A's List: These Chicago Brunches Serve Unique Fare, Experiences

Southern "Italian" biscuits & gravy at Coda Di Volpe. (Photo: Coda Di Volpe)

By Audarshia Townsend

Sometimes you want to shake up your brunch routine with something a bit different, particularly when you’re entertaining friends from out of town. We’ve scoured the city for some of the most fascinating, exciting and memorable offerings.

Artango. South American fare is in order at this cheery Lincoln Square eatery with occasional live music. You’ll find classic brunch dishes with Latin accents like chimichurri steak and eggs and French toast topped with seasonal berries and dulce de leche. Don’t miss the empanadas, especially one filled with corn and mozzarella.

Baobab BBQ. This promising Ravenswood newcomer aims for its brunch debut in late September. Get ready for authentic South African fare from veteran Chef Andrew Dunlop, who’s been cooking in Chicago for more than 20 years. Highlights to come include the Boerewors roll, a South African farmers sausage made in-house and accompanied by chakalaka, a spicy South African relish. There will also be koeksister, braided fried dough dipped in honey. The restaurant is BYOB.

Coda Di Volpe. Over in the Southport Corridor, this neighborhood gem specializes in southern Italian fare. The food is homey and comfort-style with especially creative dishes like Southern Italian biscuits and gravy with Calabrian chili, house-made fennel sausage gravy and sunny-side egg; sweet potato gnocchi with shredded pork, Calabrian chili, sunny-side egg and mustard greens; and focaccia French toast topped with seasonal berries and ricotta.

Drinkhaus. Another newcomer, Drinkhaus is the latest entry in Greektown. They’re serving an all-you-can-eat Southern buffet for $35. That includes bottomless mimosas. Some of the more popular items are the crab legs, waffle station and collard greens.

Diners are treated to spectacular views of the skyline at The Patio at Café Brauer.
(Photo: The Patio at Café Brauer)

Pacific Standard Time. The former Nico chef de cuisine is now in charge at this River North stunner. Chef Erling Wu-Bower’s concept is California-inspired, yet the portions are hearty and vegetable focused. Brunch highlights range from avocado toast BLT to breakfast pizza topped with summer squash.

The Patio at Café Brauer. Tucked inside Lincoln Park Zoo is this quaint little eatery housed in a historic landmark. On beautiful days, diners seated on the patio are treated to spectacular views of the skyline. They’re also situated next to a pond. It’s truly one of Chicago’s best-kept brunch secrets. The menu is classic, offering buttermilk pancakes, gourmet burgers and a chorizo-poblano burrito.

Prime & Provisions. The Loop-based steakhouse features a Sunday brunch buffet that’s great for celebrating special occasions. For $59 per person, guests are treated to a massive feast of premium meats, breakfast fare and more. There are various stations, including a raw bar, made-to-order omelets or waffles, carving station for a 45-day, dry-aged prime rib, and desserts. Guests may also add on the “mimosas for the table” package. That consists of ordering a bottle of bubbly and choosing from a selection of freshly squeezed juices and purees.

Punch Bowl Social. The second of this massive, games-obsessed destination in Chicagoland hits Fulton Market District. The question is: Should you grub first or play games? If you go for the latter, there are bowling lanes, bocce, karaoke, an oversized Scrabble board, darts, billiards, arcade games and more. Those coming to eat should know first that the portions are hearty. Especially popular is the grits breakfast bowl filled with tasso ham, sautéed kale, poached eggs, white cheddar and pickled peppers.

The fried chicken and doughnuts at Rhyme or Reason are topped with maple bourbon reduction.
(Photo: Rhyme or Reason)

Rhyme or Reason. When it comes to a day party-style brunch, no one does it better than this Wicker Park restaurant. Rhyme or Reason’s soulful Sunday affair goes until 4pm, and the deejay keeps guests on the dance floor until the very end. He’s spinning classic and contemporary hip-hop, and all that liquid courage from revelers comes from those bottomless mimosas ($22.95 per person). The fare here’s quite good as well and the portions are generous. Get there early if you want shrimp and grits, but dishes like The Motherclucka (fried chicken, four-alarm cheddar, crispy bacon, maple aioli, biscuit), Party Like a Guac Star Toast (avocado, smoked salmon, capers, pickled red onions, tomato herb salad) and fried chicken and doughnuts (house-made doughnuts, fried chicken, maple bourbon reduction) are also great bets.

RM Champagne Salon. It’s a little more chilled out at this West Loop restaurant inspired by vintage Paris. Guests walk through the cobblestoned pathway off Green Street to enter the garden patio. On nice days, it’s a nice retreat from the madness of the Randolph Street corridor. Guests may indulge in classic French dishes like croque madame, lobster deviled eggs and steak frites as well as nosh on new ones like caviar toast topped with caviar, creame fraiche, cucumber, radish, brioche, dill and lemon. Certainly one of RM’s biggest draws is the make-you-own “mimosa bar” program. Guests are presented with a list of ingredients (fresh lavender sprigs, Champagne gummy bears, candied ginger) and freshly squeezed juices for custom-designed sparkling beverages. It’s accompanied by a vintage tray filled with miniature tea sandwiches and pastries.

Sinha Elegant Cuisine. Directly across the street from the United Center, you'll find a South American restaurant unlike any other in the city. Sinha Elegant Cuisine was opened by a Brazilian-born woman who still curates the weekly Sunday brunch menu. Featuring live entertainment, samba dancing, and an all-you-can-eat spread of classic Brazilian dishes such as fish stew and black beans with seasoned basmati rice, Sinha Elegant Cuisine is another great BYOB brunch spot. There are two seatings at 2pm and 4pm and it’s $35 per person.

See previous A's List columns right here.