Lakeview is in the midst of a restaurant renaissance, and Ella Elli is the OG. When they opened on the corner of Southport and Cornelia back in 2017, the elevated fare and 1920s inspired décor was a novelty for the area. In the years since, major restaurant groups like Boka, Lettuce Entertain You, and Gage Hospitality have descended on the area, and similarly upscale restaurants like Coda di Volpe, Mordecai, and Dutch & Docs have become neighborhood staples.
The restaurant invited us in to treat us to brunch. I had been in for dinner three times before, and the last time I was there, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was sitting next to us. So it’s definitely still a destination! My dinner experiences in the past have been pretty good. It was a place I would happily stop in if I was in the neighborhood, but the experiences didn’t leave me rushing back. Spoiler alert: my brunch at Ella Elli this weekend exceeded my dinner memories, and I probably will be rushing back!
The 75-seat space is small, and the decor is impressive: plush velvet furniture in muted red, pink, and gray tones, punctuated with sparkly light fixtures, gold accents, and big windows. The space is elegant and bright.
After they seated us in a comfy booth, my friend Melissa and I ordered a couple of cocktails; the “cordially caffeinated” and the violet martini. The “cordially caffeinated” was like brunch in a cup! It was comprised of amaretto, maraschino, pamplemousse, crème de cocoa, and cold brew; light, frothy, and refreshing with hints of citrus and sweetness. It had all of the celebratory fun ingredients with the necessary Saturday morning caffeine jolt. The violet martini was small, adorable, and purple. It was made of gin, crème de violet, pineapple juice, and lemon. The gin was subtle, and the drink was well-balanced with a hint of sweetness.
Next came the bakery board – a brunch must! It was larger and more delicious than we anticipated. The highlights were the warm buttery croissant, the tiny poppy seed bagel with lemon-y tasting cream cheese, and – the bakery board winner – the apple cider doughnuts. They were moist and addicting with bits of apple baked in and topped with powdered sugar. The bakery board also came with homemade peach preserves – a brunch highlight. The preserves were sweet without tasting sugary, and we couldn’t resist a heaping helping on all of our pastries!
When the entrees arrived, we were immediately impressed with the presentation. This is the moment that Ella Elli’s brunch surpassed its dinner in my mind!
The French toast arrived already posing for Instagram: propped up on a beautiful black slate platter. It was layered with custard and cascaded in fresh berry preserves and powdered sugar. The berries offered a bold flavor, balancing out the dish’s sweetness. The bread was the perfect consistency and never got soggy. The custard made the dish taste creamy and rich. There was even something chocolate hidden in the middle. Our only complaint was that it was so decadent and filling that we couldn’t finish it.
The quiche was tall and beautifully plated with a side salad, both sprinkled with Havarti cheese. It was so tall and cheesy that from afar it could have been mistaken for a slice of thick, deep dish pizza! It was comprised of mushrooms, artichokes, and sun dried tomatoes. The artichoke and tomatoes each offered distinct and dominating flavors. The light salad balanced out the heavier flavors of the quiche, which was thick, moist, and tasty. It’s easily one of the best quiches I’ve seen on a Chicago brunch menu (right up there with Mordecai’s!).
We were impressed with every single thing we ordered at Ella Elli. I’ve always liked this restaurant, but brunch is definitely their strong suit. They even have a cute patio for when the weather warms up! Perhaps I am a jaded downtowner, but I also thought the pricing was quite reasonable.
The Bitches Say: five Champagne flutes
This elegant eatery in Lakeview has brunch dishes worthy of its ornate décor!
Ella Elli serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.