Breakfast has always claimed possession of my favorite foods, yet I love casual, slow-starting weekend mornings. So to me, brunch is perfection.
Brunch in New York City is an institution. When Tara and I spent spring and summer in New York, we were happy and regular participants in the brunching ritual, meandering up to Tartine for a pleasantly cramped French brunch, across the street to Market Table, heading downstairs to the Blue Ribbon Bakery with its fresh-baked bread. (And those are just a few of our favorites…) I’ve never had even a mediocre brunch in the city that never sleeps — or stops eating. (Yet stays so skinny!)
This morning I saw what Chicago has to offer. A couple of friends and I had heard good things about The Bongo Room in Chicago’s ever-trendy Bucktown/Wicker Park area, so we went with high hopes and hunger. The scene was reminiscent of brunch on the fringes of Tompkins Square Park in New York City’s East Village, except a little slower and more spacious (which is often how I describe Chicago in comparison to NYC). We waited for about a half hour for a table — meaning we spent it shopping at the Free People boutique two doors down — and then sat down to menus with enough (but not overwhelming number of) breakfast and brunch offerings, and brunch specials.
For me, one of life’s biggest questions is whether to go sweet or hearty at breakfast/brunch. But at The Bongo Room, the standard omlet vs. French toast debate was upped with choices like the “spinach, red pepper and feta benedict” and “chocolate tower French toast,” which someone a table over ordered. It came covered with thick shavings of white and milk chocolate. Some of the plates were so sweet they almost could’ve been on a dessert menu (“red velvet hotcakes,” anyone?), but then again, that’s why I love breakfast/brunch — you can get away with that.
The music in the restaurant ranged from Justin Timberlake to one of my new favorites, The Noisettes, (nope, no actual bongos) but never gave the air it was trying too hard, although at times I felt as though I was subconsciously tying to eat in rhythm when it the tunes got a little clubbier. The decor on the other hand, was simplistic yet fresh. I loved the spartan wooden booths that gave it an updated homey feel.
The best solution to my perpetual brunch debate, for the record, is to split dishes with a friend. My friend and I went half and half on the “sweet potato and black bean breakfast burrito” (I love sweet potato anything) and the” zucchini and pumpkin flapjacks.” Pumpkin has to be my favorite seasonal flavor — just last night I indulged in the limited edition pumpkin spice Red Mango — and these dense yet lightly sweet pancakes came with warm chocolate creme drizzled with caramel to be used in lieu of standard syrup. All in all, the eats were a trendier version of indulgent breakfast foods that would make a toddler ecstatic… and hyper. And that’s how brunch nosh should be.
Taste for yourself at 1470 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL.
–Karina for TKGO