Best Breakfast Spots in Chicago Focus on Local, Sustainable Ingredients
By Megy Karydes
Chicago Local Expert
Breakfast in Chicago isn’t an afterthought for many restaurateurs and chefs. For some, it’s their bread and butter.
The terms local and sustainable may be buzzwords for some but it’s also what many chefs are serving for breakfast. Chef Jeff Mauro at Jam is lucky to have a weekly farmers market at his disposal because it’s where he sources many of the fresh ingredients for his Logan Square breakfast and lunch spot. Nana in Bridgeport features a list of its local farmers and producers on its website. Make sure to arrive early if your breakfast plans are over a weekend because both locations are popular.
Bringing the kids along? There is no reason to trade in your Bloody Mary’s for sippy cups at spots like Crosby’s Kitchen or Ann Sather’s in Lakeview. Artist’s Café in the South Loop is great for kids and adults and when the weather cooperates, the outdoor seating along Michigan Avenue makes for great people watching.
If you’re hitting up Lincoln Park Zoo, check out recently-opened 2 Sparrows. If your plans are more in the Loop area, check out Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen and Lou Mitchell’s, both of which are breakfast institutions. Even former presidents have stopped by for a bite.
Whether you need a great, casual breakfast restaurant near the Loop or want to venture into Chicago’s neighborhoods, you’ll find options from solid to spectacular at any of our top 10 breakfast recommendations.
10 Ann Sather's
Ann Sather's offers Swedish and American breakfast favorites, including unrivaled cinnamon rolls that people speak of with solemn reverence. The Swedish pancakes are thin and full of flavorful lingonberries. Every meal comes with a soup or two side dishes. It gets quite crowded at breakfast, particularly on weekends. If possible, get a seat in the front room, which has high ceilings and a hearth that often has a roaring fire in the winter. This Lakeview location is just one of three spots you'll find an Ann Sather's and it's centrally located within a busy spot on Belmont Avenue better known for its quirky and alternative shops than its dining scene. (773-348-2378)
9 Artist's Cafe
Popular among local college students who attend classes nearby and locals alike, the Artists Café offers a delicious mix of artisan sandwiches and wraps, fresh and flavorful salads, fresh-baked pastries and homemade gelato at very reasonable prices considering its prime real estate location. "Not Your Kids" Grilled Cheese is a highlight featuring aged cheddar, fresh mozzarella and goat cheese, tomatoes, pesto and thick cut country bread. Open mic every Thursday night creates a fun neighborhood atmosphere and the outdoor patio is great for people watching and dining al fresco. The gelato flavors change regularly and the place serves Intelligentsia coffee. ((312) 939-7855)
8 Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen
This cozy institution offers some of the Windy City's most unforgettable breakfast fare. Expect to find the deli crowded with everybody from politicians (President Bill Clinton has paid a visit and President Barack Obama frequents the joint when he's in town) to stray traders and blue collar workers when you stop in. Definitely old school with its bare bones, linoleum, school cafeteria atmosphere and gruff elderly staff, it's known for its massive heaps of food and people will travel miles for its corned beef sandwiches, pastrami sandwich on rye and a matzo ball soup. Knowing how to order will help you not feel out of place: grab a tray by the door as you enter, then grab utensils (even if you're just ordering a sandwich, grab a fork, spoon and knife because you may need them), get in line and pay BEFORE you even order. ((312) 939-2855)
7 2 Sparrows
When 2 Sparrows opened two years ago, it gave Lincoln Park a solid breakfast spot. Chef and owner Gregory Ellis, who studied under the tutelage of Charlie Trotter, focuses on hyper-local ingredients, sustainability and seasonality as we creates his ever-changing menu. A listing of farmers he supports is proudly included on the menu. Several traditional dishes like biscuits and gravy and eggs benedict grace the menu as well as chilaquiles done up the 2 Sparrows way. The intimate space seats 60 and features reclaimed wood paneling, locally-made glass-blown fixtures and a gallery of artwork from Chicago artists. Breakfast (and lunch) is served seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the killer craft cocktail menu. ((773) 234-2320)
6 Lou Mitchell's
Mitchell's has been pleasing patrons since 1923 and offers diner cuisine at its best. You know you're in for an indulgent meal when you're presented with a basket of piping hot doughnut holes as soon as you walk in the door. Then you have an extensive breakfast menu to choose from, and even the oatmeal is extraordinary. Certain meals are brought to the table still steaming in the skillet. Recommended options include fried eggs, homemade Greek toast, and hash browns. Dishes are usually very large so plan a post-breakfast nap because you'll leave full. Mitchell's looks like a hole in the wall but trust us, there is good reason this place has been around for almost a hundred years. (312-939-3111)
Don't come here for health food! Come for Southern-style soul food, full of flavor and served in a casual, relaxed environment. The quirky, funky warehouse-style space (abstract paintings of chickens and eggs adorn the walls) offers breakfast on weekdays and a popular weekend brunch. Try fluffy biscuits, French toast, salmon cakes with hollandaise, or a house specialty called Red Eggs, which consists of two eggs on corn tortillas with black beans, cheese, hot sauce, sour cream, and salsa. Something for everyone, including vegetarians. Buy a cool t-shirt on your way out. Don't be surprised if you happen to be dining next to former Chicago Bulls players like Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen. Both have been spotted at this popular restaurant not far from the United Center. (312-850-2663)
D�cor is contemporary as is the food presentation found at JAM but that doesn't mean taste is an afterthought at this popular Logan Square breakfast, brunch and lunch spot. Chef Jeff Mauro and his team develop use locally grown and sustainable ingredients whenever possible to create their ever-changing seasonal menu but staples like the Malted Custard French Toast can usually be found throughout the year. Breakfast is served daily through 3pm. There is metered street parking nearby but the Blue Line subway line is just a couple of blocks away. During the summer months, the Logan Square Farmers Market is practically right outside the door so grab some fresh veggies after breakfast. ((773) 292-6011)
3 Crosby's Kitchen
Strollers are aplenty along Southport Avenue so it's no surprise that Crosby's Kitchen is a haven for tikes in this Lakeview neighborhood brimming with young families. The best part is that it's not just friendly for the young ones, it's also great for older kids and adults dining sans kids, complete with a wine menu. Order yourself a Bloody Mary and the table some monkey bread to start and choose from a kid's menu or the regular menu for brunch, lunch or dinner. The iron skillet cornbread served with hot maple butter is a specialty. Leave room for dessert because you'll need it when you order the warm skillet cookie topped with vanilla ice cream. (773-883-2525)
Large pieces of artwork line the exposed brick walls while light bathes the interior through the floor to ceiling windows in Nana in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood. The family-owned and organic restaurant is very much interested in serving food that is local and sustainable. The relationships it has with its farmers and producers is so important that it lists them all on a dedicated page on its website. The food is solid and flavorful. From its signature nanadict (its take on the classic eggs benedict) and baked chilaquiles to seasonal options like the garden omelet, nana takes pride in using ingredients in season to create each dish. ((312) 929-2486)
1 Birchwood Kitchen
Birchwood Kitchen looks unassuming from the outside but once you walk inside, you'll find the décor to be contemporary yet warm. Order your meals at the checkout counter and you'll be given a number to place at your table. Once the dishes are prepared, a server brings them to you. When the weather cooperates, ask for a seat outside in the back ~ it feels like you're hanging out in someone's backyard since the restaurant is neatly tucked between apartment buildings. The menu changes by season but make sure to ask for the oatmeal butterscotch cookie ~ trust us, it's that good. (773.276.2100)
About Megy Karydes
Megy Karydes has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and most of her life in Chicago. While she’s traveled extensively internationally, visiting each of the 50 states is on her bucket list. An adventure seeker, she’s game for anything from mixed martial arts training to competing in obstacle course races. A self-proclaimed coffee snob and “greenie” who loves farmer-grown food and locally-grown craft beers & wine. She’s yet to find an outdoor beer garden she doesn’t like. Mixing writing and food/drink is her specialty, especially when it involves travel. Visit her musings on her insatiable appetite for life at www.WanderingTastes.com or www.KarydesConsulting.com.
Read more about Megy Karydes here.