Brunch – my favorite meal of the day; always the highlight of my weekend; the most perfect combination of sweet and savory and (drinks to) sip. In my ongoing ode to you, dear Brunch, I pay homage at least weekly.
You are so much more than simply the combination of the words breakfast + lunch. You are a gathering place of friends sharing bites and memories alike, you are an approval, nay an encouragement to drink before noon, you are a new way to showcase otherwise, already well-known kitchens. You are everything.
While my fellow food and beverage industry professionals may groan at this love letter (think about it from their standpoints - working a late Saturday night dinner rush, only to have to be back in a few hours to ensure your eggs are runny… but not too runny?), Chicago’s love affair with brunch is not a new one. In fact, some food historians trace the rise in popularity of this mid-day meal to our very city!
Let me back it up for you. While like many culinary traditions, the exact origins are hazy, there are a few theories in how this (perfect) meal came about. Some food historians believe the practice has roots in England’s “hunt breakfasts”, where lavish multi-course meals featured an array of options. Others believe it came from Catholics fasting before mass then enjoying a large meal together after the services. In both cases, the meal was born out of social interactions and celebrations and regardless of exactly where the initial idea came from, historians agree that it rose to popularity in the United States in the 1930s. Legend has it that Hollywood stars making the cross-country train trip, would often stop off in Chicago after an overnight portion of their trip for a late morning meal. Since many restaurants were closed on Sundays, hotels truly are to be credited for the original decadence.
These days, Chicago is home to so many brunch-spots that even at my rate, it’s hard to keep up.
St. Germain and Champagne at Maple & Ash
Current favorites include newcomer Maple & Ash, complete with a chic, lounge-y DJ and complimentary bottles of St. Germain to accompany your champagne, as well as James Beard award-winning Monteverde, whose menu looks simple but flavors are anything but.
Monteverde's Radish Toast
For those looking for a true Sunday Funday party, Fremont’s all you can drink mimosas and bountiful buffet rival even the best Las Vegas fete and 25 Degree’s $10 bottles of champagne don’t disappoint the party crowd either.
Personally, I keep a running list of must-go brunch spots and luckily our friends at Eater keep an “essential brunch” list updated for reference as well. For those of you who like a “side of” education and entertainment to go with your hash (or Eggs Benedict or Challah French Toast), The Chopping Block has several delicious hands-on cooking classes including Retro Brunch and Bloody Mary Brunch, both of which could certainly hold their own on anyone’s brunch to-do list.