Chicago's Best Breakfasts: Sweet to Savory and Classic American to Exotic



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 the kitchen is 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. 

Brand new Cira, in the Hoxton Hotel, offers a wonderful Turkish breakfast. 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 eight more outposts in Chicago, welcomes kids to instill their love of having breakfast out. Cupitol, in Evanston and Streeterville, shines in the breakfast pastries department and for southern breakfast, a la North Carolina, Kentucky or New Orleans, get to Wishbone in the West Loop - bring your pup to the outdoor patio, too. 

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 still has tons of fans.  



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The first Yolk opened in the South Loop in 2006 and has added eight 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. Yolk opens its ninth Chicago location in Lincoln Park in April 2019 with an elevated coffee program featuring handcrafted espresso drinks and homemade syrups like Pacific Coconut Mint and Cinnamon Breakfast.


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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; and a 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. There's outdoor seating from April 1 to the first freeze!


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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 omelets 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 omelets" for which Lou Mitchell's is known (there are nearly 25). All pastries and bread 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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John Daley, an Irish ironworker 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, omelets and breakfast sandwiches still prepared to fill up a construction worker.


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Fulton Market


 

Wishbone, a family owned, independent restaurant, has been cooking southern style, made-from-scratch comfort food for 30 years. You can get bacon and eggs anywhere but Wishbone's Shrimp & Grits, Blackened Catfish, Kentucky Scrambled Eggs, Southern Benedict, Corn Cakes and Red Eggs will wake up your neurons and digestion. There aren't many places in the Midwest offering signature cornmeal pancakes made with sweet corn and scallions with roasted red pepper sauce plus two eggs. The Louisiana Breakfast will take you to NOLA via red beans over rice dappled with chicken andouille sausage, two eggs any style and corn muffin, toast or biscuit. Black Bean Cakes and Buckwheat Pancakes are popular with vegetarians and vegans and everyone appreciates the affordable prices and friendly service. There's good coffee and a full bar with unique breakfast/brunch beverages. Wishbone welcomes your pup on its outdoor patio, too.


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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 '40s to '60s but now we have Dove's Luncheonette, an homage to the bygone diners with a lot better food and beverage. 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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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 1930s. 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 omelets 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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Fulton Market


 

You can't go wrong with any of the Boka Restaurant Group's venues in the new Hoxton Hotel Chicago - Cabra, Cira and Lazy Bird. Chef Partner of Cira, Chris Pandel, created an all-day Mediterranean menu but breakfast is truly exciting. If you've been searching for Turkish breakfast ever since that trip to Istanbul, come to Fulton Market. The spread of marinated goat cheese, cucumber salad, olives, hard boiled egg, whipped yogurt, simit (a Turkish sesame bagel), seasonal preserves and muhammara - a red pepper/walnut spread - is beautiful, bountiful yet light. Opt for Turkish coffee service to accompany. There's also shakshuka - spiced tomatoes and Merguez sausage with baked eggs; a lovely omelet filled with housemade Boursin cheese and green garlic, and scrumptious smoked sable tossed with charred asparagus and a soft boiled egg. House-made pastries could be sticky baklava, spiced babka or fruity brioche galette.


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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 ambiance 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 omelets 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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