It's raining bloody marys in the Gold Coast, thanks to two new weekend brunches. Bistronomic (840 N. Wabash Ave. 312-944-8400), a polished little French bistro just off the Viagra Triangle, kicked off 2012 with the debut of its weekend brunch menu. A bit further north, the spacious, stunning revamp of the long-time supper-club classic the Pump Room (1301 N. State Pkwy. 312-601-2970) is also trying its hand at brunch. We spent a weekend gorging in the Gold Coast to size both of them up.
Bistronomic: Chatty duos of girlfriends, a few gray hairs and families with babies in tow.
The Pump Room: Couples young and old checking out of the Public Hotel, big dressed-up groups and families with babies in tow.
Bistronomic: An innocuous-sounding mushroom omelet ($12) is made memorable with a drizzle of mushroom-red wine sauce and fingerling potatoes cooked in duck fat.
The Pump Room: The sunnyside-up frittata isn't actually a frittata at all; it's two conjoined sunnyside-up eggs scattered with bacon, dill, shards of asparagus, tiny croutons and red chili slivers that deliver a zingy morning wake-up call. It's definitely one of the most unique brunch dishes I've tried, but not especially filling for $14.
Bistronomic: Cocktails are limited to the traditional bloody marys and mimosas (both $8), though they'll keep refilling your glass of the latter for $15 per person.
The Pump Room: The cocktail menu looked to be the same one offered at dinner, with the most morning-worthy pick being a seasonal fruit bellini ($14), but everyone in the dining room was drinking the bloody marys ($10). My brunch pal/bloody mary connoisseur announced it her favorite in recent memory, despite the wimpy garnish (a single celery stalk).
Bistronomic: Basic brioche French toast ($11) feels indulgent thanks to creme brulee batter, orange slices and Grand Marnier syrup. On the sweet-and-salty side, there's a Belgian waffle with bacon and an egg ($10).
The Pump Room: The massively thick challah French toast ($12) with a chestnut-brown, crunchy outside and soft, flavorless inside brought back memories of cafeteria French toast sticks, though more prettily presented with crispy bacon and a few bites of roasted apple. Other sweet options include doughnut holes with spiced vanilla custard sauce for dipping ($8) and a small sticky bun with cream cheese frosting ($5), both perfectly passable but nothing special.
Bistronomic: Chef Martial Noguier makes the rounds to ask (in his French accent) if your table is "having a good time?" Why yes, thanks to those bottomless mimosas, we sure are!
The Pump Room: I didn't spot executive chef Bradford Phillips (who cooked at LM prior to this gig), because he was probably hard at work in the kitchen. Big-name chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (who created the "overall food concept and menu," states the menu) was probably in New York.
CAN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT ...
Bistronomic: The croque madame ($14), which can only be described as rich. Filthy, filthy rich. You don't have to care about the names of the artisan producers of the ham (Nueske's, with slices stacked a half-inch high) or the cheese (Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company, mindblowingly buttery) to appreciate the decadence of this egg-topped sandwich. The fries (like the potatoes, they're cooked in duck fat) on the side nearly send me into a blissful food coma.
The Pump Room: The fact that I didn't order the croque madame ($12). Both diners at the table of two next to me did, and I couldn't help but be jealous of the sunnyside-up quail eggs atop each half of their sandwiches.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Bistronomic: Weekend brunch is served 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Unless you have a big group, you probably don't need a reservation.
The Pump Room: Weekend brunch is served 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. A number of tables are prioritized for hotel guests, so reservations are recommended.
Though the Pump Room's simple menu descriptions often undersell (it'd be nice to know the French toast comes with bacon), it's a fairly good brunch in a stunning setting. Bistronomic serves an indulgent brunch in nice-enough setting.
More new brunches
Urban Union in University Village plans to start brunch service Feb. 11, while Fritz Pastry in Lincoln Park has plans to add brunch sometime this spring.
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