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Breakfast in Chicago...have done some research

stlheather Jun 16, 2010 09:12 PM

boyfriend and I are coming to Chicago for a weekend in a few weeks. Last time we came we didn't eat any breakfast which is truly unfortunate since we looove breakfast! so we are staying at Congress and I really don't know what neighborhood that's in, so I guess Michigan Ave. neighborhood. HE really likes LARGE portions of pancakes and french toast and I like that too, but definitely would like to try something different. I looked at Orange and their menu looked great, but I'm just making sure there are no better options out there?! Also, we already decided we are going to Ann Sather on one day.

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  1. nsxtasy Jun 17, 2010 02:37 AM

    When you say you "are staying at Congress", I assume you are referring to the Congress Plaza Hotel at Congress and Michigan, or another hotel in that immediate vicinity. In terms of neighborhoods, this can be considered the southeast corner of the Loop, as well as the northeast corner of the South Loop. (When most people refer to "Michigan Avenue" as an area, they are usually referring to the "Magnificent Mile" stretch further north, between the Chicago River and Oak Street Beach.)

    There is one restaurant, above all others, for your question as stated: Bongo Room! Bongo Room specializes in pancakes with sauces, such as their pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce, and blueberry pancakes with almond panna cotta cream. A standard portion size is three ENORMOUS pancakes; however, you can also order one-third and two-thirds portion sizes at a reduced price, which enables you to order more than one dish. Bongo Room has two locations; the one in the South Loop at Roosevelt and Wabash is six blocks (just under half a mile) south of your hotel. Their website is under construction, but you can view a sample menu at http://chicago.menupages.com/restaurants/bongo-room-2

    Another option is the Original Pancake House, which has a location on East Bellevue, about a mile and a half north of your hotel. Their specialty is the huge, puffed up, cinnamony apple pancake. It's great. www.originalpancakehouse.com

    One more place I absolutely love is M. Henry, but it's quite a distance from downtown; it's about 7 miles north, in the Andersonville neighborhood, about a 20-minute drive or a 45-minute ride on the #22 Clark St CTA bus. I recommend their "blisscakes" and their bread pudding. www.mhenry.net

    Orange is good too. Their pancakes are creative, such as their pancake "flights", but they don't blow me away like Bongo Room's do. What I like about Orange is their design-your-own fresh juice blends. They no longer have a location on Harrison (which used to be right near your hotel); the closest location would be the one at 738 N. Clark, about a mile north of your hotel. www.orangerestaurantchicago.com

    For French toast, I've been working my way through the Tribune's list of the best French toast in Chicagoland, which you can find at http://chicago.metromix.com/restaurants/essay_photo_gallery/fabulous-french-toast/1701149/content There are a lot of excellent ones out there. The one they designate as best, at Jerry's ( www.cornercooks.com ) in Winnetka, is indeed outstanding; however, it's not all that convenient to downtown, as you would need to drive 30-40 minutes north, or take a Metra commuter train ( www.metrarail.com ) to Winnetka, where the restaurant is a couple of blocks from the train station. The only French toast in the article that's downtown is Heaven on Seven, although Meli isn't far.

    Ann Sather is okay; as a lover of breakfast in general and pancakes and French toast in particular, I'm not overly impressed. www.annsather.com

    Bongo Room
    1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy
      iphonechica Jun 17, 2010 10:40 AM

      nsxtasy - I totally respect your opinion and trust your advice most of the time, but I have to disagree with you about M. Henry. I live in the Andersonville neighborhood and it used to be my go-to place for breakfast. But to me, they have failed miserably at egg cookery, which to me is a requirement for a breakfast place. M. Henry doesn't know how to cook eggs properly. That, along with spotty service and overall inconsistency, has forced us to look elsewhere for breakfast choices. I wish it were different because it used to be a lovely place.

      I realize the original poster is looking for pancakes and french toast, but I also don't want her to be disappointed, especially given the distrance from downtown.

      1. re: iphonechica
        ferret Jun 17, 2010 11:11 AM

        My recent visits to M. Henry (last week midweek and two weeks ago on a Sunday) have been as good as one could hope for. The food was prepared very well (3 egg dishes and 3 pancake/french toast - for a table of 4 - on the last visit), so I can't agree withe criticism above. As far as service goes, on the Sunday visit we sat outside in the back. Even though it was busy our server was friendly, attentive and available. On the weekday visit, the place was about 1/3 full so if service sucked I would absolutely have grumbled -- it didn't.

        1. re: iphonechica
          nsxtasy Jun 17, 2010 11:32 AM

          My most recent visits to M. Henry have consisted of other dishes (the blisscakes and the bread pudding, both wonderful) but I also had one of the egg dishes some months ago and it was very good (as was a soup I had there). In my experience, they cook eggs as well as anywhere (and the service has always been decent, even though I often go at somewhat-peak times - BTW ferret's advice is spot on, I go at 9:00-9:15 on a Sunday morning and there's no line, but there's a big line when I leave). The big attractions for this breakfast eater are still the blisscakes and the bread pudding.

          I keep trying other breakfast places around the city, many of which are very good also - I tried Jam last month and liked it a lot - but M. Henry and Bongo Room are still my two favorites in the city (and Walker Brothers in the suburbs).

          Sorry to hear that your experience was not as good as mine has been, but we all have our opinions and differences can occur for all kinds of reasons. Thanks for sharing yours!

      2. f
        ferret Jun 17, 2010 06:51 AM

        Definitely Bongo Room over Sather (20 years ago when competition for the breakfast market was limited to Greek-diner style breakfast offerings, Sather's was closer to the top of the heap - not so much these days).

        M. Henry is always outstanding, and if you can get there early enough on a weekend then the wait's not bad (we recently stopped in at 9:15 on a Sunday and were seated immediately).

        Orange does nothing for me.

        Bongo Room
        1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

        4 Replies
        1. re: ferret
          caliking Jun 17, 2010 07:16 AM

          Try Lou Mitchell's (closest one to you is in the 500 block of West Jackson I think). Diner style grub, great breakfasts. May be a bit of a line, but they used to pass out Milk Dud's and donut holes for those waiting in line. They claim they make all their egg items out of double-yolked eggs. The scrambled eggs and omelets are great too. One of my fav spots when I lived in Chicago.

          Lou's is a short cab ride from your hotel.

          Lou Mitchell's Restaurant
          565 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60661

          1. re: caliking
            ferret Jun 17, 2010 07:27 AM

            I've said it before and I'll say it again - Lou Mitchell's is fine if you're in the area and want breakfast but I wouldn't waste even $5 on a cab ride to eat there. It's coasting on pure nostalgia these days. Competent, sure, but there are an awful lot of places that blow it out of the water.

            As an added FYI, ther is only one "Lou Mitchell's" and it's on Jackson (there's a mini location at O'Hare, but it doesn't count). There are also "Mitchell's" diners that serve breakfast but are not "Lou MItchell's" (something like the "Ray's" pizza phenomenon in NY) To add further confusion Lou Mitchell's has succumbed to the lure of the franchise, so the rest of America may well be getting an okay-Greek-diner experience soon. Just like the abomination called "Uno's."

            Lou Mitchell's Restaurant
            565 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60661

            1. re: ferret
              gomexico Jun 17, 2010 08:59 AM

              Even if I was "in the neighborhood" I wouldn't have breakfast at Lou Mitchell's.

              1. re: ferret
                nsxtasy Jun 17, 2010 10:25 AM

                >> Lou Mitchell's is fine if you're in the area and want breakfast but I wouldn't waste even $5 on a cab ride to eat there. It's coasting on pure nostalgia these days. Competent, sure, but there are an awful lot of places that blow it out of the water.

                I'm with ferret on this, 100 percent. Lou Mitchell's gets attention because it has been there forever, and because it's convenient to the commuter train stations so everyone's heard of it. It's not bad, but it's just very conventional and ordinary, nothing special. There are lots of conventional, ordinary breakfast places all over Chicago and any other city. It's also not particularly convenient to your hotel, either.

                Speaking of which, if you're interested in breakfast places that ARE close to your hotel, see this discussion, in which the OP was looking for suggestions near the Trump Hotel, which is only a block or two from the Intercontinental:

                River North Breakfast Ideas - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693985

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