Breakfast at The Winchester – Chicago

Vegetable Poutine The Winchester Chicago

Poutine is usually served with cheese curds, french fries and some sort of meat gravy but this is the flavor-packed vegetable poutine from The Winchester. Rich mushroom Bolognese, flash-fried potatoes, a sunny egg topped with scallions.


German Breakfast at Ballenberger – Erfurt, Germany

Ballenberger Restaurant, Erfurt, Germany

Ballenberger Restaurant, Erfurt, Germany

Ballenberger is where you want to be for breakfast in Erfurt. Get the Genißerfrühstuck für 2. Delicious, impossibly cute and across the street from a park for great people watching.

Viking Breakfast at Svea – Andersonville, Chicago

Svea Chicago Dining Room

Svea Chicago Dining Room

Svea is a cozy Swedish diner in Andersonville filled with viking helmets, flags, Dalecarlian horse tablecloths and Valkommen signs making everyone feel welcome.

Svea is a neighborhood favorite so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a seat if you arrive after 9am on the weekend (they do not take reservations). I suggest coming hungry and getting the viking breakfast: Eggs cooked to order, falukrov (Swedish sausage), Swedish fried potatoes (you can substitute sliced tomatoes) and two Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam. The pancakes are more of a crepe in thinness with a spongy texture. Be sure to order the limpa as your bread choice, it’s a slightly sweet rye bread.

The Swedish potato pancakes are also worth a try as well as the rice pudding with lingonberry jam.
Svea also serves traditional lunch items such as herring salad and Swedish meatball sandwiches. They have a great family atmosphere as well as a diner counter for anyone dining solo.
Notes: No website, Facebook page and cash-only.
Svea Breakfast Spread Chicago

Svea Breakfast Spread Chicago


Brunch at Nico Osteria – Gold Coast

Nico Osteria BarLocated in the Thompson Hotel Nico Osteria is a restaurant that pays attention to detail. From the perfectly lit dining room, open kitchen, just rustic enough appeal for an osteria to the beautiful tile floor and great service.  Not a surprise as this is a One Off Hospitality Group restaurant (think Avec, Blackbird, Publican, The Violet Hour). Just being in the space was wonderful although I suspect brunch is much more laid back than dinner.

The rustic Italian dishes are seafood focused – whole fish, mussels and crudo. The brunch menu continues this theme with lobster, oyster, crab and clams. I inquired about tea and our server came over to “discuss” what I would like. I appreciated the thought that he put into finding just the right tea for me. We settled on wonderful almond tea, the green almondine.

Another suggestion we took was the Meyer lemon mimosa. There are times I feel it is a shame to ruin perfectly good champagne with juice but the freshness of the juice complemented the sweetness of the bubbly.

Nico Osteria Meyer Lemon MimosaAlong with the requisite latte order we were ready to dig into brunch.

Nico Osteria LattePastry Chef Amanda Rockman delivers a warm flaky Cornetti (croissant) served plain, ham and provolone or chocolate.

Nico Osteria Individual CornettiThe escarole and gem lettuce salad is equal parts fresh and crunchy and richly decadent with a drizzling of creamy dressing and chunks of avocado coupled with chopped cara cara orange, slices of spicy pepper and topped off with Sicilian pistachios.

Nico Osteria Escarole and gem lettuce saladThe fluffy soft-scrambled eggs were perfectly creamy. The caper topped  peperonata was served with toasted focaccia chock full of green olives along side a healthy serving of prosciutto.

Nico Osteria Soft-scrambled eggs  I fell in love with the focaccia, here’s a close-up:

Nico Osteria FocacciaThe Salone Nicco right off the dining room looks like the perfect spot for a quick cocktail or night-cap. I will be returning soon to experience the dinner side of things.

Brunch at La Sirena Clandestina – West Loop

La Sirena Clandestina Dining RoomLa Sirena Clandestina feels cozy yet open with large front windows that allow the morning light to come streaming in. There is not shortage of rustic wood highlighted by brick and teal walls. The stools, netted light fixtures and mermaid artwork give it a retro vibe.

I love a classic American breakfast but La Sirena Clandestina brings a nice change of pace with its Latin/Brazilian/Japanese take on brunch. There are so many interesting mixes of flavors in each dish. It reminded me of Myers + Chang or what I imagine Fat Rice would taste like if they served brunch.

Let’s start with the fact I found my favorite empanada in Chicago. I’ve been around the Empanada Block, from Chicago to Colombia and these won my heart. I suspect it has to do with the fact they are baked instead of fried. The phyllo-like dough was so light and airy felling similar to meringue when it melts upon hitting your mouth. Filled with baked bacon, sage and cheddar and it was clear why the whole table declared these empanadas the best.

La Sirena Clandestina Breakfast EmpanadaRabanada is a Brazilian-style fried french toast. This version was loaded with dulce de leche and bananas then dusted with powdered sugar and topped off with Cachaça, the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage in Brazil. Made from sugarcane it brought the dish to a whole other level of sophisticated sweet taste.

La Sirena Clandestina Rabanada French ToastPushing aside reservations that the breakfast sandwich was a “boring” choice I went with it after the server said it was one of his favorites. Reminiscent of a torta this hunk of sandwich is served on massive thick and crispy ciabatta encasing fried ham, fresh avocado, egg, and cheddar. Boring this is not.

La Sirena Clandestina Breakfast SandwichThe breakfast sandwich was served with the best potatoes I’ve had in a while. The outside was super crispy like bacon and the inside was nice and soft. Heavily seasoned with chunks of garlic this might not be a good choice during a date but it would be worth it if you did.

La Sirena Clandestina Breakfast Sandwich PotatoesThe Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake served with an ingredient combination that will leave your mouth happy and wanting more. Octopus, bacon, kewpie mayo, bean sprouts, green onions and sesame taken together in one bite will literally make you smile. Kewpie is a Japanese mayo and made with rice vinegar making it slightly sweeter than regular mayo and twice the umami taste in a creamier texture.

La Sirena Clandestina OkonomiyakiThe shrimp Baiano was another new dish to me. The taste and texture of the La Sirena Clandestina Shrimp BaianoThe polenta worked nicely with the bite of the green onions and habenero rounded out with some richness from cashews.

Finally a Kale salad that is a bit different. This was lovely with roasted poblano dressing, cotija, toasted pepitas, radish and jalapeño. We opted for the chicken but you can have shrimp as well.

La Sirena Clandestina Kale SaladLa Sirena Clandestina is a perfect brunch spot and I am looking forward to trying the dinner and drink menu I am hearing so much about. If it’s as half as good as brunch I’ll be sending all my friends there.

La Sirena Clandestina Bar

Breakfast in Soho – Jack’s Wife Freda

Jack's Wife Freda Entrance

Jack’s Wife Freda is a cute little spot in Soho on Lafayette Street. We walked by and noticed the charming white and green awning and took a peek inside to find a bright yet cozy space with leather bench seating along the walls and a long communal table in the center. Arriving just at opening ensured us a seat and it steadily filled up by the minute.

Jack's Wife Freda Interior

We ordered a cappuccino (Stumptown, yay!) while we looked at the hand drawn menu and contemplated the origin of the restaurant’s name. The menu has Continue reading