Sweet or savory; healthy or the belly bomb: Chicago's best breakfasts



If you're the kind of person who gets giddy the night before about breakfast and that first sip of coffee the next day, this list is your breakfast bible. 

Daley's Restaurant has been at it since 1892 and you won't find Belgian Waffles with pork chops or chicken wings at those fancy downtown places selling $6 coffee concoctions. Speaking of the South Side, Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles is the real deal in soul food breakfast (with a second location in Oak Park). Wicker Park's Dove's Luncheonette is is a loving tribute to the diners of old Chicago with its 41-stool counter service, but chef de cuisine Tom Carlin turning out some show stopping burnt ends hash with eggs that 1955 never enjoyed. And, you can't beat the old-timey vibe at Lou Mitchell's. 

There's plenty for families with little noshers, too. Yolk,  a local success story that began in the South Loop in 2006 and now boasts seven more outposts in Chicago as well as others in Indiana and Texas, and Southern Belles expanding across the suburbs, welcomes kids to instill their love of having breakfast out. Cupitol, in Evanston and Streeterville, shines in the breakfast pastries department. 

The hottest items filling breakfast menus these days include chilaquiles, chicken and waffles, soft buttery biscuits served as sandwiches or crowned with spicy sausage gravy and the ubiquitous avocado toast.  



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The menu at Lula's is an eclectic mix of American dishes elevated by sheer culinary invention. If you love a lox plate (which is offered here) you'll find the smoked lake trout scramble with arugula, dill, and whipped cream cheese a thing of breakfast beauty. Consult the menu for what's the latest in the Lula Breakfast Sandwich Series. Pair your meal with seasonal selections of hand brewed coffee - a Chemex pour over serves two. Or sip a Classic Lula '99 made with sambal, lemongrass and Modest vodka. The menu changes fairly often depending on what is in season, but it always offers top-notch items prepared with fresh ingredients. Even though it's in the hottest neighborhood in the city, patrons are a diverse lot and the scene is comfortable for all.


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Lou Mitchell's


 

Lou Mitchell's has been flipping fluffy omelettes since 1923, offering old timey diner food at its best. Politicians are known to pop in, including Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and George Bush but they won't get a box of Milk Duds upon entering - that's just for ladies and children. As soon as you sit down, a basket of steamy doughnut holes sprinkled with powdered sugar hit the table to quell the sounds coming from your stomach. The breakfast menu is truly a tome but someone in your group must order one of the "fluffy jumbo omelettes" for which Lou Mitchell's is known (there are nearly 25). All pastries and breads are baked fresh daily so going with a bakery item and a cup of the special blend coffee is just as satisfying.


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Cupitol is an all-day eatery located in Streeterville and Evanston that serves just what you crave after the sunrise. Choose various breakfast sandwiches and protein breakfasts like housemade corned beef hash poached eggs; a deliciously sloppy country Benedict with buttermilk biscuits, pork sausage gravy, eggs; sweet potato bowl; and an European Breakfast with the thickest Greek yogurt you've ever witnessed, sprinkled with homemade almond granola, berries and local raw honey. Pancakes and Belgian waffles are made with a proprietary mix. Cupitol shines with housemade croissant, muffins, scones and sweet rolls of all kinds. Expect lovely tarts, macaroons and financiers in the display case or try a slab of homemade pie from spinach to the Bougatsa made with cream, milk and sugar. Savor TAF espresso and Passion House's beans featured in non espresso drinks. Or, go for a smoothie or organic cold pressed juices. Lunch and dinner options look equally appealing.


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Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe


 

Everything about this place is large - the menu, portions, flavors, and unfortunately, the lines for a table. But once you're seated, you'll get to select from an encyclopedic menu of pancakes, skillets, French toast, Belgian waffles, crepes and every permutation of egg dishes one can imagine. Creative flavors include strawberry poppyseed or blueberry Danish pancakes and seasonal items such as a chilaquiles barbacoa skillet The chain also has locations in suburban Libertyville and Schaumburg (near Woodfield Mall), but the Chicago locations next to Millennium Park and Water Tower Place are great for tourists. They serve paninis, burgers, wraps and salads, too. Plus there's a theatrical kids menu, with items like Fruity Pebbles French Toast, Cinnamon Roll Pancakes, and Oreo S'More Pancakes.


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John Daley, an Irish iron worker who came to Chicago to work on building the elevated line, saw a need for a restaurant to feed all the men constructing the University of Chicago, The World's Columbian Exposition and the Rapid Transit Line. More than 100 years later, hungry diners are delighting the "famous" club breakfast ordered by the number. The Number 1 is an egg with your choice of meat (including sausage, bacon, salt pork, chopped steak, hot links, smoked ham or a well seasoned salmon patty) plus toast or biscuits. Order pancakes, waffles or French toast with chicken wings and hot sauce if you like or how about liver, catfish or pork chops with your eggs sided with grits, hash browns or rice? There are skillets, omelettes and breakfast sandwiches still prepared to fill u r a construction worker.


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Yolk.
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Yolk.


 

The first Yolk opened in the South Loop in 2006 and has added seven more outposts in Chicago as well as others in Indiana and Texas. The appeal appears to be fresh food, large portions and reasonable prices. What's not to love? Yolk is known for its many versions of Eggs Benedicts (try the Caprese or pot roast version) but also for pancakes, omelets and create-your-own scramblers. Fan favorites include chilaquiles, West Coast crepes, Red Velvet French Toast and Nutty Monkey Cakes. The menu changes twice a year and there are limited time offerings such as a Pancake of the Month. Little noshers can enjoy challah French toast strips, Oreo pancakes and various combinations of eggs and pancakes.


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You'll find the ever expanding list of Southern Belle's Pancake Houses in Barrington, Bedford Park, Minooka, Plainfield, Yorkville and Carpentersville always packed with people who love them some breakfast. Of course, there are all the basics like Benedicts, skillets and omelets, but you can also sup upon breakfast tacos; chicken fried chicken over biscuits with sausage gravy; pork belly and eggs. migas that will keep hunger at bay for a day; shrimp 'n' grits; and brioche French toast jammed with mascarpone and fresh fruit. Specials rotate every couple months from a healthy Acai bowl to a chicken pot pie omelet. Nothing is oversalted, portions are colossal and you'll feel good about the cost vs. quality, taste and size. There's enough vegan, gluten-free and healthy selections to satisfy; a kids' menu; smoothies and fresh juice blends; and coffee drinks but, honestly, the bottomless Red Eye coffee is very persuasive.


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Chicago's Home of Chicken & Waffles
Photo courtesy of Chicagos Home of Chicken and Waffles


 

The Bronzeville spot debuted in 2008 (with a second location in Oak Park in 2010) and owner Tonya Johnson's aim is to "serve food that takes you back to the good ole' days when your grandmother would be in the kitchen, waking up the entire house with the aroma of a homemade breakfast." Everything is freshly made with nary a frozen nor canned item in the place. Chicken and Waffles originated in the South and became popular in Harlem in the 1930's. Johnson has her own special waffle mix with secret ingredients and the chicken is cooked in a cast iron skillet. Some rave about the five-egg omelettes offered in variations like chicken sausage and veggie, escorted by homemade home fries, smothered in bell peppers and onions, or the signature waffle. You can also order homemade macaroni 'n' cheese, greens, candied yams, fried catfish and homemade cornbread at 9 a.m.!


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Older Chicagoans fondly recall "luncheonettes" and diners where you could get a cup of joe and a platter full of well greased breakfast foods for very little dough. No doubt, Wicker Park had its share in the 40's to 60's but now we have Dove's Luncheonette, an homage to the bygone diners with a lot better food and beverage. The the 41-stool luncheonette offers counter service morning through night and comfort food like pozole, burnt ends hash and eggs, salmon toast, chicken fried chicken and breakfast cemita sandwiches. The breakfast cemita features scrambled eggs, green chile chicken sausage, melty Muenster cheese, French-friend onions and smoked pepper aioli piled on a traditional, Mexican-style sesame bun dipped in maple syrup. Of course, you can get pancakes, oatmeal or an egg platter, but why would you want to?


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Ukranian Village


 

The latest Kanela location in Ukrainian Village is just as impressive as the spots in Andersonville, Lakeview, Old Town, Wicker Park, and Streeterville. All Kanela locations feature a warm and cozy ambience amid the zeal of the kitchen and waitstaff turning out indulgent as well as healthy meals made from scratch in-house. Luscious sweet options include lemon blueberry pancakes; red velvet French toast, monkey bread and Greek doughnuts with honey and toasted walnuts. The savory side is extensive from a rich Croque Madame to pork belly Benedict and inventive omelettes like one with spicy whipped feta, red onion and tomato. Those who are still hanging in with their yearly resolutions will go for chia pudding, acai bowls, oatmeal and any of the many juice combos. Sip La Colombe coffee, Bloody Marys and Mimosas, too.


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Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky

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