Summer in Chicago means a lot of things: festivals, beach days, food fests, and plenty of time exploring the city. Lincoln Park is especially bustling during summer, between the beach and volleyball courts, the zoo, and all of the wonderful paths and trails the park has to offer, it is one of the best places to spend your weekend in the city. Lincoln Park is vast and stretches all the way up and down Lake Shore Drive. With so much ground to explore, mapping out when and where to stop for food is something I suggest planning ahead of time.
Fear not, for I have your brunch plans covered! Café Brauer is a historic building and restaurant located in the heart of Lincoln Park, that truth-be-told I had never heard of. I had always been aware that there were a few restaurants located actually in the park, but I always assumed that they were overpriced and kitschy restaurants that had not-so-great food. Café Brauer was two out of those three things. Nonetheless, I still highly recommend it as a place to get brunch.
I will get the negatives out of the way first. I was kindly invited in to check out the restaurant. And, I messed up my dates on the calendar, I was happy that the restaurant was still able to accommodate me on this particular Sunday aside from the reservation confusion. I arrived with my sister-in-law, Anisha, and our three dogs in tow, prepared to take full advantage of Café Brauer’s gorgeous, pet-friendly patio with our pupsters.
It was no surprise that Café Brauer was busy as all get out. The weather was perfect on this Sunday and the park was filled with families, tourists and city-dwellers looking to enjoy their day in the park to the fullest. With the restaurant being as busy as it was, Anisha and I were extremely to surprised what appeared to be only a few staff members working the patio. Waters arrived promptly to our table, but we were not greeted by our server until more than ten minutes after arriving. The server only arrived after we got up to ask for one.
Not one to let first impressions set the tone for the entire meal, I was optimistic about the rest of our brunch. But, I became disappointed when I saw the tables around us encountering the same problems. It is really close quarters on the patio, so when another table is trying to flag down a waitress, or complaining loudly about the service, you pick up on it. The service was sparse, and it was honestly confusing as to who had what table.
I must say though, that the bussers and the folks assisting with tables by clearing plates and refilling waters did a fantastic job. It was incredible to watch them work so hard, while our server was no where to be found for five, ten, even fifteen minutes at a time. I guess it goes without saying that this was a very long brunch.
Now, for some positive light on our brunch experience, I will say that the food was really great, and the ambiance can’t be beat. The restaurant is located right in the center of Lincoln Park, overlooking the beautiful pond by the zoo. The patio at Café Brauer is large, and covered in the event of rain, making it the perfect spot to take in the beauty of Lincoln Park in any weather.
We began our meal with the yogurt parfait and a fresh fruit plate. Anisha is vegetarian, so she’s very enthusiastic about fruit. But, I also love a good fruit platter and bowl of yogurt. The fruit plate was a beautiful spread, but the yogurt was absolutely incredible.
The yogurt was delicious! Made with roasted pears, local organic honey, and served with crumbled pistachios and granola, this was a clear winner. We enjoyed this until the last bite, it was really fantastic.
For entrees, I opted for the breakfast burrito, and by the time it arrived to the table, I was happy I had ordered it. Despite enjoying our starter items, my appetite had increased immensely now that we were 45 minutes into our meal. My requested side of sour cream never arrived to the table, but the breakfast burrito was delicious nonetheless. I enjoyed it a lot.
Anisha’s egg white omelette was served with arugula, tomatoes, and avocado. Though surprisingly none of it was inside the omelette— it was all served on the side. She had requested a whole wheat bagel as her bread of choice and was instead given whole wheat toast, but it wasn’t too big of a deal. The omelette was a nice size and delicious, but nothing terribly special.
Overall, the brunch at Café Brauer was to be expected; the restaurant is a little pricey for the food, and isn’t super fancy, but you are paying for the view, which is totally worth it. The staff was very nice, though the service was memorable in a bad way. The food was better than expected, and the restaurant offers a variety of dishes to please everyone, making it a great place to gather the family and get together for brunch in the park, as many of the patrons were.
We will definitely come back to Café Brauer again, and just hope that next time there will be more staff on hand to help our meal go a little faster, so that we have more time to enjoy the park.
The Bitches say: C+. Café Brauer is a great spot with a magnificent view of Lincoln Park. They have a variety of good food options, and while the service wasn’t the best, the experience overall was still wonderful. If you plan on taking full advantage of the park, this is an excellent choice for a weekend brunch.
Café Brauer serves weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.