Fried chicken and waffles at Hash House A Go Go (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
Beach trips and picnics are summer fun staples, but there’s nothing like lazing away an afternoon at brunch. Forgo your regular haunt and consider checking out the new brunch service at these eight restaurants. As an added bonus, five have outdoor seating so you can soak up some rays with your sunnyside-up eggs.
Brunch review: Hash House A Go Go
1212 N. State Parkway 312-202-0994
Rating: !! 1/2 (out of 4) Take it or leave it
*Outdoor seating available
Some people have brunch to nurse a hangover. Some want an excuse to sip fun cocktails before noon. Others live to Instagram their entree the second it comes to the table. New Gold Coast restaurant Hash House A Go Go has the potential to fulfill all of the above. An Indiana-raised chef founded this restaurant in San Diego more than a decade ago on the idea of “twisted farm food,” which apparently translates to an obscenely large menu of comfort food served in obscenely large portions. I stopped in for during opening week to find out whether it would be good or just a gimmick.
Why everybody's waffling: Anyone serving chicken and waffles within a 5-block radius of fried chicken king Art Smith’s Table Fifty-Two has guts. So Hash House goes all out with a version that's stupid huge: A steak knife holds two fried chicken breasts atop four bacon-laced waffles and a gigantic sprig of rosemary and fried leeks stick out of the top, looking like hay straight out of a farmer’s bale. My server suggested I discard the rosemary “Christmas tree” on top, remove the knife, unstack the chicken and dig in. It's a good strategy, but I still barely made it through half the food on the plate. This sweet-and-salty calorie bomb ($15.95) isn’t as good as Smith’s—but then again, his $24 version costs nearly ten bucks more.
Sweet stuff: Buttermilk pancakes—called flapjacks here, of course—actually are a pancake, singular. A 14-inch pizza-size one, to be exact, with flavors such as mango-coconut, blackberry-granola and Snickers. The caramelized sweetness of the brown sugar-banana version will lull any sweet tooth into submission, and it’s a ton of food for $7.95.
Day drinking: Apparently Hash House also has four locations in Vegas—which doesn’t surprise me when I see that the more-is-more philosophy continues on the drink menu. Desserty espresso drinks include the s'mores mocha, crowned with marshmallow fluff and graham cracker garnish ($6.95), while the 20-ounce B.L.T. bloody mary ($10.95) comes with lettuce, tomato and bacon in the glass plus two pieces of toast. Then there's the O’Hare of the Dog, a 24-ounce canned beer in a paper bag served with five slices of bacon ($4.95). If the decor weren't so understated—think black-and-white farm photos and tractor seats on the walls, but no overalls or hay bales—I'd feel like I was in a theme park.
Bottom line: The eat-to-excess philosophy could work in this corner of the Gold Coast best known for its drink-to-excess tourist-trap bars, especially with a late-night weekend menu (Something tells me the food will taste even better after a couple rounds). If you're looking for a refined brunch experience, this is definitely not your place, but for a novelty brunch when you're sick of The Bongo Room, it'll do.
>>Hash House A Go Go serves breakfast 7 a.m.-11 a.m. Monday-Friday and brunch 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Select breakfast dishes also are served on the lunch, dinner and late-night menus.
Brunch review: Grandma J’s Local Kitchen
1552 N. Kedzie Ave. 773-227-3626
Rating: !!! (out of 4) Off to a good start
Nana, Grammy, Oma, Abuela … whatever you call your grandmother, chances are she’d want you to eat a wholesome breakfast before you start your day. That’s the mission at Grandma J’s, a quirky, comfortable BYOB Humboldt Park cafe that packs a lot of sentiment into a small storefront. From black-and-white portraits to an Etta James-heavy soundtrack to board games, the dining room has about as much vintage kitsch as a yard sale. But it’s not artificial nostalgia—owner Layla Malia Krause named the place after her mother (Grandma J herself), who has five grandkids, and Krause aims to channel her comforting culinary presence.