Brunch reviews: Jam, Sable, Meli's Cafe
First I want to thank all the Chowhounders that so generously post their experiences. Chicago is a huge city and we only had 3 days and 2 of our meals were proscribed by wedding a related events so we wanted to get things right for the meals we could choose. We never could have done so well without Chowhound.
We decided to hit Jam for brunch on our way into town from the airport on Friday. It gets great reviews here on CH and the menu online looked fabulous. I'm sorry to report that we were pretty disappointed. Many of the items on the website menu were not on the menu when we got there but what they did have looked like it would be delicious so we happily ordered:
Poached eggs on potato/leek pancakes with smoked salmon, hollandaise, over fennel slaw: The potato leek cakes were crisp and tasty but the hollandaise was lacked any tartness and there wasn't much of it. One of the eggs was over poached. The salmon was a house smoked chunk of fresh salmon and was quite dry. The few strands of fennel slaw were tasty but a little odd texturally for this dish.
We also had the poached eggs on English muffin with crisp pork belly and sauce verde: Perfectly poached eggs but the house made "English muffin" was quite thick, very tough and chewy, and dry as a bone. The sauce was completely tasteless but the pork belly was crisp, rich and delicious.
Wanting something sweet we also ordered the Pecan sticky bun: Similar texture to the "English muffin," dry, and tough but sweet and sticky with plenty of pecans.
Maybe we ordered the wrong things and/or maybe we hit them on a bad day but I would never go again and I wouldn't recommend it. What a disappointing first meal in Chicago. Fortunately, things improved greatly!
Saturday morning we went to Sable for brunch. Absolutely delicious! We had the strawberry marscapone stuffed brioche French toast, which was some of the best French toast I've ever eaten (and I've eaten a lot of great French toast!)
We also had wild mushroom and spinach eggs Benedict which was also fantastic. The hollandaise was nice and lemony, the eggs were perfectly poached, and the flavor of the wild mushrooms was rich and earthy. The English muffin was well toasted and stood up well to all the moisture from the veggies, eggs and sauce. Just great. Plenty of hot coffee and great, friendly service. We loved Sable and decided then and there we'd go back for dinner or a late night snack if we could fit it in somewhere over the weekend.
Monday morning we needed somewhere easy to hit on our way out of town. Sunday night we stayed in Greektown, where the wedding was, and Chowhounders came to our rescue with a great rec and directions for how/where to catch the L back to the airport. We rolled our luggage the 3 blocks to Meli Cafe and boy were we glad we did! It's an impressive menu and it was very hard to choose!
We were both in the mood for sweet so I had the streusel challah French toast, fresh berries, caramelized brown sugar oat crust. Served with real maple syrup and covered with fresh black raspberries, strawberries and blueberries it was fantastic. My husband had blueberry buttermilk pancakes with sausage links. Excellent pancakes and distinctive sausage, not your run of the mill industrial breakfast sausage. Lots of very hot coffee and friendly efficient service. I'd return in a heartbeat and definitely recommend it. And only a couple of short blocks to the Blue line to head out to the airport!