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 Ann Sather’s in Lakeview. And Lou Mitchell’s is a breakfast institution, and a popular spot for politicians and presidents to stop by for a cup of coffee (and a photo op).
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 our top 10 breakfast recommendations.
Mitchell's has been pleasing patrons since 1923, offering old school diner food at its best. Politicians are known to pop in, including Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and George Bush. As soon as you sit down, you're presented with a basket of piping hot doughnut holes. Then you have an extensive breakfast menu to choose from, and everything is good, including the oatmeal. 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 100 years. (312-939-3111)
Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe
Everything about this place is big - the menu, the portions, the flavors, and unfortunately, the lines for a table. But once you're seated, you'll get to select from a large, can't-go-wrong menu of pancakes, skillets, French toast, Belgian waffles, crepes and more. The chain also has locations in suburban Libertyville and Schaumburg (near Woodfield Mall), but this Chicago location is convenient for tourists - it's next to Millennium Park. They serve more than just breakfast - they have paninis, wraps and salads, too. Plus there's an impressive kids menu, with items like Fruity Pebbles French Toast, Cinnamon Roll Pancakes, and Oreo S'More Pancakes. (312-938-9777)
Ann Sather Cafe
A neighborhood institution since its Belmont Avenue location opened in 1945, there are now three locations in the city. Once owned by a local named Anne Sather, the Swedish-influenced restaurant is now run by Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney. The specialty item is the large, warm, frosted cinnamon rolls which are served as an appetizer to every meal. They are AMAZING! If you think the Swedes are only known for their meatballs, you'll change your mind after trying their thin Swedish pancakes, topped with ligonberries, or served with a side of eggs or Swedish meatballs. If you don't want breakfast, you can try their Swedish Sampler, which is roasted duck with lingonberries glaze, Swedish meatball, Swedish potato sausage, spatzel, sauerkraut and Swedish brown beans. (773-305-0024)
Over Easy Cafe
This is a tiny, affordable and fantastic breakfast spot on the North Side, bordering the Ravenswood and Lincoln Square neighborhoods. It will be difficult to order, because all the creative, gourmet twists they put on their breakfast dishes and sandwiches sound so good. But no matter what you pick, it'll be a good choice. One of its most popular dishes is Sassy Eggs, poached and served over a spicy potato hash and with a dallop of fresh guacamole on top. If you have to wait for a table, which will probably be the case on a weekend morning, they ease your pain with free gourmet coffee. (773-506-2605)
JAM is known for its contemporary food presentation 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)
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)
The menu at Lula's is an eclectic mix of American eats. Try the Cornbread French toast, which was two squares of light and crisp-on-the-outside cornbread, served with berries, coconut-scented streusel and sweet corn anglaise. They also do a unique twist on their Hangar Steak and Eggs, served with potato-sunchoke cake, winter root relish, fried eggs and charred almond sauce. The menu changes depending on what is in season, but it always offers top-quality meals made with fresh ingredients. It's not unusual for the chef and team to prepare dishes once they get their vegetables from the farmers market. The crowd ranges from hipsters to families with little kids. (773-489-9554)
This Andersonville neighborhood favorite is beloved for its new American-styled breakfasts, adorable setting, and use of locally sourced and organic food. They also have a small but fantastic carry-out bakery. It's family-friendly but also a popular spot for neighborhood hipsters. Among the menu favorites are the Drunken Eggs, which are two homemade black bean cakes served w/masa tortillas topped w/chorizo (or soy chorizo if you want it), eggs any style (or scrambled tofu if you want it), topped with adobo sauce and served w/sliced avocado, queso fresco, & sour crème. If you like a sweet breakfast, try the Blackberry Bliss Cakes, which are fluffy hotcakes layered with warm blackberries, vanilla mascarpone cream, and topped with a brown sugar and oat crust. Weather permitting, sit outside on their cute, covered patio. (773-561-1600)
Little Goat Diner
Celebrity chief Stephanie Izard's adorable modern diner includes creative and delicious breakfasts, including dark chocolate chip crunch pancakes, Fat Elvis waffles, and a fun dish named "Kimchee & Bacon & Eggs & Pancakes Asian Style Breakfast Tasty Thing." You could just make a meal from items baked at the fresh, on-site bakery. Dine at the counter or in one of the booths, and if the weather permits, sit on their couch-lined rooftop patio, with skyline views. Don't leave without stopping by their bakery where you can get drool-inducing baked goods, like loaves of peanut butter bread, cookies, mini-pies, or an assortment of muffins. (312-888-3455)
This breakfast, brunch and lunch chain is expanding into new locations across the city because, well, the food is amazing. Yolk has all the standard breakfast foods you'd expect, like omelets, frittatas, crepes, oatmeal, French toast and eggs benedict. But they also do unique twists on traditional dishes, such as the Kale Scrambler, which mixes eggss with sauteed kale, carmelized onions, tomato and goat cheese, or the Pot Roast Benedict, which is pot roast and poached eggs on an English muffin. A separate kid's menu is available. Fans wax poetic over the red velvet French Toast and egg benedicts. (312-789-9655)
About Jamie Bartosch
Jamie Bartosch is a lifelong Chicagoan who thinks her hometown is the greatest city in the world. She is an award-winning newspaper reporter, a freelance travel writer, and the mother of two great kids.
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