How the year has flown by! We officially launched in Chicago with the addition of our two tremendous Windy City editors, Allison and Alexis. Together, they are exploring the variety of vibrant neighborhoods and brunching at some of the best restaurants this food-centric city has to offer.
They’ve also met a crew of smart and savvy fellow bloggers, attended fantastic events, and mingled with like-minded Chicago foodies. Not to mention they’ve had the pleasure of connecting with some of our Chicago readers, which has been especially rewarding.
In 2015, the Chicago team brunched at more than 50 restaurants. As we wrote this recap, we would be lying if we said we weren’t feeling super nostalgic about the year. We have made lifelong connections and bonded over mimosas by way of brunching and Bitching.
Some of us are Chicagoans by birth, and some of us are totally new to this city. Regardless, together we have been able to explore all it has to offer through many different lenses. We are discovering all 70+ Chicago neighborhoods one bite at a time, and we’re really excited to share it with our readers.
2016 is upon us and we have only started to make our mark on Chicago. Read our New York Best & Worst here and our Washington, D.C., Best & Worst here. We look forward to continuing this epic eating adventure with you!
Best Family Brunch: Southport Grocery A quaint, quiet shop that is nestled in the Southport Corridor, Southport Grocery is the perfect place to take your family for a well-balanced brunch. Waits are long but that doesn’t stop people from coming in and dining here regularly.
Best Weekday Brunch: Kanela Cafe
With locations all over the city and with it open every day, Kanela Cafe, is the perfect place to enjoy a weekday brunch with family, friends, or guests from out of town. Their locally sourced and primarily organic menu will be a hit for everyone!
Best Brunch for Seafood Lovers: Hampton Social
Craving seafood for brunch? Then you best head to our favorite themed restaurant, Hampton Social. With their seafood variety and creative incorporation of seafood in their cuisine, this is a go-to for seafood lovers.
Best Ambiance: Presidio
With cozy decor, dim lighting, and exposed brick walls, Presidio is the place to dine when seeking a laid-back, comfortable dining experience that doesn’t leave you shouting across your table to your friends. So, grab your friends, or go on a brunch date and you won’t be left disappointed.
Best Decor: Nellcote
Looking for glitz and glamour? You’ll find it at the upscale European inspired restaurant, Nellcôte in the West Loop. Even the bathrooms are très cute. The opulent atmosphere is filled with crystal chandeliers, a rich color palette and cozy velvet tufted couches. The decor is so well done, you’ll feel as though you’ve been whisked away to Paris. We love this spot for a romantic brunch date or an upscale ladies brunch.
Best Brunch Date Brunch: Chopping Block
We really enjoyed making our own brunch and then enjoying the fruits of our labor at a cooking class at the Chopping Block. We highly recommend for a fun brunch date.
Best Fancy Brunch: Summer House Santa Monica
Summer House Santa Monica is a beautiful restaurant with an upscale and modern menu; it is the kind of outing you want to dress up for. We loved dining here and felt really fancy when doing so. It is the perfect place to show off to your knowledge of chic places to friends visiting the Windy City.
Best Patio: Chop Shop
Chop Shop doesn’t have a skyline or Lake Michigan view, but it does have a pretty stellar private patio nestled in the heart of Wicker Park. Surrounded by beautiful brick buildings and littered with bright yellow vintage chairs, Chop Shop truly does have a picture perfect patio to enjoy a long summertime brunch.
Best International Brunch: Takito Kitchen
Takito Kitchen’s two locations in Chicago—the West Loop and Wicker Park—are fabulous spots to find International brunch flavors. They don’t boast the breakfast classics like eggs and pancakes, but they do have a huge variety of authentic yet modern Mexican dishes to choose from during brunch hours.
Best Winter Brunch: Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Bucktown is our favorite spot for a cozy, winter brunch. The reason may be obvious, but we can’t describe enough how amazing the hot chocolate truly is. Try it for yourself paired with their seasonal farm to table brunch menu, you won’t regret it this winter!
Best Meats Brunch: Smoke Daddy
Smoke Daddy puts a meaty twist on brunch classics. From their pulled pork Benedict to their classic BBQ platters paired with house-made sauces, you can’t go wrong with Smoke Daddy for smokey, heavy brunch flavors. Also one of our favorite spots for a game-day brunch!
Best BYOB Brunch: WHISK
The wait at WHISK in West Town may be hefty, but the pancakes and BYOB policy are worth your precious time. Carbo-load over mimosas with their decadent pancake flavors and you’ll be feelin’ good all day long. Bonus: It’s right across from a Mariano’s in case you forget the booze!
Best Group Brunch: Old Town Social
Looking for a spot to bring a big group? Whether you’re celebrating a birthday over brunch or looking to watch a big game, Old Town Social is ready to accommodate. With a new brunch menu this year, bring your group here for a fun day in classic Old Town.
Most Instagramable:The Winchester
The Winchester is beautiful inside and out and so is the food that comes out of the kitchen. With pristine presentation and Eggs Benedict that looks like the one above, who can resist hashtagging that! #brunchgoals
Best Cafe: Bite Cafe
So much more than just a cafe, this award goes to Bite Cafe. Serving a fun breakfast menu daily, in addition to weekend brunch, this is the perfect spot to start your day with a coffee fix, and hang for a few hours into lunch. The food is delicious, they are more than just a cup of joe. Lovely Cafe was a close second. We have brunched at plenty of great java spots, so this choice wasn’t easy.
Best Sports Bar: Replay Andersonville
If we had to go one place and hang out all day to watch sports, we would hope it was somewhere like Replay Andersonville. Their food is awesome, but their space is equally as good. With TVs everywhere it is perfect for the sport fanatic, but it’s friendly arcade ambiance as well as it’s diverse crowd make this the perfect place for anyone to hang out all day on Sunday during football season.
Best Hipster Brunch: Trenchermen
Self proclaimed hipsters tend to know the best low key places to dine and drink, they just don’t like to share! Thankfully we know where to go and we are happy to tell others! Trenchermen, located in the heart of Wicker Park, is chic restaurant with a modern menu is the perfect place for hipsters and non-hipsters alike.
Best Party Brunch: Headquarters Beercade
Brunching with friends is always fun, but if you really want a good time with your group, Headquarters Beercade is where it at! Large rooms perfect for bigger groups, fun drinks and an envious beer list make this place perfect for a Sunday Funday, but what really makes it a good time are the walls lined with vintage arcade games—did we mention they’re free?
Best Bakery: Baker Miller
While West Town Diner has amazing doughnuts, and Lovely Bake Shop has delicious pastries and desserts, Baker Miller is a step above the rest with their breads, and other grain-focused selections. Best bread in the city so far.
Best No-Frills Brunch: Nookies
We appreciate a no-frills brunch almost as much as we enjoy a fancy all-frills brunch. With mom and pop shops all across the city, there are so many great in-and-out joints to choose from. Nookies did a great job getting us full; you are in and out and satisfied.
Best Brunch-to-Lunch: Replay Andersonville
We had to make an award for this category, because there are some people who are not as enthusiastic as we are about breakfast foods. Replay Andersonville get this award for having equally fantastic lunch items on the brunch menu. They have gazpacho on the menu, for crying out loud, it is is really good.
Most Affordable Brunch: Standard Market Grill
We wouldn’t change anything about our dining experience at the Standard Market Grill in Lincoln Park. We all left full, and for no more than $20 per person. Affordable and delicious, so the Bitches say Yes.
Best Overall: Lula Cafe
Lula Cafe wins this category. From the service, to the decor, and of course the amazing food, we just love this Logan Square gem. This is one spot we could eat at again, and again, and again.
Worst Decor: Batter and Berries
While Batter and Berries may wow us with their lobster eggs Benedict, we were less than impressed with the interior decor presented in the restaurant. Harsh yellow walls and what appears to be randomly selected artwork on their walls is not our style, but they certainly have great food.
Worst Bang For Your Buck: Yolk
Whenever you think ‘diner’, most of the time reasonable prices come to mind, right? Well, when it comes to the diner staple, Yolk, you’ll find nothing but diner food at higher prices.
Most Likely to Improve: Hampton Social
While Hampton Social got our Best Seafood Lovers Brunch award, they best make haste and remedy some of their service issues. When Hampton Social had their grand opening, they were the hottest thing since lobster deviled eggs but reviews regarding their service were less than admirable. Hopefully they work out the kinks and maintain their current direction.
Most Gimmicky: Hash House A Go Go
The closest thing the Gold Coast has to a tourist trap is the king of all portions, Hash House A Go Go. Part of their whole deal is to serve outrageous portions but slightly elevated prices because hey, it costs more to make one big 16” pancake than it does to make 10 normal sized ones, right? Not really.
Longest Wait Time: WHISK
We love WHISK, but we don’t love their long wait times. Caused by a combination of a tiny space and a BYOB policy that everyone loves, get here early or don’t come at all. Although their brunch is worth the wait, we hope they can expand in 2016.
Worst Brunch Attempt: Takito Kitchen
We loved the authentic Mexican food at Takito Kitchen, but we didn’t love their lack of brunch options. The menu feels like lunch, leaving you missing the classic breakfast dishes like a hearty scramble or sweet French toast. Takito Kitchen knows what it’s good at, we can at least appreciate that.
Biggest Letdown: Belly Q
We were really excited to brunch at Belly Q, the contemporary Asian hot spot in West Loop, and we were really disappointed when Brunch left more to be desired. Complicated menu items and cold food made this brunch experience a serious let down, not to mention an inattentive wait staff. We might go back for dinner, but we won’t be recommending this spot for brunch anytime soon.
Lack of Creativity: Nookies
While we enjoy the no-frills aspect of Nookies, they do lack a little creativity. This place does a great job with breakfast dishes, but eggs aren’t that difficult. You can expect simple breakfast dishes like sandwiches and pancakes. Not a whole lot to choose from.
Worst Overall: Orange Restaurant
When it comes to bad decor, lackluster food, and leaving you disappointed all around, you have Orange Restaurant in Lincoln Park. After reading all the reviews on this restaurant, we were shocked to have it be so ho-hum.