In February, Spring temps seemed as unlikely as my daydream of skipping work and raging at Coachella. Ah, but finally, it seems as though Spring may finally be here, and my daydreams about Coachella, remain just that.
In Chicago, a Saturday in February that reaches 45 degrees is definitely a reason to be out-and-about around the city. On days like these, the majority of Chicagoans are either walking their dogs, pushing their strollers, meeting for coffee, or of course, brunching.
I met my parents one warm Saturday morning at Summer House Santa Monica. Summer House, as it’s often referred to, is a vibrant restaurant located in the heart of Lincoln Park. Post-brunch, we planned to walk around to the nearby shops at Halsted and Armitage, which made Summer House the perfect location to start our day.
Summer House is just that: a place that, no matter the season, feels like eternal summer. With a roof made solely of glass, the “Vitamin D Room” (the main dining area) has sunlight beaming through every panel, filling the room with a vibrant energy that so often eludes Chicago restaurants in the winter.
At the entrance, two inviting seating areas border the most appetizing pastry bar I’ve seen. I arrived before my parents, and as tempted as I was to try one of there made-from-scratch cookies (so hard denying myself a Salted Chocolate Chip) I decided to wait until we sat down to indulge.
We were seated in a cozy booth, tucked into a corner of the room where a “Sunglasses Required” sign certainly wouldn’t be out of place. The warm sun striking my skin was like an overdue reunion with my old friend, the seemingly forgotten summer day.
The menu at Summer House is quite diverse, ranging from breakfast tostadas, to caramelized French toast, to a Santa Monica egg white omelet, each with a fresh, California flair.
Coming off the heels of a girls wine night, I decided to start off with a latte, which was full of rich coffee flavor, but unfortunately, wasn’t piping hot.
Our first indulgence was buttermilk pancakes. There was some debate as to whether order the lemon-cottage cheese pancakes or the orange-chocolate chip pancakes, but our waitress advised us to follow the old ‘less is more’ adage, and to stick with the buttermilk. She didn’t steer us wrong. They were fluffy, almost pillow-like, and had the perfect dusting of powdered sugar. I prefer to taste the pancakes before dousing them in syrup, to truly savor the elements of the pancake batter. Rich notes of vanilla, sugar, and butter were in perfect harmony.
After we polished off the pancakes, we moved on to our entrees. After waffling back and forth among our various options, I committed to the three egg breakfast. The egg whites were supposed to be scrambled, but came out over-easy and a bit oily, which was disappointing. The rest of the dish, however, did not disappoint. The bacon was perfectly cooked and had a brown sugar maple glaze along the edges, making it the ideal combination of sweet and salty. The hash browns had that crisp outer edge that any truly great hashbrown must. And, ah yes, one of my favorite parts of Summer House: their homemade English muffins, light and airy and filled with nooks and crannies.
My mom, stuffed from the pancakes, opted for a lighter option: the organic steel cut oatmeal. The oatmeal was sprinkled with dried sour cherries—a personal fave of mine, so I had to sneak a few bites.
My dad opted for the breakfast sandwich – a towering, hand-held reformulation of my order. Egg whites, brown sugar maple crusted bacon, sharp cheddar, and—the star of the sandwich— the spicy mayo, were all layered on a the famous Summer House English muffin. A generous portion of fresh greens accompanied the sandwich, and were smothered in a vinaigrette that was tasty, but used a bit excessively.
We finished brunch, optimistic that this early spring weather would expedite Summer’s yearly arrival. The “Countdown to Summer” sign, hung by the door and informed us that we only had 133 days until we can put our Sorel boots and puffy coats back in the closet until next year.
The Bitches say: B. A sunshine oasis in central Lincoln Park and an ideal place to go with girlfriends, on a date, or with family. Fresh, made from scratch munchies satisfy those who love a sweet or savory brunch. A fun place to cure that summertime sadness.
1954 N Halsted St.
Summer House serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 8 a.m.