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Breakfast suggestions--help me decide!!

u
umieesa May 14, 2011 06:03 PM

Hi All,

We will be in Chicago next month and will be staying at the BW River North and am looking for some breakfast suggestions. We will have a car, so location is not a huge factor (and we'll be traveling with children if that makes a difference). I've basically narrowed down my choices, but can't pick all (unfortunately). We will be there from a Monday to Friday if that makes a difference. Here are the places I'm considering:

Ann Sather
Wishbone
M. Henrietta
XOCO
Fox and Obel
Milk and Honey
Bongo room

I can only pick 5, so please let me know which I should drop, and which are the must dos! Thanks!!

  1. f
    ferret May 14, 2011 07:43 PM

    Skip Wishbone and Sather's. Add Tweet.

    10 Replies
    1. re: ferret
      chicgail May 15, 2011 05:00 AM

      agree

      1. re: chicgail
        s
        seminole phil May 16, 2011 10:11 AM

        lou mitchells jackson blvd chitown
        walker bros wilmette

        1. re: seminole phil
          f
          ferret May 16, 2011 10:53 AM

          Not to "dis" phil's suggestions, but there's nothing at Lou Mitchell's that your local diner can't replicate. It's been a popular tourist spot for decades but I can't explain why. Stick with your list. As for Walker brothers - I REALLY don't get it. They have a limited menu which tends to be on the unambitious side. Again, anything on your list is far better. I got sucked into going there a few weeks ago and was optimistic about the experience - until I was served a very uninspired omelet.

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

          1. re: seminole phil
            chicgail May 16, 2011 10:56 AM

            With all due respect, Lou Michells (like Ann Sather) was once pretty great, but it just ain't what it used to be. I wouldn't actually bother.

            And as much as I love Walker Bros in Wilmette when I'm up on the North Shore, it's a pretty long shlep from River North, even if you have a car.

            1. re: chicgail
              f
              ferret May 16, 2011 11:04 AM

              Not to be argumentative, but what's the appeal of Walker Brothers? At one time (25 years ago) it was the go-to spot, but it is a very bland spot these days with little appeal. I recently had some sort of "Mexican"omelet which was dry, had little to no flavor or spice and was accompanied by some sort of jarred salsa (and I've had great jarred salsas - but this was not one of them). The nearby Ridgeview Grill and Rose's (the is gluten-free bakery/restaurant) have been consistently far better than Walker Brothers as of late.

              -----
              Ridgeview Restaurant
              827 Ridge Rd, Wilmette, IL 60091

              1. re: ferret
                chicgail May 16, 2011 11:31 AM

                I agree that most of the Walker Brothers franchises have diminished quality (notably the one on Bellevue), but the one in Wilmette still gets it right. In particular the Apple Pancake, the 49er pancakes and the potato pancakes. The omelets, in my memory, have never been their best offerings.

                I would also suggest Ina's on West Randolph and Meli Cafe in Greektown for really exceptional breakfast options.

                -----
                Ina's
                1235 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607

                Meli Cafe & Juice Bar
                301 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60661

                1. re: chicgail
                  f
                  ferret May 16, 2011 11:45 AM

                  I was at the Wilmette one. A single offering (or two) - even if they're stand-outs, does not a restaurant make. The execution and construction of the omelet I had there was inexcusable (and really, if your specialty is breakfasts, put a little effort in egg dishes). The Original Pancake house does an Apple pancake quite well (although the cloying sweetness of apple pancakes makes it a one or two bite item for me).

                2. re: ferret
                  nsxtasy May 16, 2011 05:13 PM

                  >> what's the appeal of Walker Brothers?

                  Consistently great food. There are so many things I've gotten there, and all are the best I've ever had anywhere. The huge, puffed-up, cinnamony apple pancake is fantastic. The gigantic German pancake which uses the same batter is equally fantastic. The omelets are excellent. So are the crepe dishes. All the various pancake dishes are the best you'll find anywhere too. Even the coffee is outstanding. The other thing that makes Walker Brothers great is the atmosphere, with all the carved wood and stained glass. Where else can you eat fantastic breakfast food while staring at stained glass made by Louis C. Tiffany? Nowhere.

                  Walker Brothers is much, MUCH better than the other franchise locations of the Original Pancake House. I've been to many of them (in ten states - it's my go-to place for breakfast while traveling). Most of them are very good; a few are dreadful. But even the best can't compare with the consistent quality and excellence of the six Walker Brothers locations. That's why Walker Brothers is the only franchisee of the entire chain that is allowed to put their own name on the restaurant.

                  THAT'S why Walker Brothers is the best-known breakfast place in the Chicago area.

                  You can get a better understanding of why Walker Brothers is so special in this recent article in the Tribune:

                  A Holy House of Pancakes - www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/...

                  1. re: nsxtasy
                    f
                    ferret May 16, 2011 09:45 PM

                    We're clearly in disagreement. My experience was three weeks ago and the omelet I ate was neither excellent nor good. The pancakes were pedestrian, as were the waffles. It's a Denny's with history. The article you link speaks of nostalgia, and that's about it.

                    1. re: ferret
                      nsxtasy May 17, 2011 04:23 PM

                      For me, it's all about the food; I don't care about nostalgia. I go out for breakfast/brunch a lot. I've eaten at one or another of the Walker Brothers an average of 4-8 times a year for the past forty years (most recent visit was last month), and I've never had a bad meal or even a bad dish, not a single thing that was anything other than excellent throughout all of those many meals. As you can see from my many posts in the brunch topic, I enjoy other breakfast places too; I go out of my way to try new ones. I've made return visits to Bongo Room, M. Henry, and Southport Grocery within the past year. But with all the breakfast places I've been to, the one place I keep going back to more than any other is Walker Brothers. It is THAT good.

                      You are welcome to your opinion; that is mine. So we'll just have to agree to disagree!

        2. u
          umieesa May 16, 2011 11:21 AM

          I actually considered Walker brothers actually, but figured we can eat at Original Pancake House any other time for a similar experience (it's really only the apple pancake that's the draw for me). Lou Mitchell's too seemed to have too many mixed reviews. I think it's the nostalgia, and not necessarily the quality of food (but can't comment since that's only what I've read).
          I'm kinda sad to hear about Ann Sather though...I really wanted to try those cinnamon rolls!

          2 Replies
          1. re: umieesa
            f
            ferret May 16, 2011 11:26 AM

            Cinnamon rolls are good, but as with the other examples, what was unique about any of these places 20+ years ago has now been bested elsewhere. And as far as Walker Brothers goes, I really believe the quality and care has plummeted over the years. There are dishes at m. henry, Bongo Room and Tweet that I actually crave regularly. Sather's, Lou Mitchell's and Walker Brothers are truly forgettable.

            -----
            Bongo Room
            1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

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

            1. re: umieesa
              l
              lbs May 16, 2011 11:37 AM

              Having just eaten at Ann Sather for Mother's Day, I would steer clear. Not bad food but not worth getting rid of another, better place. If you are around an Ann Sather, get a cinnamon roll to go.

            2. nsxtasy May 16, 2011 05:30 PM

              These are truly special, and this is how I would rank the top five places for breakfast in the Chicago area:

              1. Walker Brothers (6 suburban locations) - www.walkerbrosoph.com
              2. Bongo Room (South Loop and Wicker Park) - www.thebongoroom.com
              3. M. Henry (Andersonville) / M. Henrietta (Edgewater) - www.mhenry.com and www.mhenrietta.com
              4. Southport Grocery and Cafe (Lakeview) - www.southportgrocery.com
              5. Jam (West Town) - www.jamrestaurant.com

              Additional notes:

              None of these places accepts reservations. Waits are minimal during the week, but can be lengthy on Saturdays and especially Sundays between 9:30 and 12:30.

              See below regarding what makes Walker Brothers special, or just read this article in the Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/dining/ct-play-1118-walker-brothers-20101118,0,1545225,full.story As I noted in my other post, the quality at Walker Brothers is consistently higher than at the other Original Pancake House locations. But the menu is similar, and if you're looking for something different, well that's up to you.

              Bongo Room specializes in creative pancakes, such as their pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. The standard portion size is three GIGANTIC pancakes, but you can also get one-third and two-thirds portion sizes at a reduced price, which lets you try more dishes.

              M. Henry and M. Henrietta have identical menus for breakfast and lunch, and I especially recommend the "blisscakes". If you want to try their "out of this world bread pudding", it's on the Sunday brunch menu and is usually a special on Saturdays, and is not usually available on weekdays.

              Southport Grocery has some great sweeter items, notably their bread pudding pancakes and their grown-up pop tarts.

              Fox & Obel... I LOVE their baked goods, such as their cinnamon swirl rolls, world's best bran muffins, rustic fruit and nut bread, brioche loaf, etc, and can (and often do) easily make breakfast out of them. I've gone there for breakfast in the cafe more as a matter of convenience, not when I'm looking for the best cooked-to-order breakfast in the city (although I do enjoy their cobb omelet). And oh yeah, regarding those cinnamon rolls - they're not the most cinnamony ever, but they use an extremely rich dough and that's what makes them great. I love 'em. If that sounds good to you, go for it!

              Don't waste your time on Ann Sather's or Lou Mitchell's. I've eaten at Milk and Honey and thought it was pretty good, but not all that unusual. I really enjoyed the weekend brunch at Cafe des Architectes, even though it's not a breakfast-specific place. Also for a Sunday brunch with great food, consider Shaw's Crab House; it's really more of a place to go for an all-you-can-eat dinner with fantastic seafood at brunch-time.

              I've posted detailed reports on most of these places in the brunch topic at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364403

              1. t
                Thyra26 May 17, 2011 07:55 AM

                You can come to Wicker Park & Bucktown. I run the Wicker Park Bucktown Insider's Guide and we have a list of amazing brunch places there. They're all fantastic. Enjoy !

                1. uhockey May 17, 2011 08:00 AM

                  Skip Fox and Obel as a breakfast, IMO.

                  The ones I would say are "must" visits in Chicago are Southport Grocery and Cafe, M.Henry/Henrietta, Bongo Room, and Jam.

                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                  -----
                  Bongo Room
                  1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

                  Southport Grocery & Cafe
                  3552 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

                  1. u
                    umieesa May 17, 2011 08:34 AM

                    Thanks to everyone for all your great suggestions...it's making it even harder to only pick 5!!

                    I'm definitely a "sweet" breakfast type person, but hubby not-so-much. Give me pancakes and french toast and I'm a happy camper. With all your suggestions I think I've come up with:

                    Bongo Room
                    Southport Grocery (looks good...had to add that!) + grab an Ann Sather cinnamon roll
                    Fox and Obel (gonna be doing a river cruise, so the location is convenient)
                    M.Henrietta (is M.Henry better or are they pretty much the same?? hoping it won't be crowded on a weekday)

                    I realized that I can't actually pick 5...we'll be in Schaumburg the first night so we can go to the LEGO discovery center (keep the kids happy) and breakfast is included at the hotel. If the breakfast is horrible there I was thinking of trying Apple Haus since it's not too far from there...what do you think?

                    Our hotel is close to XOCO, but can't seem to fit it in...will I really be missing out by not going here...or should I drop Fox and Obel?? Aahhh...so indecisive! That's why I love chowhound...thanks for all the advice!!

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: umieesa
                      f
                      ferret May 17, 2011 08:45 AM

                      m. henrietta's distinction is that it offers a dinner menu. Otherwise it's the same for breakfast/lunch. You can throw a dart at the menu and enjoy your selection, but the pancakes are a must.

                      1. re: umieesa
                        l
                        lbs May 17, 2011 08:49 AM

                        If you go to M. Henrietta, you can take the Red Line all the way there. It is mostly above ground and you pass by Wrigley Field and several Chicago neighborhoods. It is right off the Granville ell stop. Also, you can then walk over to Metropolis coffee and try some of their delicious coffee/pick up a bag of locally roasted beans. The trip on the el will be about 45 mins depending on where you get on and I bet your kids will get a kick out of it.

                        http://www.metropoliscoffee.com/

                        I would also pick XOXO over F&O. But since F&O is convenient to your schedule, stick with it.

                        1. re: lbs
                          u
                          umieesa May 17, 2011 09:10 AM

                          I was thinking that about the EL, probably when I do Southport Grocery...I read that the brown line was more scenic though, no? Actually I'm confused about the transfer thing...can I get on at say Chicago, then get off at Southport and return back by getting on at Belmont and getting back off at Chicago and is that all included in 1 transfer (assuming I do all this within 2 hours)?

                          Funny you mention metropolis...hubby is leaving all the planning to me, except for when it comes to coffee. He's a huge coffee geek and already said we must stop by Metropolis and Intelli!

                          Is there anything at XOCO that you specifically recommend and if so, can I order it at another time of day? We're doing dinner there one night, so if I could kill two birds with one stone that'd be great!!

                          1. re: umieesa
                            d
                            danimalarkey May 17, 2011 10:17 AM

                            Well, churros are offered all day - even if you order them with your meal, they won't 'fire' the order until requested by you so there's no issue of churros sitting out and getting cold. You can also order churros to go pretty easily if the line looks long - they'll make them right away and you won't have to wait in a long line if that's all you're getting (same goes for their hot chocolates - I'd reccomend teh Azteca).

                            1. re: umieesa
                              l
                              lbs May 17, 2011 11:47 AM

                              Unless your hotel has in/out car privileges, I don't think you'll be driving all that much. Your best bet would be to get CTA visitor passes. (3 day or 5 day). That way you don't have to worry about fares/transfers etc. Since this site frowns on outside talk - check out www.tripadvisor.com for lot more advice on sites, public transporation routes, etc.

                              If you are going to dinner at XOCO, then I don't think breakfast there is necessary at all.

                          2. re: umieesa
                            nsxtasy May 17, 2011 01:01 PM

                            >> M.Henrietta (is M.Henry better or are they pretty much the same?? hoping it won't be crowded on a weekday)

                            As noted above, they have the same menu for breakfast and lunch. You shouldn't find a long wait at either one on a weekday. As noted by lbs, M. Henrietta is more convenient if you're taking the el.

                            >> we'll be in Schaumburg the first night so we can go to the LEGO discovery center (keep the kids happy) and breakfast is included at the hotel. If the breakfast is horrible there I was thinking of trying Apple Haus since it's not too far from there...what do you think?

                            I've been to the Apple Haus and it's nothing special. Schaumburg is only a 10-15 minute drive from the Arlington Heights location of Walker Brothers, which is on Dundee just east of IL-53.

                            >> Our hotel is close to XOCO, but can't seem to fit it in...will I really be missing out by not going here...

                            No, IMHO.

                            >> or should I drop Fox and Obel??

                            As noted above, I think F&O is fantastic for the baked goods, but just okay for breakfast in the cafe.

                            (I just went to F&O this morning and right now I'm munching on their baked stuff as I type this!)

                            >> I was thinking that about the EL, probably when I do Southport Grocery...I read that the brown line was more scenic though, no? Actually I'm confused about the transfer thing...

                            Okay, here's how the CTA works, for the el and buses. Basically, you can pay for fares in three ways. (1) You can pay cash each time you get on. If you're only taking one ride, this won't hurt, but you can't get transfers this way, you'd have to pay cash for each separate ride. So this is generally not advisable. (2) You can get a "pass", which enables you an unlimited number of rides for the period for which it is issued (1 day for $5.75, 3 days for $14, 7 days for $23). These are sold in certain locations, listed on the CTA website (including a few but not all el stations). This generally saves money if you're going to take more than one round trip (with transfers) per day, otherwise not. (3) You can get a farecard. This is where the concept of transfers comes in. You can buy a farecard in any el station, and deposit any amount on it. It deducts the fare amounts as you go. The first ride is $2.00 by bus and $2.25 by el. If you take another ride within two hours, it is considered a transfer and it deducts $.25. You can also take a third ride for free if it is within two hours of the first ride.

                            Changing trains at el stops between one el line and another don't count as transfers, unless you go out through the turnstile, which you usually don't need to do.

                            You can find more information about the CTA, including fares, schedules, maps, etc, at www.transitchicago.com

                            >> can I get on at say Chicago, then get off at Southport and return back by getting on at Belmont and getting back off at Chicago and is that all included in 1 transfer (assuming I do all this within 2 hours)?

                            Yes.

                            Incidentally, Southport Grocery is a few blocks north of the Southport stop on the Brown Line. If you're getting on the CTA Red Line northbound at Chicago and State, you can either (a) get off at Belmont and take the Brown Line train on the other side of the same platform to Southport, or (b) get off at Addison and walk west about half a mile (right past Wrigley Field) to the restaurant. In terms of time and convenience, it's pretty much a toss-up. Either way, the fare will be $2.25 to get there, and then $2.25 for the return unless you can do it within two hours of first catching the train at Chicago and State, in which case it's $.25. In my experience, it may be tough to do that within two hours, when you add up the travel time to get there, plus the time to be seated and served, and the time to eat, but you can try; worst case, you just need to add cash to your farecard for the return. (They DO get busy there; I went a few weeks ago around 11:15 on a Saturday and had to wait 25 minutes to be seated.)

                            >> If you are going to dinner at XOCO, then I don't think breakfast there is necessary at all.

                            I agree.

                            1. re: nsxtasy
                              u
                              umieesa May 17, 2011 02:00 PM

                              This post was extremely helpful!! Thanks so much for all the great info!

                              BTW, Ibs...My hotel actually has free parking (one of the main reasons I chose it), so driving shouldn't be an issue. But I definitely want to ride the EL at least once!

                              As for Fox and Obel...since it seems it's mostly the bakery items that are the "must" get items...any recommendations??

                              Thanks to everyone on here for all the great tips and advice!!

                              1. re: umieesa
                                nsxtasy May 17, 2011 02:22 PM

                                >> As for Fox and Obel...since it seems it's mostly the bakery items that are the "must" get items...any recommendations??

                                Oh, absolutely! I'll go around the bakery counter, side by side. (It's a square, standalone counter in the middle of the store - kind of hard to miss.) And I'll pick out "best of the best" at the end. (1) One side faces the produce counter, and there isn't much - I think there's a coffee machine where you can help yourself, maybe. (2) Walking around to the Illinois Street side of the counter is where you'll find some of my favorite items. They have cinnamon swirl rolls that I LOVE. They are not the cinnamon overkill you'll find in some places, but instead, they use a very rich dough. They are the top of my "don't miss" list. And if you like bran muffins, theirs are the very best I have ever had, anywhere. This side also has bulk bagels (I haven't gotten them there), and a table where they set out miscellaneous stuff (this morning, for the first time, I saw genoise shells there that would be good for making into something). (3) Continuing to walk around the bakery counter counter-clockwise (no pun intended), the next side, which faces the prepared food counter, has four sections. The first section has various breads that they will put into a bag for you. These are fantastic. They have a rustic raisin nut bread that has dried apricots in it and which I love. The next section on this side is a rack of breads in plastic bags. I love the brioche loaf, eaten plain, in sandwiches, or made into French toast. I've been not so thrilled with their cinnamon bread. The next section on this side has artisanal chocolates which are NOT made in-house and I have not tried. The last section on this side has individual-portion-sized pre-packaged desserts, some of which I love. One is bread pudding with caramel sauce; another is chocolate brut, which is basically a chocolate-flavored bread pudding, and both of these items are excellent, and even better if you briefly warm them in the microwave before eating. Sometimes they have individual slices of tres leches cake which is excellent. They do an excellent banana pudding (the kind with vanilla wafers). They do a rice pudding which is... (runs to the fridge to taste) ...excellent. Other things here which are pretty good include slices of carrot cake, red velvet cake, and "fat boys" ("whoopies"). Finally, (4) the remaining side, which faces the packaged goods, is the pastry side. Things you'll find here include various tarts (coconut cream tart, key lime tart, fruit tart), cupcakes, whole cakes, and on the top shelf, individually-packaged cookies and rice krispie bars.

                                To a large extent, what to get depends on what you like. For example, if you like banana pudding with vanilla wafers, you'll probably find that theirs is the best you've ever had, but if you don't, well... Same thing for the bran muffins - if you like them, theirs is probably the best you've ever had. I would call those items "don't miss" IF you particularly enjoy that dish. Other than that, if I had to name the things that I almost always get when I go there - the "best of the best" - they would be the cinnamon swirl rolls, the puddings, the tres leches cake, and the rustic fruit and nut bread.

                                Oh, and if you're driving to Fox & Obel, they validate parking for up to two hours in the garage of the high-rise across the street. To get there, drive past F&O eastbound on Illinois Street, and drive into the first entrance for a parking ramp that goes down, right before the end of the block. Then follow the orange signs to the specially-designated parking spaces for F&O customers. When you take the elevator up and walk out to the street and turn left, you'll be just a few steps from F&O. Bring your parking ticket with you; when you check out at F&O, step over to the customer service counter on the far side of the cashiers and they will validate the parking ticket so you don't have to pay.

                                1. re: nsxtasy
                                  u
                                  umieesa May 17, 2011 02:55 PM

                                  ooooohhhhh nnsxtasy I'm drooling from this post. I'm a HUGE bread pudding lover, and I've only had tres leches cake once, but definitely willing to try again ;)

                                  I think everything you described I'd be interested in trying. Since I was planning to go here on our last day I'm thinking I can just buy a whole bunch of things and bring them back for the ride home! Can't wait!!

                                  1. re: umieesa
                                    nsxtasy May 17, 2011 02:57 PM

                                    I should mention, they didn't have the tres leches cake this morning and I haven't seen it there in a while. They had everything else, though.

                                    Oh, and sometimes they run out of certain things (such as the cinnamon swirl rolls), but they still have a few left in the cafe in the rear of the store.

                                    1. re: nsxtasy
                                      u
                                      umieesa May 17, 2011 03:17 PM

                                      That's okay...as long as they have bread pudding and the cinnamon rolls I'm good! Should be there by 9:30, do things usually sell out that early?

                                      1. re: umieesa
                                        nsxtasy May 17, 2011 04:16 PM

                                        At 9:30 a.m. you should be fine, at least on the cinnamon swirl rolls, which I'm pretty sure is their most popular item. I was there at 11:15 this morning and they had a ton of cinnamon swirl rolls (I'm guessing maybe 8-10 of them - and BTW they're really really BIG). However, I only saw one portion of bread pudding in the refrigerator case this morning, which I bought. :) I think they probably bake all the bread type stuff (rolls, breads, muffins) every day, so they should have a plentiful supply in the morning, but I suspect things like puddings and bread pudding and other refrigerated pastries may remain on sale for a couple of days, so an item might sell out if they didn't make them that particular morning.

                                        1. re: umieesa
                                          uhockey May 17, 2011 04:20 PM

                                          Been there thrice and they've only had the bread pudding once after noon.

                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                            2. q
                              Querencia May 19, 2011 07:14 AM

                              Consider Eggsperience, Ontario & Dearborn so right on your route as you walk from hotel to Michigan Avenue. To see its menu (and 3000 other menus) go to <chicago restaurant menus> for great cyber-browsing.

                              -----
                              Eggsperience
                              2000 Tower Dr, Glenview, IL 60026

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Querencia
                                f
                                ferret May 19, 2011 07:45 AM

                                Eggsperience, while wholly competent, gives off a chain-y vibe (it's being rolled out across the Chicago area). I eat at the one in the Glen frequently and have never been disappointed, but it's not worth displacing the truly unique options.

                                -----
                                Eggsperience
                                2000 Tower Dr, Glenview, IL 60026

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