When the old Essex Inn closed last year for a gut rehab, I couldn’t wait to see what the modern upgrade would give us. Now reopened as the Essex Hotel Chicago, my boyfriend, Alex, and I were thrilled to be invited to check out their ground-floor French bistro, the aptly named Grant Park Bistro.
The restaurant has a stately patio on the wide, Michigan Avenue sidewalk, with flowers and hanging plants separating diners from those strolling by. Inside is just as upscale, with a tile inlay on the floor and a beautiful mural on the wall behind the bar. Booth seating lines the wall across from the bar, with hightop tables and stools facing the windows. A separate dining room can be found in the interior of the restaurant; a mirrored wall makes up for the lack of windows to make the space feel larger and more open.
Alex and I took a hightop by the bar and perused the menu. Grant Park Bistro serves classic mimosas and Bloody Marys for brunch, but their full cocktail menu is also available (and served outside of brunch hours). Each of their cocktails features a different type of liquor, so there’s an option for everyone, no matter what you prefer. The menu offers standard brunch dishes (omelets, Benedict, scrambles), so I kept with the traditional vibe and ordered a mimosa. They are generous with the bubbly here, so mimosas are a great option with this brunch! Alex ordered the coffee, which came served in a glass mug with an incredibly small handle. I bring this up because glass mugs can get really hot, and if you can’t comfortably hold the mug without burning your hand, how are you supposed to drink it? It’s an odd complaint, I know, but you don’t want to annoy someone before they’ve had their morning coffee!
Being a French bistro, Alex and I had to try a pastry. We went with the chocolate croissant because I love them. Grant Park Bistro’s croissants are on point. It was flaky, buttery, the chocolate was sweet, and my dreams were fulfilled.
Alex chose the traditional Benedict for his entrée, but added avocado to the dish. The avocado added excellent flavor and they did a great job poaching the eggs. The hollandaise was light, exactly what you want in a hollandaise sauce. He wasn’t a fan of the potatoes, which he claimed tasted funny to him, but I didn’t taste anything wrong with them.
I had a tough time picking something out on this menu, mostly because each dish that looked interesting had an ingredient I didn’t really like (sorry mushroom lovers!). I ultimately went with the vegetarian scramble, which was delicious! The pesto drizzled on top is what did it for me; it paired well with the eggs and I’m surprised I haven’t seen this anywhere else before. It also seriously upped the game on the omelet’s presentation, which we appreciate as food photographers. The tomato and asparagus were well cooked, and I’m happy to say I enjoyed my breakfast potatoes.
Also worth noting: their service is super fast! I highly recommend this location if you’re on your way to a nearby museum or need a bite to eat while strolling through Grant Park. While the menu is not especially adventurous, they do a good job with classic brunch staples. Next time, we would love to see some French-inspired brunch cocktails to pair with the delicious pastries!
The Bitches Say: Three Champagne Flutes!
The South Loop’s Grant Park Bistro is a classic brunch option, great for a brunch date or outdoor meal while exploring the park and local museums.
Grant Park Bistro serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.