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Orange? Elsewhere?

Will be in Chicago on 12/30, 12/31, 01/01 and am looking for three breakfasts worth endulging in. My sister and I will be in town and both of us are suckers for sweet over savory, specifically over-the-top pancakes/waffles/french toast.

Already planning for Bongo Room and M. Henry, was thinking about Orange as a third option but I've seen mixed reviews. Thoughts and Opinions?

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  1. I really like Orange (the one on Harrison), but it is a wee bit unusual. I've never been disappointed though. :)

    1. Your description "suckers for sweet over savory, specifically over-the-top pancakes/waffles/french toast" describes me to a T. And I like trying a lot of different places to find "the best".

      I liked Orange when I went there, but since going to Bongo Room, I'm less impressed with Orange. Their pancakes aren't as elaborate or sweet as at Bongo Room. More specifically, they feature "pancake flights", four kinds of mini pancakes with a flavor theme. However, they don't go in for sweet sauces like Bongo Room does, and so the pancakes at Orange lack "punch". Also, mini pancakes get cold quickly. OTOH I like their "customize your own fresh juice blend" feature. But Bongo Room is my go-to place for pancakes; Orange is not. I assume you've already read my advice about Bongo Room, the fact that you can get partial portions (one or two pancakes instead of three) at a reduced price, which lets you try more than one kind. I think they'll also mix-and-match their sauces with pancakes if you want (i.e. if the menu shows a sauce with one type pancake and you want that sauce with another type pancake, they can do that for you).

      For French toast, a lot of places feature a "stuffed" version with a sweet cheese (usually either cream cheese or mascarpone) and fresh fruit; others do a similar dish with pancakes rather than French toast. My favorite is the pancake version at M. Henry (which they call "blisscakes"), although I generally like this dish anywhere (I've also tried versions at Lula and at Toast).

      Given the description you offer, I think Bongo Room and M. Henry are both great choices. If I had a third place to choose, knowing what's available and having tried most of these places (although I'm always looking for new ones), there are two places I recommend.

      1. The very best dish in the category of sweet pancakes/waffles/french toast, IMHO, is the apple pancake at Walker Brothers. Walker Brothers is a local franchisee of the chain called the Original Pancake House. However, in their six locations, they have taken the basic formula of this chain and put it on steroids, so to speak. The quality level of the food at the Walker Brothers locations is consistently outstanding (whereas I've been to quite a few other OPH locations and seen it vary from very good to mediocre and worst). The decor is also a big step up, with stained glass lamps and panels everywhere. Walker Brothers has six locations in the northern and northwestern suburbs of Chicago. Their other pancakes and omelets are excellent too, but the big, puffy, cinnamony apple pancake is in a class all its own. I have had the apple pancake on numerous occasions and I consider it one of the two or three best things I've ever eaten. (They also make a big puffy German pancake using the same batter, but without the apples or cinnamon.) You can see a photo of the apple pancake as well as info about their locations on their website at www.walkerbrosoph.com

      2. (Here I was going to recommend the bread pudding french toast at Between, but I see on their website www.betweenchicago.com that they have suspended their Sunday brunch until some time in January.)

      21 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        I'm not as crazy about Orange as I used to be. I highly recommend Toast. They have Mascarpone pancakes, eggs benedict with prosciutto and truffle hollandaise, stuffed French toast, Nutella crepes. Really delish!

        I think Walker Brothers is good. I don't know if I'd say great but definitely good. The apple pancake is good but mega sweet. Worth trying though!

        -----
        Toast
        746 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Good info and Between looks cool........kinda wish more places were doing their "Sunday Brunch" type fare for New Years day. As for Walker Bros, I've been to plenty of Original Pancake Houses in Ohio and that apple pancake is delicious......guess I'm just looking for something "new"

          1. re: uhockey

            I'm a big fan of Victory's Banner on Roscoe and Hoyne (down the street from Orange on Roscoe). It's a vegetarian place equally adept at sweet and savory breakfast items. They have an occasional (I think summer, mostly) special of fresh mango pancakes with coconut cream that's easily the best pancake I've ever had. Their french toast offerings are also great.

            1. re: uhockey

              >> Good info and Between looks cool........

              Yes, too bad they're not open. Their brunch is really excellent; you can read my detailed report in the brunch discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364403

              >> kinda wish more places were doing their "Sunday Brunch" type fare for New Years day.

              Actually, a bunch of places are; you can find listings of places doing that in Metromix, the entertainment website of the Chicago Tribune, at http://chicago.metromix.com/calendar/...

              Since you're already planning on Bongo Room and M. Henry, you might want to pick something a bit different from those for New Year's Day. The high-end restaurants in the downtown luxury hotels (NoMI in the Park Hyatt, Seasons in the Four Seasons, the Lobby in the Peninsula, the Greenhouse in the Ritz-Carlton) all offer sumptuous buffet brunches on New Year's Day as well as on Sundays. However, they ain't cheap; normal Sunday prices are $55 at NoMI and $62 at the Lobby, and similar at the others, so if that's a concern you may want to ask about the price when making your reservation, rather than get surprised later. I don't know whether David Burke's Primehouse is doing the same "American dim sum" brunch for New Year's Day that they do on weekends; that's an awesome buffet as well as an excellent value ($35), although I should also note that their brunch emphasizes the savory rather than the sweet. I posted a detailed report on my brunch there in that same discussion topic here on Chowhound, and you can see their normal weekend brunch menu on their website at www.brguestrestaurants.com

              1. re: nsxtasy

                M. Henry is my meal of choice for 01/01/09 since they're doing "something special" according to the chef. :-)

                If Orange isn't so great, perhaps doing pasteries or an early lunch on the 30th or 31st would be a better call? How is Hot Chocolate's lunch, or how are the pasteries at Bleeding Heart? Other suggestions for a place that might do good pasteries around ~11am ish on a weekday?

                1. re: uhockey

                  I recommended and ranked the Chicago area's best bakeries for pastry (the ones I've been to, anyway) in the topic at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/542316 Concentrate especially on the top six. Two are in the northern suburbs, two are in Andersonville (near M. Henry), and the other two are more convenient to downtown - Fox & Obel in River East, and Vanille Patisserie on the near north side. I didn't include Hot Chocolate in the ranking, but was not impressed when I went there for brunch; I haven't been to Bleeding Heart.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Thanks too all. Finalized my agenda for the trip today and will post a full review here in the chicago board (and in my blog with pics) when I get back on the 2nd.

                  2. re: uhockey

                    A former chef at M. Henry left about a couple of years ago and opened up a wonderful breakfast place called Over Easy. It's on Damen near Argyle (less than a 10-minute walk from the Damen Brown Line stop). I actually prefer it to M. Henry but either way it would make for a nice point of comparison for you. If there's a wait, you can head to the Italian coffee shop next door and they'll come in and get you when your table is ready. Another wonderful breakfast spot is Uncommon Ground (near Wrigley and around Devon/Clark (much farther north). As for Orange, it's very good but often inconsistent. It was at its best at the Clark St. location when Dale Levitski (Top Chef fame) was the chef.

                    I love Hot Chocolate, but I prefer it for dinner or late night desserts when Mindy Segal's work really shines. I doubt they offer their full dessert list at lunch or brunch. I'm not that big a fan of Bleeding Heart . . . some things I like, but I find a lot of items are pretty average.

                    1. re: BRB

                      Always appreciate your thoughts BRB, but I've only got 2 dinners available and one is a business meeting at Trotter's and for the other I'm taking my sister to MoTo for New Years Eve. Hot Chocolate would fit as an early lunch on the 30th, but other suggestions would be good too - we'll get to town around ~10-11ish.

                      1. re: uhockey

                        If you're not already eating at Blackbird, that would be a great spot for lunch (assuming they're open). Naha would be another solid choice. And don't get me wrong about Hot Chocolate - I like it for lunch/brunch . . . but love it for desserts. When I go to Hot Chocolate for dinner, the food doesn't amaze me (it's good) . . . but the desserts are out of this world.

                        Uncommon Ground would make a nice brunch/lunch spot too. I am a big fan of the food, mostly comfort food. They don't do a lot of sweet breakfast items, but check out the menu and see if it interests you. The vibe is urban coffee house, very relaxed, with good service. http://www.uncommonground.com/pages/c...

                        After Uncommon Ground, spend $2 and take the Clark St. bus north 2 miles to Andersonville and try some of the sweets at the Sicilian bakery Pasticceria Natalina. Everything is outstanding . . . freshly filled canoli, sfogliatelle, you name it.

                        1. re: BRB

                          I was really disappointed by brunch at Hot Chocolate. They had hardly any desserts - only a single plate of unimpressive ones. I've heard it's better in the evenings, but I haven't been there for dinner or later. Based on my own brunch experience, I don't advise it.

                          Pasticceria Natalina is one of the two bakeries in Andersonville I recommend. A block south is Swedish Bakery, which specializes in Swedish desserts. They have some wonderful offerings, such as their marzipan rolled cake featuring layers of creme patissiere and whipped cream, and their marzariners, if you love almond paste based desserts. Both are less than half a mile south of M. Henry on Clark Street, so they are easy to combine with your M. Henry visit.

                          1. re: BRB

                            If Blackbird did their Foie or Sweetbreads at lunch I'd be there in a heartbeat. As for Uncommon Ground - looks cool, but I'm actually really interested in Over Easy as the menu sounds more "up our alley" in terms of sweets.

                            As of now I'm thinking the following:

                            12/30 Over Easy for brunch, Charlie Trotter's for business dinner, Tru for dessert tasting (sister demands this one because of the Hot Chocolate Souffle and I'm certainly not going to argue)

                            12/31 Bongo Room for breakfast, Cafe Spiaggia for lunch, Moto for NYE menu dinner.

                            01/01 M. Henry for Breakfast, Winter Classic at Wrigley (maybe grab some baked goods or a sandwich to take to the game at Fox & Obel,) and then heading back home - possibly a late lunch or slice at Art of Pizza before hitting the road.

                            1. re: uhockey

                              Sounds good. (With the exception of Over Easy, where I haven't been so I can't comment; I've been scared off by their reputation for horrendously long waiting times to be seated, even if you go early.) You may want to call ahead to make sure any place you're planning on going on the 31st and 1st is open, since places may be closed for the holiday.

                              Assuming Fox & Obel is open, you should be aware that there are two options for sandwiches. They have pre-made sandwiches in the refrigerator case on the far wall past the seafood counter. Or, you can get sandwiches custom-made for you in the cafe. Before you do, though, you may want to take a look at the prepared foods counter; something may strike your eye as an alternative to sandwiches. As for the baked goods, they are excellent; I particularly recommend their cinnamon swirl rolls and bran muffins. They have some great items that are more pastry-ish, like the bread pudding and chocolate brut, but they're not as easy to eat on the road.

                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                The waits at Over Easy are no different than the waits at Orange, M. Henry, Bongo Room, etc. And the nice thing about waiting at Over Easy is the arrangement they have with their next door neighbor (the aforementioned coffee shop) where you can wait there, enjoy coffee and some sweets, and then be called in for breakfast. That sure beats waiting out in the cold weather at all of the other places (and you will almost certainly wait outside).

                                1. re: BRB

                                  Based on everything I've experienced elsewhere and heard about Over Easy, this is not true; by all reports, the waits are FAR WORSE at Over Easy than at the other places you mention. I've walked into Orange, M. Henry, and Bongo Room after 9 a.m. on Sundays and been seated immediately. I've heard numerous reports that you can walk into Over Easy significantly earlier than that and still experience a lengthy wait. The fact that there is a specific arrangement nearby for the long waits at Over Easy is ample evidence that you can expect to be waiting a long time there! (Not surprising for a place that has only 26 seats.)

                                  Can you point me to a website showing the menu at Over Easy? I can't find one (which doesn't exactly increase my desire to go there).

                                  1. re: nsxtasy

                                    I agree the lack of a menu is a bit of a bummer, but then again Bongo Room and Orange don't have "official" menu pages either - just the ones listed at Menupages.

                                    1. re: uhockey

                                      True - but at least you can find their menus at Menupages. Over Easy doesn't have one there, which is why I asked if it's posted anyplace else.

                              2. re: uhockey

                                Sounds like one hell of an eating weekend. I must say that while I like Art of Pizza, I much prefer Malnati's and Pizano's. Malnati's is located just 1 1/4 miles south of Wrigley at the intersection of Sheffield, Lincoln and Wrightwood . . . that's where I'd go for deep dish (with buttercrust) pizza after the game.

                                1. re: BRB

                                  If you go to Lou Malnati's, I recommend NOT getting the butter crust. I generally like butter flavoring on things but I tried it and I prefer their regular crust. However, I also prefer and recommend Giordano's (for their double-crust "stuffed" pizza) over Malnati's. And Giordano's location at 1040 W. Belmont is within easy walking distance of Wrigley, only 1/2 mile south of the stadium, just west of Sheffield - no need to park the car twice!

                                2. re: uhockey

                                  Hi uhockey,

                                  Just thought I'd offer a few comments on your itinerary, as I experienced a similar eating extravaganza when my older brother and his wife came in town for a weekend. Also, let me say I think it's really awesome that you're taking your sister out. My weekend with my brother is something I won't forget.

                                  12/30 I won't comment on Over Easy, as I've never been there. Since you're going to Trotter's for a business dinner, there's not much point in discussing it either. As for the dessert tasting at Tru, it will knock your socks off. The wait staff is great-- sophisticated and yet there is a hint that they do not take themselves completely seriously. More importantly, the desserts are to die for. Also, I'd suggest looking over the dessert menus before you go. If there is something you would like, but it's not on the menu when you go, just mention it to your waiter. Hopefully he will reply to you as he did when my brother said he was bummed that the chef's special rootbeer float was not on the menu-- "Not to worry, sir."

                                  12/31 So, we did Bongo Room for Sunday brunch and then dinner at Alinea for the 26 course tasting menu (the most amazing dining experience of my life). Honestly, and this isn't a slam on Cafe Spiaggia, I would probably skip it. After an undoubtedly heavy meal at Bongo Room and in anticipation of your dinner at Moto, you probably won't be too hungry. Also, something cool that Bongo Room does but doesn't mention of the menu-- you can order one or two pieces of whatever (pancakes, etc.) instead of a full order. If you're interested, this would allow you to try more dishes. Trust me, otherwise you're going to have a lot of trouble making a selection.

                                  01/01 Haven't done M. Henry before. Good call on not going to Orange, though. I had a great time when I went there, but the food was terrible. Grabbing food at Fox & Obel is a great idea for the game at Wrigley. My friends and I always grab food from there and bring it with us when we go to a movie across the street. I haven't been to Art of Pizza, but if deep dish is what you're after, I'd suggest Pizzeria Uno or Due (unfortunately they're both downtown). I've been in Chicago for four years, and this is the best deep dish I've found.

                                  Hope this helps. Have a great time with your sister! Also, let me know what you think of Moto. I'm thinking of going there this spring to celebrate my graduation.

                                  1. re: s.marguerette

                                    Stellar advice and we shall see how I feel after Bongo Room re: Spiaggia. With regard to Alinea - I'd be there if they weren't on break - but with that said I'm quite interested to see what Cantu is doing for NYE....according to e-mail and phone it is to be "12 courses of his greatest hits, plus some new twists and experiments."

                  3. Skip Orange all together! The last few times we have gone to the one in Roscoe Village the service has been horrible, and the food sub par for the price. There are many other places in the city that have good breakfast/brunch where the wait isn't too long and the food/service much better.
                    I agree with Toast. But also look @ Stanley's Kitchen and Tap on the weekend. They have a full on buffet brunch that is fantastic! Especially if you are looking for comfort - it doesn't get any better. It can be a little frat-y but if you can get over that, I really like the food. (the mac and cheese and the fried chicken are super good)

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Francis

                      uhockey is not going to be here over the weekend.

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        Given upcoming fellowship interviews and a liking for 2 programs in Chicago, I've no doubt I'll be back......ideally for a Sunday so I can try Burke's Dim Sum, Between or Sweets & Savories.

                        1. re: uhockey

                          Good choices. If you're looking to cram more than one of them into a weekend, the website for David Burke's Primehouse says that they have brunch on Saturdays as well as Sundays. Assuming that this is the same American dim sum brunch as on Sundays - and I'd call the restaurant to verify that - that would let you try theirs as well as another brunch the following day. http://www.brguestrestaurants.com/res...

                          There are other places that do their weekend brunch on Saturdays as well as Sundays, including Frontera Grill (closed Sundays), Sola, Prairie Grass Cafe, Lula, and Adobo Grill.

                        2. re: nsxtasy

                          Seriously though, thanks to all for the stellar recs. I'm going to be having multiple meals with 3 different sets of people and I think this board (even moreso than Vegas and San Fran board) has some of the best posters. I'll post a buncha wordy reviews here sometime after I get back.