Breakfast and Brunch, Lunch, West Town, Wicker Park

Hash

Hash
Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch
Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Address: 1357 N. Western, Chicago, IL 60622
Phone Number: (773) 661-2964
Website

Price Range: $7-11
Our Rating: 4 out of 5

What We Tried: Pork Bubble and Squeak, Truffle Hash

Our Take: Another weekend, another brunch. But actually this wasn’t brunch, it was breakfast. This is an important distinction because it allowed us to go to lunch that afternoon. Ideal, if you ask me.

I digress. Hash is a cheery little spot in the heart of West Town with all the charm  of a classic 70s diner, the neighborhood vibe of your favorite childhood post-Church breakfast spot, and the “chalkboard-cool” aesthetic of a hip urban café. Though the place is small, we were seated right away. Hash uses an efficient order-at-the-counter system so even if you do have to wait, they move diners in and out pretty quickly so it won’t be long before you’re seated.

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nestled on a cozy corner in the heart of west town

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order-at-the-counter = less wait time

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yes, cookies before noon seems unhealthy, but it’s vegan sweets don’t count, right?

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avocado on the side will cost you extra, but not much at this ultra-affordable spot

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drizzle anything in truffle oil and i’m sold

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post-breakfast walk was on point

Carolyn and I decided to try one of the namesake dishes – a hash. Each hash comes with potatoes and other mix-ins topped with either one or two eggs, your way.

I opted for the Truffle Hash – perfectly crispy potatoes over sautéed kale and carrots drizzled with truffle oil and topped with two eggs, scrambled in my case. The truffle oil was definitely the key to this smooth, full-flavored dish, but the finely chopped sautéed kale and carrots were surprisingly welcome, if not traditionally desirable in an egg and potatoes dish.

Carolyn’s Pork Bubble and Squeak reminded me of pot roast with the addition of brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes – which is convenient because those are two of our favorite things. The pork shoulder was fall-apart-on-your-fork, while the mustard cream sauce added the perfect tangy zip to the otherwise classically flavored dish.

We both left satisfied, but more breakfast-full than I-can-go-without-eating-until-7pm-full – the ideal way to fuel our 5+ hour city walk!

This isn’t the place to go for your 3-hour bottomless mimosa brunch rolling 15 people deep, but if you’re looking for a fun spot to grab a quick (and cheap) breakfast, brunch, or lunch and a little piece of neighborhood in your big city life, Hash is the call.

-Meredith

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Bars, Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, Wicker Park

Trenchermen

Trenchermen
Brunch, Dinner, Drinks
Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Address: 2039 W. North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647
Phone Number: (773) 661-1540
Website

Price Range: $15-23 for brunch, $25-35 for dinner
Our Rating: 4.5 out of 5

What We Tried: Black Forest Ham & Gruyere Danish, Pork Flight, Pretzel Bagel, Bacon Mortadella Breakfast Sandwich, Avocado Toast, Kyle’s Breakfast Sandwich (AKA Breakfast Reuben)

Our Take: The building in which Trenchermen now resides opened during the 1920’s as the Luxor Russian Baths, a social space for hard-working immigrants to take a load off, steam, and grab a drink and bite to eat. Though the baths are long gone, many pieces of the building’s past have been incorporated into Trenchermen’s effortlessly hip Prohibition-era décor. More importantly, though, the friendly service and New American-style bistro food keep the Luxor’s “come in, stay awhile” attitude alive almost one hundred years later.

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the exterior of Trenchermen reminded us of afternoons wandering Kensington whilst studying abroad in London

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definitely coming back for drinks

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trenchermen’s prohibition era décor paired nicely with their modern take on classic dishes

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Black Forest Ham & Gruyere Danish, Mustard, Rye

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pork flight: house sausage patties, beeler’s bacon, coffee-cured bacon, link sausage

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avocado shrimp toast with soft-boiled egg on sprouted grain bread

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not your standard cantaloupe/honeydew/pineapple

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swiss & eggs (sub cheddar here), smoked pork Shoulder, caraway sauerkraut, mustard aioli

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bacon mortadella breakfast sandwich: sunny side egg, sharp cheddar, breakfast potatoes

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pretzel bagel, smoked salmon, mustard cream cheese, pickled onion, cucumber, greens

While we vowed to return for drinks and dinner before we even ordered, the food most definitely did not disappoint. The pastries were nearly impossible to choose from, but we decided to split the Black Forest & Gruyere Danish because Carolyn and I are trying to limit our refined sugars this month (we don’t want to talk about it). As a bonus, it’s fun to watch the appointed “orderer” try to pronounce gruyere. At any rate, it was a fantastic choice; the perfectly flaky exterior and soft buttery interior would have been enough, but the ham and gruyere definitely amped up this pastry.

My breakfast reuben looked nothing like I expected but was everything I wanted. Seemingly contrasting flavors married perfectly in this sandwich, with the mustard aioli tying everything together. While the crumpet-like vehicle for this sandwich seemed odd at the time, I didn’t miss my toasted rye one bit (actually, I don’t care for rye so this was pretty clutch).

Even a non-bacon lover such as myself (please don’t kill me) could see the draw to the Pork Flight. Shockingly, because I also despise coffee, the Coffee-Cured variety was my favorite. Confusing, but definite props to the chef on that one! Each portion was generous for bistro-style dining, but still not overwhelming, allowing us to walk away from the table comfortably full.

Major shout-out to Jeremiah, our friendly waiter, potential new life coach, and reason enough to make a return trip. He was able to advise us on everything from vegetarianism to the body’s use of carbohydrates (all solicited advice, mind you). He even brought over a gargantuan book on the subjects, which was both delightful and confusing in the best possible way. We will, without a doubt, be returning for brunch, dinner, drinks, and dessert. It’s only January, but I’m already betting Trenchermen will end up on our Best of the Best 2015 edition!

-Meredith

P.S. Visit Trenchermen on Wednesdays when $10 gets you a burger, a beer, popcorn, and chips/a side! Check out their Instagram for each week’s theme. We stopped in for a Pimento Cheese & Fried Okra Burger with Whole Grain Mustard Potato Salad & a Flywheel Lager, and let’s just say, we were pleased. 

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Bars, Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, Wicker Park

Fatpour Tap Works

Fatpour Tap Works
Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, Drinks

Neighborhood: West Town
Address: 2005 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622
Phone Number: (773) 698-8940
Website

Price Range: $10-17
Our Rating: 4.2 out of 5

What We Tried: Lamb Eggs Benny, The Hipster Burger, Bloody Mary

Our Take: Located in the heart of Wicker Park, Fat Pour was voted 2013’s “#1 Beer Bar in the Country” by Nightclub & Bar. With over 50 good beers on tap and a diverse, chef-driven menu, I can see why.

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The Bloody Mary, which comes with a Miller High Life (On, Wisconsin!)

The Bloody Mary, which comes with a Miller High Life (On, Wisconsin!)

The Lamb Benny

The Lamb Benny

The restaurant has a fun, lively, too-cool-to-care attitude, and the waiters all treated us as if we were regulars. While we waited for our food, we kept an eye on the Wisconsin game (note: Fat Pour is a popular Badger bar), and watched beer stream up three stories through the glass keg cooler in the center of the room.

My Bloody Mary came with a can of Miller High Life (I would expect nothing less from Wisco fans), and a spear stacked with spicy pickles and feta-stuffed olives. Though I only recently joined the Bloody Mary bandwagon, I could tell that it was a five star concoction, and I had to make a conscious effort to sip it slowly.

Since we were eating at the post-spin class, is it still brunch, is it still lunch ambivalent meal time of 1 pm, we decided to order one brunch item and one lunch item, and split the two. Between the two dishes, I preferred the hipster burger (balsamic infused, topped with arugula and roasted tomatoes), but the lamb benny was a fresh and flavorful twist on a classic, too—not at all heavy, and the right combination of ingredients.

Fat Pour’s menu is large enough that I could—and would want to—go back a dozen times without eating the same thing twice. Next time I’m looking for a game day lunch or feeling a good beer/good burger kind of Friday night, you’ll find me at Fat Pour, for sure.

-Carolyn

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Dinner, Lunch, The Loop, Vegan, Wicker Park

Native Foods Cafe

Native Foods Cafe
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: Wicker Park, the Loop
Address: Multiple
Phone Number: Multiple
Website

Price Range: $5-15
Our Rating: 5 out of 5

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Kale is Kool at Native Foods Cafe.

What We Tried: Jamaican Kale Salad, Sweet Potato Fries, Kale Macro Bowl, Roasted Vegetables Side, Oatmeal Cream Cookie Pie, Blueberry Hibiscus Iced Tea

Our Take: They say kale is the new black. My great aunt Mary was eating it before it was cool—and she was still playing tennis at age 92!—but I must admit that I’ve also jumped on the cruciferous bandwagon.

Enter Native Foods Cafe, an entirely plant-based restaurant. Though Native Foods is a chain with locations across the country, each restaurant features a regional menu. They use organic, sustainable ingredients, made fresh every day, and all the restaurants are energy-efficient. Namaste!

Last Sunday, I stopped at the Wicker Park location for a quick lunch. As I’ve stated in earlier posts, I’m not vegetarian, but after living in Nepal for a summer and trying to cook on a budget, I don’t have to eat meat every day. And if the opportunity to try some fancy vegan creation presents itself…it’s like that time my friends suggested we continue our night at a dueling pianos bar…”I live for that ish!”

You order at the counter, where I guarantee your server will be reallyreally nice. Either they’re all from Canada, or the whole “you are what you eat” thing actually works. **INSIDER TIP**~~ if you give them your phone number, you get a free drink on your first visit. And then if you fill out the survey on the follow-up email they’ll send you, you get a free dessert! I told you they were nice!!

My meal was equally delicious and beautiful, and you get a lot of food for a good price. And it doesn’t require any strategizing like a trip to the Whole Foods salad bar. The menu is large enough that I could go back again and again without eating the same thing twice, and diverse enough to satisfy whatever craving I have at the moment.

Native Foods, consider me a regular! In the meantime, I’ll be in the kitchen massaging my vegetables.

-Carolyn

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Breakfast and Brunch, Coffee, Wicker Park

Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

Stan’s Donuts & Coffee
Breakfast, Coffee

Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Address: 1560 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Phone Number: (773) 360-7386
Website

Price Range: $3-5
Our Rating: 4.3 out of 5

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the bustling counter at Stan’s Donuts…know what you want before you get to the register.

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but good luck choosing.

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food in the air

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more food in the air

What We Tried: Nutella Banana Pocket, Pistachio Old Fashioned

Our Take: You’ve heard of donuts after church, but post-brunch donuts may be a little less common. Well, it’s a thing. And brunch, for me, is a near-holy (hole-y?!) experience, so I really don’t see much of a difference, anyways.

Following a heavenly meal at Hot Chocolate, we decided that, while we were in the area, we should check out Stan’s Donuts down the street. We joined a line going out the door, so it looked like a lot of people had the same idea.

Stan’s Donuts started in L.A. in 1963, and came to the Windy City when Richard Labriola, President of the Labriola Baking Company, saw Stan on a TV travel show and proposed a partnership to bring the California-style donuts to Chicago. Now, Stan’s Wicker Park location serves up dozens of whimsical donuts everyday, along with gourmet coffee and gelato.

Since people come to Portland for Voodoo Doughnuts (but stay for Blue Star), I have high standards when it comes to gourmet doughnuts. (Inside joke). I tried the Nutella-Banana Pocket, an obvious choice for anyone who studied abroad with me, and Meredith opted for the Pistachio Old-Fashioned. My donut came with real, fresh bananas baked inside, and a light chocolate glaze. Meredith described her donut as “like a really good donut version of the pistachio muffins at South Dining Hall.” That’s high praise.

Insert celebration hands emoji here.

-Carolyn

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Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, Wicker Park

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Address: 1747 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, IL 60647
Phone Number: (773) 489-1747
Website

Price Range: $10-20
Our Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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Mindy Segal’s Hot Chocolate

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Def coming back for a cocktail

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The Veggie Scramble: Caramelized Leeks, Foraged Mushrooms, Gruyere, Breakfast Potatoes, Housemade Challah AKA everything we love

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Pumpkin Hot Chocolate: 1/3 Belgian White Chocolate, 1/3 French Milk Chocolate, 1/3 Pumpkin Spice AND a homemade marshmallow

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Our girl Mindy won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry so safe to say these are probably pretty dece

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Brioche French Toast: Bananas Foster, Vanilla Bean Cream, Housemade Sausage Links

What We Tried: Pumpkin Hot Chocolate, Brioche French Toast, Veggie Scramble

Our Take: Last Saturday was the Perfect Saturday. Coffee at Little Goat, followed by a stroll through the Meatpacking District location of the Green City Market, brunch at Hot Chocolate, all followed by donuts at Stan’s (because why not). To top it off, it was a gorgeous autumn day, and there was zero wait at brunch (probably because it was 10 am so technically breakfast).

First of all, it should be noted that any place that labels itself as a “dessert bar” will have fantastic brunch. That’s something that you should probably just trust me on.

We sat next to a lovely couple from Kansas City and commiserated over the nearly impossible decision of what to order. The husband (not mine) and I both had heard that the Buttermilk Pancake is out of this world (one cake, with butters and toppings that change seasonally), but the Brioche French Toast also sounded heavenly. The couple on the other side of us (I’m really okay) ordered both and ultimately solidified my decision to go with the French Toast. This was a very good decision. It was delicious. Plus, it was the perfect size, meaning that I didn’t have to roll myself out of the restaurant and could, in fact, walk home.

Carolyn got the Veggie Scramble (my third choice) and was gracious enough to let me try a bite. The caramelized leeks, mushrooms, and gruyere created a flavor profile from the heavens. Sharp and flavorful yet still so smooth. I’m not really sure if any of that made sense, but it was great. The homemade jam for the challah has to be ordered separately, but is definitely worth it.

We couldn’t dine at Hot Chocolate without trying a cup ourselves, so Carolyn ordered the Pumpkin Hot Chocolate. She said that, while it was delicious, it was definitely pretty rich, and most people probably wouldn’t be able to finish a whole mug. The homemade marshmallow was great, though!

Overall, our first time at Hot Chocolate was great, and I’ll definitely be back to try the pancake. And the warm donuts. And the pastries. And probably for dessert sometime too. And then maybe I’ll eat a salad.

– Meredith

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Coffee, Wicker Park

Ugly Mug Café

Ugly Mug Café
Coffee Shop, Lunch

Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Address: 1458 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60642
Phone Number: (312) 666-7707
Website

Price Range: $3-10
Our Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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my kind of place

What We Tried: Thai Almond Iced Latte, Movin’ to Cali Sandwich, Black Iced Tea, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie

Our Take: I received the recommendation for The Ugly Mug Café from one of my co-workers, a group of people who usually know what they’re talking about. So, on a sunny Sunday afternoon—which, if I may digress for a moment, is the absolute best day of the week when you aren’t in school—we strolled down the road for a little post-vinyasa pick-me-up.

Ugly Mug is the decade-long dream of owner Mikky Wright, who lamented the lack of neighborhood coffee shops after moving from Seattle to Wicker Park in 1997. In alignment with the independent spirit of West Town, Wright created a coffee shop from the ground (grounds? heh heh) up, using local vendors and hiring a quirky, friendly staff. And the inspiration for the name? No coffee cup is the same, and they all look like the weird mugs you find at the back of your grandma’s cupboard.

My dining companion tried the Movin’ to Cali Sandwich, featuring our mutually favorite combination of turkey, bacon and avocado, while I sampled the Thai Almond Iced Latte, a creamy blend of almond milk, chai-like spices, and a shot of espresso. Other items on the menu included a sandwich called “Lived in Portland,” and another one called “The Bob Loblaw.” It’s like they knew me.

As previously mentioned, the staff was awesome. They clearly enjoyed hanging out with each other, and when they weren’t making latte art, they were dancing and singing to the restaurant’s incredible “hits of the ‘90s” playlist. Overall, it was a v. fun place, and I intend to return.

-Carolyn

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