Nestled between the Wrigley Building and the Trump Tower lies Beacon Tavern, a rustic, seafood-focused restaurant by Gage Hospitality. It’s a sister restaurant to The Gage, Coda di Volpe, Acanto, and The Dawson. It opened in 2016 and is usually packed after work during summer hours, when its seasonal patio overlooks the Chicago River. They invited us in to treat us to brunch.
For a springtime weekend, it’s a quieter scene with cozy leather booths and a warm fire at the restaurant’s center – just what we needed on a brisk spring day. Bundled up in our Chicago winter coats, we wiggled into a leather banquet. Warning: the booths are made for summer bodies – but the menu is made for winter bodies! We got down to business with the cocktail menu.
While they don’t have a specific brunch cocktail menu, their regular cocktail list is comprehensive. One unusual and forward-thinking option was a “soft cocktail” list with a nice selection. It’s a perfect option for the growing sober-curious movement, the pregnant, and the hungover! Cheers to that – we can all benefit from a mocktail from time to time. We tried one regular cocktail and one soft cocktail for comparison.
The cocktail was called “crushing it,” made with bourbon, all spice, lemon, fresh berries, and mint. It looked – and tasted – like a mint julep, presented in a metal highball glass with a sprig of mint and blueberries. The mocktail – the “key lime phosphate” – was light and refreshing. We didn’t even miss the alcohol because the combination of lime, vanilla, cream, and soda tasted just like a cocktail without the guilt.
We paired our drinks with an order of the kouign-amann, which arrived on beautiful patterned porcelain dishes. The pastries were served room-temperature and were a bit tough to cut into. The exterior was hard and chewy, but the flavors and texture at the pastry’s center were dense, buttery, and a little bit addicting.
The most fun aspect of this brunch was the relish tray. An assortment of pickled vegetables, pimento cheese and Ritz crackers arrived in an amusing little tray with a porcelain chicken perched in the middle. It was different and delicious – maybe my favorite part of the brunch! The little chicken tray made us laugh and both the presentation and food reminded us of a comfy, country dinner party. The pimento cheese was especially delicious. It was an unusual touch for a trendy restaurant, but we loved it!
We tried three of the entrees. The first and best of the three was the buttermilk pancake with citrus marmalade, vanilla cream cheese, and toasted coconut. It was a fluffy, Japanese-style pancake that was an inch thick with a strong lemon flavor. It was more like a cake than a pancake! The vanilla cream cheese was sweet and airy, complementing and balancing the strong and very tart flavors of the marmalade. If we had ordered nothing else but this pancake, we would have left full.
The Maryland style crab cake was listed as a lunch item, but arrived by itself with no sides. We had no complaints since we had just inhaled the world’s most giant pancake, but it’s worth noting in case you are ordering the crab cake as your main dish. We recommend pairing it with something else if you’re ordering it as an entrée. The crab was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
While the crab cake was small, the breakfast sandwich was colossal! The chorizo was topped with multiple fried eggs, jack cheese, roasted tomato, and avocado and came with a lightly dressed side salad. The sandwich was so large that it had to be eaten in a deconstructed manner. There was plenty of flavor, with various savory elements.
The Bitches say: four Champagne flutes. There’s a lot to like about this River North brunch destination and its creative take on tavern classics.
Beacon Tavern serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.