A few weeks prior to Christmas, Allison and I were asked by Sean, the Chicago Editor at Thrillist, to contribute for an end of the year recap of our favorite new brunches of 2015. Needless to say, we were delighted to be featured on Thrillist, and share our brunch knowledge with its audience.
One of the things we love about being brunching Bitches is that we get to help friends and acquaintances decide on where to dine based on our wealth of brunch knowledge. Is your friend in town and looking to take them to a fancy spot? We have got you covered. Looking for a cheap brunch spot with amazing food? We know just the place. Are you in the mood for a BYOB brunch? Check out this dive! I’d like to say that together, Allison and I are a brunch force field. The force is strong in these ones.
We normally spend our time brunching separately. We live in different parts of the city, and like to spend our weekends covering as much ground as possible, when it comes to brunch spots. So, it is always a treat when we get to brunch together once or twice a month. To have the opportunity to brunch with someone else who is as enthusiastic about food as we are? It was a double treat.
We had begun scheduling our triple-brunch-date with Sean around the holidays, so when we finally were able to schedule something in early January that worked for everyone. I remembered that I had been invited to brunch at Carnivale, and that the restaurant was also debuting a new Bloody Mary bar with a pajama party sometime in early January, as well. As fate would have it, it worked out that it was the same weekend as our get together.
Meeting people in your pajamas might be one of the most honest ways to meet someone. We arrived at Carnivale to discover restaurant patrons, staff, and management all in pajamas—what fun! If you haven’t visited Carnivale before, then I must give you a feel of the restaurant. It is like a carnival, which I hope comes as no surprise, given its name. The restaurant is full of bright colors and loud artwork everywhere; a big homage to its Latin American and Caribbean influences. In addition, in the main dining room aerial trapeze ropes hang from the sky-high ceilings. That combined with the pajama-clad customers really made for a Sunday Funday!
Upon being seated, we were promptly greeted by our extremely friendly and informative server. After giving us a brief history of the restaurant and its culinary influences, he referred us exactly to what we were there for in the first place: the Bloody Mary bar. The Bloody bar was most certainly deserving of a party in its honor. From mini empanadas and shrimp, to a cheese and charcuterie selection, the amount of toppings was almost overwhelming, but in a good way.
After making our very own Bloodys (Sean and I prefer spicy; Allison loaded hers with toppings), we ordered appetizers for the table. We chose the bacon-wrapped dates and the ropa vieja at the recommendation of our server. We were most excited about the dates, and they were delicious. The tart of the apple relish with the crunch of the endive, really made the dates delightful to eat, not to mention flavorful. The fan favorite of our table though, had to be the roja vieja. These little mini taco-like bites were incredible, with the skirt steak braised to perfection.
For entrees, Sean went savory with the carnita chilaquiles, which he devoured instantly, a result of his appetite and the deliciousness of the dish, he said. Allison opted for sweet and went with the Carnivale waffle, with a minor substitution of only strawberries for fruit due to her allergy restrictions. I decided to follow both of their leads and go for sweet and savory with the chicken n’ waffles. And in true Bitch fashion, we ordered mimosas to go with our entrees.
The waffles at Carnivale are great and Allison and I were in heaven. Although we were starting to get a little bit satiated, we made room! They were light, fluffy, and buttery without the added butter provided. My chicken was cooked to a perfect crisp, and was extremely flavorful. Full disclosure, I had high expectations for the chicken; I love Latin American food because of the intense and aromatic flavors that can be incorporated into a single dish. The flavor of the chicken did not disappoint.
Carnivale clearly has a passion for food. The presentation of the food is well-executed, but what really stands out is the flavor profiles of the dishes. We finished our meal fully satisfied, and sadly did not have room for dessert this time. I did opt for a piping hot espresso, which for me was the perfect finish to our meal. I look forward to coming back with out of towners and showing them yet another fantastic restaurant Chicago has to offer.
The Bitches say: A. Carnivale is a fun, exciting restaurant with a menu that reflects the personality and Latin Caribbean flare of the restaurant. This is the perfect place for a group brunch, a party brunch, or to take family visiting out of town.
702 W Fulton St.
Carnivale serves brunch on Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.