There are few things better than summer in Chicago. The weather is actually tolerable, made even more so by its residents’ close proximity to Lake Michigan beaches and easy access to rooftop pools, and consequently everyone wants to maximize their time in the sunshine. This means that practically every restaurant with outdoor real estate dusts off their patio sets for brunch al fresco.
I rang in the Fourth of July in Chicago with a handful of my best friends, which was a weekend filled with a lot of laughs, fireworks, Goose Island beer, and of course brunch. I crashed with my friend Jackie who resides in Old Town so we gathered a group for a nearby brunch at Kanela Breakfast Club.
Kanela Breakfast Club has three locations across the city in Wrigleyville, Old Town, and Streeterville, which means that they must be doing something right. Jackie had glowing reviews from a recent brunch at the establishment and I was intrigued by the organic, Mediterranean-inspired menu offerings. Fun fact: kanela means cinnamon in Greek, which was found in abundance on the menu.
Three of my sorority sisters and a few of our boyfriends gathered at Kanela for the estimated 15-30 minute wait. In actuality, we were finally seated closer to one hour in, to the annoyance of our grumbling stomachs. We had hoped for outdoor seating, but took the first table for six that became available, which happened to be indoors. After we finally tracked down our frazzled server, we immediately ordered a round of cocktails and two orders of monkey bread to appease our mounting appetites.
We selected an assortment of standard Bloody Marys, mimosas, and beers for the boys, which all tasted fine except it took about twenty minutes for the drinks to arrive at our table. The computers were down at Kanela on this particular morning, which was blamed for the consistently slow service throughout our meal. Natalie and I branched out with some more interesting breakfast cocktails – the strawberry mimosa and a strawberry basil lemonade. Both drinks contained fresh juice and herbs, and went down easily. The perfect summer sips!
Since the drinks took so long to be delivered to our table, our entrees arrived shortly thereafter. By this time in the day, it was late afternoon so many in our party leaned towards the American lunch offerings rather than Mediterranean breakfast. Alex and Jackie were indecisive so went halfsies on two healthy mains. They raved about the chicken avocado sandwich, which was heaping with piping hot chicken, melted swiss, fresh spinach, avocado, and tomatoes, all atop a pretzel roll. However, their spicy black bean pesto wrap was lackluster. Despite its bold title, they found it dry and not very flavorful. After a few bites, they turned their attention back to the chicken avocado sammy.
Natalie, bless her heart, cheerfully met us for brunch despite being out in the wee hours in the morning following a best friend’s wedding. She detoxed from the fancy fête with a light egg white omelette. Her eggs were mixed with mushrooms, green peppers, onions, and salsa verde, topped with fresh avocado. She enjoyed the variety of veggies and remarked that the dish served its purpose as a guilt-free recovery vehicle.
Alex’s boyfriend David went with the cheesesteak, a risky order given that we were neither in Philadelphia or an American restaurant. The sandwich was classically prepared with marinated steak, melted swiss, grilled onions, and French bread. He should have just ordered a Greek-style sandwich because this dish missed the mark. He found it dry and overcooked, a sin among cheesesteak connoisseurs.
Andrew and I were on vacation mode in Chicago so we didn’t hold back and split decadent sweet and savory entrees. Our spicy feta omelette was well-prepared, but the eggs were overshadowed by the zippy spicy feta topping. We fought over every last bite of the spicy feta and ordered even more of topping to spread over toast. Kalena was clearly in its Greek-inspired element and nailed the perfect blend of spice and creamy cheese.
We originally had our eye on the bacon infused waffle, but were sadly informed that the kitchen was out of waffles. Go figure. We rerouted towards another similarly indulgent dish, the red velvet French toast. Basically, this was an excuse to eat red velvet cake for breakfast. The sinful carbs were topped with cream cheese frosting, fresh strawberry, and crème anglaise. This entree melted in our mouths, but no one could muster more than a few bites of the rich red velvet confection.
Although the monkey bread was intended as an appetizer, the sweet treats became dessert once they arrived halfway through our main courses. What’s there not to love about monkey bread? It was warm, gooey, and sugary, and enjoyed by everyone at our table.
The best thing about our brunch at Kanela Breakfast Club was the company. It’s always a blast catching up with my college besties, but we could have consumed more consistently delicious food in the Pi Phi dining room (Hi Alma!). To her credit, our server was apologetic about the delays due to the computer outage as we dutifully doled out cash to close our tab.
The Bitches say: C-. This disappointing brunch, filled with a series of disasters, may have been a fluke. I had high hopes for a restaurant that specialized in morning fare, but with all of the great dining options in Chicago, it is a breakfast club that I’d be better off not joining.
Kanela Breakfast Club
1552 N. Wells