Whenever I go visit a neighborhood that I don’t frequent often, I am always astounded by how different the city can feel just a couple miles in any direction from where I live. I love how big Chicago is, and I love how different each neighborhood feels. One neighborhood in particular that I never seem to visit is the South Loop, so when I was graciously invited to try the brand new brunch at Belly Up Smokehouse & Saloon, I was excited!
Belly Up Smokehouse & Saloon is a new restaurant to the South Loop that is full of all things barbecue and country music, and there is plenty of both. The interior is rustic, open, and has a large retractable garage door front that creates an open-air feel. The decor is modest, laid-back, and comfortable.
Jill, Tracy, and I chose a table just inside of the retractable door that led out to the patio. It was too hot to be sitting in direct sunlight for brunch, but we still wanted to enjoy the breeze and relish in the inside-outside feeling—it won’t be around for much long!
For beverages, we all decided to steer clear of alcohol and went right for the caffeine. Per usual, Jill ordered a hot coffee, Tracy ordered an iced tea, and I ordered an iced coffee. We were presented with cream, and sugar galore. My iced coffee came with cream, and simple syrup, so I was able to create the perfect cup of iced coffee.
The three of us chatted about life, Jill’s upcoming nuptials, and Diner En Blanc, which I had attended the night before. WIth so much to chat about, we needed to be prodded by our lovely waitress to order our entrees.
When it came down to ordering, we decided on a strategy—Jill, Tracy, and I decided we wanted to try a variety of entrees, and that we would share. The best way to brunch, afterall!
Tracy chose our sweeter entree and went with the chicken and waffles, which came as a Southern fried chicken breast, golden waffle, and maple butter on the side. All of us were surprised at this presentation, as we are used to our chicken bring deep fried when it is atop a waffle. This chicken was not. Instead, the chicken was a whole chicken breast with minimal breading, and looked just lightly fried and baked.
The waffle was sweet, cakey, crispy on the edges, and soaked up the maple syrup like a sponge. The flavor of the waffle was delicious, but I think Tracy was thrown the most by the way the chicken was prepared—it was nonetheless delicious, but just different.
Jill decided to try one of the menu’s staple items and went with the breakfast sandwich, which was a jalapeno cheddar biscuit, fried egg, smoked ham, cheddar cheese, and country potatoes on the side. Jill was particularly impressed with the jalapeno cheddar biscuit, commenting that the biscuit was flaky and fluffy, yet it didn’t fall apart—a common obstacle with breakfast sandwiches. The breakfast potatoes on the side were also delicious, and Jill commented that she would absolutely order this dish again.
To go along with the Southern tradition that Belly Up touts, I decided to go with the pork belly and grits, which was smoked pork belly, Red Eye BBQ Sauce, and scallions atop cheddar grits. The pork belly was crispy on the edges, juicy, and tender. The cheddar grits offered a nice contrast to the pork belly, and were smooth, and mild.
My only reservation with this dish was the amount of Red Eye BBQ sauce that was lathered atop the pork belly. I almost wish it was half the amount, or simply offered on the side. It was a delicious dish, and I would order again, but perhaps I would them hold the BBQ sauce.
As we were finishing our entrees, our delightful waitress inquired if any of us were interested in dessert—oh, twist my arm! Shortly after, the owner presented our table with two pieces of pie: one slice of pecan pie, and the other a simple cheesecake with raspberries.
Of the two, I really enjoyed the cheesecake with the raspberry drizzle and raspberries on the side. The cheesecake was creamy, and the graham cracker crust was crumbly and light.
However, the pièce de résistance came at the end of the meal, and in a glass. Right before Tracy, Jill, and I were about to head out the door, the owner came up to us with a Bloody Mary to rule all other Bloody Mary’s. This “Meal in a Glass”—that’s the name—was a tower of fried goodies with a delicious Bloody Mary beverage to top it off. After everything the three of us had eaten, we didn’t know if it was possible to enjoy more food, but with such a presentation, we knew we had to try!
The Meal in a Glass includes a chicken wing, small grilled cheese sandwich, a piece of bacon, celery, an onion ring, fried pickle, and a salty and spicy Bloody Mary. Honestly, this would be the most perfect drink to order, and watch a football game on one of the numerous TVs at Belly Up. This beverage was by far the moment my perspective of Belly Up changed.
For a brand new brunch, Belly Up Smokehouse & Saloon has some chops—the breakfast sandwich and pork belly and grits being the stand outs—but where Belly Up really shines is with its creative drinks, and friendly and comfortable Southern atmosphere.
The Bitches say: B-. Belly Up Smokehouse & Saloon is where to go if it’s Sunday afternoon and you want to watch the football game, too.
Belly Up Smokehouse & Saloon
1132 South Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605
Belly Up Smokehouse & Saloon serves brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m to 3 p.m.