile breakfast burrito, chorizo hash skillet, and cheese crisps, or “Sonoran quesadillas” topped with meats and veggies. Leave room for the house-made churros, too.
5. Ella’s BBQ – 723 W Armitage Ave
From the owners of Lokal and Earl’s Drive-Thru BBQ comes this new Lincoln Park cafe. Though the name emphasizes smoked meats, there’s more than just brisket and ribs on the menu. Brunch — available every day — stars items like avocado toast, biscuits and gravy, pulled pork poutine, and breakfast tacos.
6. Amaru – 1904 W North Ave
Former Carnivale chef Rodolfo Cuadros pulls influences from multiple countries at his Pan Latin restaurant in Wicker Park. He celebrates South American cuisine with dishes that are traditional yet modern. On the brunch menu, guests can try a Cuban hamburger, chicken and yucca waffles, and torrejas — Cuban French toast with coconut dulce de leche and toasted coconut.
7. Cafe Cancale – 1576 N Milwaukee Ave
One Off Hospitality’s latest project offers food from the northwestern French coast. The restaurant’s Sunday brunch service includes savory Breton dishes along with traditional sweet crepes. There’s also a full raw bar selection and classical daytime cocktails, such as the “Death in the Afternoon” made with Pernod Absinthe Superieure, lemon, sparkling wine, and lemon peel.
8. Cracked on Milwaukee – 1359 N Milwaukee Ave
Champaign brunch favorite Cracked’s first restaurant in Chicago features familiar bites for University of Illinois students and alum, such as biscuits and gravy and the “morning bender” sandwich (cheddar, hash browns, fried egg, and cream cheese on a French roll). Loaded tater tots and breakfast burritos are also popular choices.
9. Stockton Restaurant & Lounge – 1009 N Rush St
Diners can brunch in style at this new Gold Coast restaurant and lounge overlooking Rush Street. The sleek two-story replacement for Pan-Asian spot Jellyfish blends clubby vibes, live music, plush furnishings, low lighting, and an eclectic menu from chef Gerardo Martinez. Guests can have a lavish start to their day with seafood towers, cinnamon roll pancakes, and French toast towers during brunch.
10. Tzuco – 720 N State St
Carlos Gaytan’s highly anticipated restaurant is off to an impressive start. Utilizing Mexican and French techniques, Gaytan blends two disparate cuisines together to create distinct dishes. Both savory and sweet notes are highlighted with offerings such as chicken liver waffles, chorizo crepes, and pan de muerto French toast. As an added bonus, brunch is available Friday through Sunday..
11. Flora Fauna – 11 W Illinois St
Brunchers can escape the cold and soak in warmer vibes at River North’s tropical dining oasis. Flora Fauna, the globally-inspired hotspot from chef-mixologist couple Jonathan Meyer and Liz Pearce, debuted a brunch service that showcases seasonal flavors. The menu is split into three sections — toasts, bowls, and staff favorites — and features dishes including smoked salmon toast, fried rice, and bread pudding French toast. Diners can also build their own cocktails with a collection of alcoholic bases and original mixes, such as pineapple passionfruit habanero.
12. Pizzeria Portofino – 317 N Clark St
Lettuce Entertain You’s riverside restaurant became an immediate dining destination upon opening last summer. The breezy, airy space offers captivating views and a menu inspired by the Italian Riviera. Brunch dishes were recently introduced, giving guests new options such as apple pancakes, eggs in purgatory, and smoked salmon pizza.
13. Time Out Market Chicago – 916 W Fulton Market
Chicago’s newest food hall brings some of the city’s premier chefs together under one roof. The impressive lineup, which is spread across 18 stalls and three floors, provides eclectic bites such as avocado toast courtesy of Fare, Kevin Hickey’s duck fat dog, and slices of princess cake from Lost Larson. And since Time Out Market opens every day at 8 a.m., brunch isn’t limited to just the weekend.
14. Boqueria – 807 W Fulton Market
Add Spanish tapas to the ever-growing list of brunch options in the Fulton Market District. New York-based Boqueria just opened its first Chicago location and launched brunch service on the weekend. For $42 per person, guests can build a feast by picking from a selection of tapas, dishes, paella, and desserts to share. The package also includes bottomless mimosas and sangrias. An a la carte menu full of classics such as tortilla espanola, bacon-wrapped dates, and pan con tomate is available as well.
15. Rooh – 736 W Randolph St
Chicago welcomed a fresh take on Indian cuisine with this West Loop newcomer. Though the food is rooted in traditional flavor profiles, Rooh also embraces foreign ingredients and modern techniques. The contemporary brunch lineup from executive chef Sujan Sarkar presents prawn pepper fry Benedict, masala jackfruit tacos, pork and prawn fried rice, paneer bhurji, and a lamb chapli burger.
16. Ascione Bistro – 1500 E 55th St
Located inside a shopping center, this Hyde Park newcomer dabbles in both classic and modern preparations of Italian fare. Chef Gaetano Ascione, a former vet of the late Gioco in the South Loop, offers brunch specialties like Nutella French toast, chocolate mousse pancakes, and pumpkin gnocchi.