Nowadays, you can't swing a bag of doughnuts without hitting a brunch menu. It used to be that brunch was reserved primarily for the brunch-focused restaurants, like Bongo Room, Toast, Yolk, and other generically named breakfast-y spots. Gradually, more and more restaurants in Chicago began offering brunch menus and attracting throngs of diners on the weekends like hungover moths to a flame. After all, brunch is really just an excuse to day drink and binge at whatever hour you roll out of bed. It's pure comfort food and excess. Lincoln Square's Gather is the latest restaurant to toss its toque in the brunch ring, debuting this Sunday. But how to stand out amidst so much brunch saturation? Fresh baked Pullman bread and brioche bread bowls, that's how!
Helmed by executive chef Ken Carter, Gather has a way of elevating nostalgic foods. The most blatant example of this is his sticky bun dessert, which I ate with relish after dinner one evening. It looked and tasted like a gourmet Cinnabon, and that's simultaneously a wonderful and dangerous thing for cinnamon roll-lovers like me. Gather is adept at taking familiar, homey foods and presenting them in modernized ways. So it makes sense that they would tackle brunch, since this is perhaps the most nostalgia-friendly meal period, and an opportunity for Carter to up the whimsical ante.
(Pullman loaf with housemade strawberry jam)
Flapjacks, eggs Benedict, bagels, and hash are all present and accounted for, along with doughy delights like a Southern fried chicken biscuit and a brioche bread bowl with poached egg, pork sausage, asapragus, mushroom Mornay, and home fries. Did you read that? Brioche bread bowl! I haven't had a bread bowl since I was in middle school and thought Panera Bread was cool. I have never seen a chef-y rendition of a bread bowl, but if there's anyone who could pull it off, it's the chef who makes a classy dessert out of sticky buns. In lieu of regular ol' toast, Carter bakes petite loaves of pullman bread, essentially gourmet Wonder Bread, and serves them with housemade strawberry jam and whipped butter. It would be bizarre if some form of sticky bun didn't show up on the brunch menu, and thankfully they're present and accounted for, this time as dainty sticky bun bites flecked with toasted walnuts. Since doughnuts are practically a requisite on brunch menus these days, they're also available, made with something called "crazy glaze," which sounds like precisely the type of thing you want to eat when hungover and numb to the world.
The rest of the menu features items like grilled asparagus with ramps and hollandaise; a "gathering board" of charcuterue and cheese; and handmade ramen topped with pulled pork. Yowza. The burger and uovo raviolo with white truffle butter (!) are options off the dinner menu, in case you wake up with an insatiable craving for luxurious compound butter. Brunch beverages are pretty standard: Bloody Mary topped with a chorizo-stuffed olive, bellini, mimosa, and a brunch bomb, made with strawberry, basil, and rum.
Brunch begins this Sunday and takes place every Sunday thereafter from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.