My cousin Meris was in town visiting me for a somewhat impromptu girls weekend. Meris travels constantly for work. So, unfortunately, she was unable to make it to Mexico for the fiesta that was my nuptials. So, when she offered to come for a girls weekend in the New Year, I was all for it. You don’t get to spend much time with wedding guests at your own wedding as is, her ability to make it 48 hours would certainly have been a waste! A girl’s weekend to catch up seemed like a much better idea.
So, Meris hopped on a plane from Washington for a long weekend to braved the cold temperatures here in Chicago. We had a few objectives for her visit, and above them all was eating, of course. Ramen, hot dogs, pizza, and Latin American food were on our list, as well as a brewery trip to Revolution, which was quite fun. Sunday we saved for brunch, of course. With errands to run up north, I looked for some spots in the Southport Corridor.
I love Southport, but I don’t get up to that neighborhood much. After venturing to all the typical “non-tourist spots for out of towners”, I was excited to show Meris yet another cool little gem. This cute spread of city blocks offers adorable boutiques, some big name stores, restaurants galore, and quaint cafés. I had remembered a cute spot I had seen last time I was in the Southport area and was curious to see if they offered brunch. As it turned out, they had just recently re-concepted the restaurant and were now offering weekend brunch… SCORE!
Vivial is a small, almost hidden gem on North Southport Avenue. When we walked into the restaurant, we realized that the exterior reflected the interior: small and understated. There are a few tables to the front of the restaurant, and a few tables to the back along the bar. The afternoon sun was just starting to venture west, providing lots of glorious light coming in the huge windows at the front of the restaurant, where we were seated.
The restaurant was really quiet, although there were a few people dining. I felt uncomfortable even scooting my chair out. I think that because the restaurant is so small, you feel like any common noise will draw attention. The host stand and the server station were also incredibly close our table, so our service was great— there was always someone stopping by to ask how we were doing!
This was a boozy brunch, and the Chef’s Bloody Mary sounded especially intriguing to both of us. When our Bloodys arrived, I must say, they were aesthetically beautiful. The drink was a beautiful red color, and a top the rim of the glass there was the inside of a cucumber with micro cilantro atop a bacon-tomato salsa. It looked so good! I wish I could say the same for the taste though.
The Bloody was interesting; the description stated there was mezcal, which excited me. I love the smokiness mezcal gives to a drink. Unfortunately, the Mezcal did not go well with the peppercorn-infused vodka. While I could sip mine periodically throughout the meal, Meris could not stomach more than two sips. Eventually she ordered a coffee, which took a really long time to arrive at the table, but the blend was delicious.
For starters, two things caught my eye. The cast iron cornbread with honey butter, and the frisee lardon salad. Truth be told, I love a good frisee salad at brunch! Especially topped with an egg. Meris wasn’t a frisee fan I discovered upon arrival of the dishes, but oh well, more for me! This one did not disappoint. I loved the light cherrywood smoked bacon vinaigrette.
The cornbread, on the other hand, was good but a bit dry. It was full of flavor though, I only wish it had been a little more moist. I did enjoy the honey butter that came with it, and the nuts were a nice crunchy touch, too.
For entrees, Meris opted for the French toast and I went for our server’s recommendation:the breakfast burrito. Both arrived hot and beautiful. Meris’ French toast tasted as delicious as it looked—thick cut Brioche with blackberry compote, and a vanilla custard drizzled on top. It also had crumbled toasted granola on top, which was added a nice texture to the dish.
My burrito was presented beautifully, but unfortunately, it did not taste as good as it looked. Maybe I am biased, but my local watering hole and pub has a darn good breakfast burrito, and it’s very simple! It might be that I prefer tomatoes in my burrito over peppers, but the peppers in this burrito were overpowering. Also, I wasn’t a huge fan of the maple sausage; I would have preferred regular breakfast sausage, it was just too much for me.
I must say, I really did want to love this place. The menu seemed intriguing, and the staff and the service was fantastic. Unfortunately, flavors and execution with a few of the dishes, along with the uncomfortable ambience, left a lot to be desired. The trendy, slow house music being played left me with a headache as I exited. I believe with a little work though, this place could be awesome. Vival is a cool space and although brunch wasn’t amazing, I won’t be deterred from giving them a second shot at dinner.
The Bitches Say: C+. The staff is wonderful, and the place most definitely has potential. Unfortunately, some of the drinks and dishes on the new brunch menu weren’t that awesome as they seemed, and the uncomfortable ambiance didn’t aid in making the meal more enjoyable.
3755 N. Southport Ave.
Chicago IL 60613
Vivial serves Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.