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Breakfast suggestions--help me decide!!

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!!

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  1. Skip Wishbone and Sather's. Add Tweet.

    10 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        lou mitchells jackson blvd chitown
        walker bros wilmette

        1. re: seminole phil

          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.

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

          1. re: seminole phil

            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

              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.

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              Ridgeview Restaurant
              827 Ridge Rd, Wilmette, IL 60091

              1. re: ferret

                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.

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

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

                1. re: chicgail

                  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

                  >> 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

                    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

                      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. 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

            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.

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            Bongo Room
            1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

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

            1. re: umieesa

              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. 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/enterta... 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. 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. 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

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                  Bongo Room
                  1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

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