Batter & Berries - yet another reason Chicago's Brunch Scene is the best in the US (perhaps the world?)
The Gist: No Website, BYOB, Breakfast and Lunch only.
The Why: Located in a city that I consider to have the best breakfast/brunch scene in the United States Batter & Berries I knew walking into this new Lincoln Park location that I was taking a risk – passing up another chance to dine at Bongo Room, Southport, m.henry, or 2 Sparrows in favor of the ‘new kid on the block’ – but focused on all-natural ingredients, honest-to-goodness local sourcing, and innovative breakfast/brunch/lunch dishes with a lot of tongue-in-cheek nods to the south Batter & Berries seemed like my sort of place.
The Reservation/Setting/Service: As one might expect from such a place, reservations are not necessary (nor taken,) though arriving around 8:45am on a Friday the traffic was still good, approximately ten tables turned during my 45 minute meal and with the space brightly lit, the music cheerful, and Chef Rylon checking in on tables frequently. With a coffee/pastry bar set at the center of the room and kitchen in back as only one server worked the room I’ll note that coffee went empty more than once, but aside from that Sam was pleasant, efficient, and full of knowledge and recommendations related to a rather extensive menu.
The food and drink: Coffee ($3) and Water, two entrees - $13 each.
La Colombe Coffee: Brewing Nizza with its characteristic deep caramel notes Batter & Berries had me at ‘hello’ with the coffee selection, though I will note that consistent with the all-natural theme only Stevia and Sugar in the raw are offered as sweeteners making me glad I’d pilfered a plethora of Equal from the Skyharbor Airport the day before.
Super Flight: Suggested by Sam as a way to make the most of the menu this plate featured half a slice of each daily French Toast option, on that day inclusive of blueberry, strawberry, lemon, caramel, and French vanilla. Generally a fan of maple syrup with my breakfast sweets but with none offered on this plate what I received would actually prove to be some of the best French Toast I’ve ever tasted as each piece of buttery brioche was infused with custard of a different flavor and subsequently topped with complimentary compote, spread, or cream. Crisp on the exterior and custard soft within it would be hard to choose a favorite and although I must say $13 seemed a bit excessive for the portion this was definitely a situation where you got what you paid for, each bite as good as the last.
Cluck N Gaufre: Reportedly a dish slowly becoming their “signature” this one really came out of left field; I mean sure I expected chicken and waffles but I didn’t expect tender bits of cooked chicken INSIDE the sweet potato waffle in addition to the tender and juicy breast drizzled with nutmeg spiked hot sauce on top. Tender and crispy – sort of like a potato pancake but rife with savory notes – and finished off with maple butter this dish touched on all parts of the palate with both sweet and savory coming through with aplomb as sweet and heat competed for attention on the tongue.
The Verdict: Another standout in a breakfast and brunch scene that outshines even those of New York and San Francisco a breakfast meal at Batter & Berries does not come cheap, yet with items far more interesting than your average diner and a chef/owner that clearly cares about his product and his customers I’d place Chef Rylon’s little eatery on Lincoln in the same league with 2 Sparrows and Bongo Room for innovative brunch fare and while the service needs a little work (or the restaurant needs more servers) I’d not hesitate to return or recommend it to anyone looking for a great breakfast.
The first time I ate at Batter & Berries I was pretty unimpressed. I had ordered one of the Belgique (waffle) offerings which I found to be unpleasantly sweet (I am not a fan of sweet-sweet foods). I am not diabetic, but I could have needed insulin before I got up from the table.
But I went back and had an astonishingly good omelet with crab and gouda. Another special featured lobster. Expensive, but really unusual and very good.
My only beef with the place is that they only serve stevia as an alternative to sugar for my coffee. My friendly waiter said that the owner is committed to natural and organic products only, which I normally applaud. It's just that I find stevia to have one of the most nastiest tastes I can think of and I would have loved to have had Splenda or even nutrasweet. Oh, well.
I enjoyed my lunch at Batter & Berries. They offer interesting savory dishes as well as sweet ones, so you can order whichever type(s) you most enjoy and are in the mood for. That's a real strength there, the ability to turn out excellent food of both types. I posted a detailed report in the big brunch discussion at www.chow.com/topics/364403#7767243
Man, uhockey, you get around - I've read your posts on the DC, LA (SF too?) and now Chi boards.
Thanks to this post though, my gf and i checked out Batter & Berries for brunch this past weekend, and were very impressed. Especially so since my gf tends to hate brunch. The wait wasn't bad either (and that includes me missing my first call for our table).
We ordered the french toast sampler, the goof and the traditional with chicken sausage. We felt like it might have been a little much (originally didn't order the french toast, but we were both really curious), but figured what the hell. We were glad we did, not because we didn't have enough food - we actually had a lot left over - but because everything was really good. The goof (a take on chicken n waffles) was a great combo of sweet, spicy and savory. The french toast was some of the best I've had, esp. the caramel french toast. Their chicken sausage and hashbrowns were also very good.
On top of all that, service was top notch. Highly recommend this place.