that’s how you do a birthday

october 24

My brother turned 25 on Saturday.

And while I could tell you a lot of reasons why this is significant, such as the fact that he is my only sibling and oldest friend or that he is the one person in this world who would talk to me on speakerphone the entire time I navigate through a detour in the city or who understands my parents in the way that we can just look at each other when we’re all having a family dinner and we’ll know exactly what the other person is thinking, I will tell you this instead, because this is important: he likes to eat. He really likes to eat. In fact, if quantity is any indicator, he likes it more than I do. He was, after all, the one who almost went to culinary school, the one who first took me to Swirlz and Bittersweet and Spacca Napoli.

So, after telling you that, I guess it should be obvious now what he and I’d do to celebrate his birthday. It’s what we would have done for mine, if we hadn’t been fresh off a trip to Maine in which I’d eaten everything in sight for three or four days already: We ate.

I can take no credit for any of the restaurant choices, as he picked them all, like he usually does when we hang out (and, can I just say, he picks the best places) but I enjoyed them all very much, so I thought to tell you because, you know, I like you guys the way I like sitting across the table from the kid who knew me when I was three.


inside sola

short ribs benedict

five-spice waffle

First was brunch at beautiful Sola (3868 N Lincoln Ave), where we split the short rib Benedict and the five-spice waffle with a rhubarb compote and goat cheese, and I ordered the spearmint tea, only because it was the single decaf option, and it was heaven—pure heaven!—with cream and sugar. On a Saturday morning, there was no line (but you can make reservations through, if you’re worried) and we had a nice view from our table of the fall colors lining Lincoln Avenue.

swedish bakery

bakery box

petit fours

In Andersonville, we bought a box of the lemon almond truffle petit fours at Swedish Bakery (5348 North Clark Street)—his birthday cake for the day. I love everything about these tiny cakes, from the way the almond icing cracks when you bite in, to the moist and light centers that are lined with ribbons of lemon. You will not find better petit fours in this area, and yes, I have looked.

adam and his pie

tea at adam's

When we stopped back at his apartment in the afternoon, it was just long enough to catch a little television and slices of homemade pumpkin pie, which he’d made, complete with roasting the pumpkins, a few days earlier, from a recipe from our good friend Wendi, and I had another cup of tea that was also delicious.

adam in his kitchen

(Yes, he really is doing dishes in the above picture, on his birthday.)


more leaves

Then we did some walking, mostly around Wells Street and to Old Town Oil and the Spice House of last week’s food tour, because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but: this is a beautiful time of year.

fall colors

from the window

the bristol

Dinner was at The Bristol (2152 N. Damen), the neighborhood eatery you may remember being mentioned here in the spring, when we’d stopped for a weekend brunch. Turns out dinner is just as fantastic. What we ordered: the crispy duck-fat fries with house ketchup and garlic aioli, the sweet apple salad with marinated manchego and hazelnuts, the savory monkey bread with sea salt and dill butter (best idea ever) and the smoked trout served with a hot potato salad—oh and for dessert, the homemade nutter butters with chocolate sabayon. Good heavens, that meal was perfect. In fact the whole day was pretty great, and if I took too many pictures, it was because, between us, it was the kind you want to hold onto.

21 Comment

  1. Hannah says: Reply

    looks like a fantastic time. your pictures are beautiful.

  2. those leaves!!! perfect!

  3. I really need to make it to The Bristol. Duck Fat fries. YUM.

  4. love the sibling relationship. can relate. i baked a pie today after a swim before the dreaded woman’s annual check-up. gave half to brother for going w/me. brothers are good for the soul. so are pies.

  5. Niki says: Reply

    OMG, crispy duck-fat fries and garlic aioli??? Short Ribs Benedict?

    Whoa, sorry, I was having a mini-green-with-envy jealous moment there. And you guys ate all this in one day?

    Actually, I think I am full from just reading that. Whoa…

  6. Jacqui says: Reply

    you kids really know how to celebrate. whenever i read your travel/review posts and look at your photos, i always just want to find a city to explore and just take tons of pictures while i eat my way through it. lovely!

  7. Maria says: Reply

    I have three little sisters, no brother – so the relationship is different but the same, if that makes sense. They’re my oldest and best friends. You’re so lucky to have him close to celebrate.

    Those fries in the bottom photo look exactly like my favourite kind: rustic and crisp and thick.

    And your brother, well, he’s awfully handsome. 😉

  8. rachel says: Reply

    aw. Happy Birthday Adam! seriously such a beautiful sibling relationship and both of you are just so darn nice 🙂

  9. Wendi says: Reply

    Well, I’d wish Adam a Happy Birthday, but it seems he already had one! Sound like a terrific day.

  10. Niki says: Reply

    Sorry, so the food had me distracted before… but Happy Birthday Brother!

  11. Celeste says: Reply

    Amazing pics.
    Love the box of lemon confection.

  12. i LOVE this. your best article yet, because your love for your brother shines through! happy birthday! and what a lovely, lovely day you had. thanks for sharing! bristol. note to self: GO!

  13. I want it. All of it. The food, the love, the leaves. Oh yes – yes to all of it.

  14. Alicia says: Reply

    Sounds like a perfect birthday to me!! I really need to start eating at more places. That waffle looked SO yummy!! And see, caffeine-free choices are delicious too!

  15. Hannah, You are too nice to me. I wish I could sit and watch you take pictures so I could learn how you do it, I mean it!

    Caitlin, I know. I love this time of year so much!

    Whitney, Absolutely 100% every bit as good as I’d expected. Really.

    Cal Orey, Thank you, and pie sounds lovely!

    Niki, Haha! It’s totally normal – I swear, I get distracted every time I think back to the food!

    Jacqui, That makes me so happy to hear you say that. I hope everyone gets to eat their way through places. So much fun.

    Maria, I am very blessed, you’re right! Thanks for the compliment for him, as well – I’ll be sure to pass it along!

    Aw, thanks, Rae. Miss you and hope you get to visit at Christmas!

    Wendi, Did you notice we had your pie?? Thanks again for the recipe!

    Celeste, Oh, I loved it, too!

    JessieV, That was a nice thing to say. Thank you! (And yes, go to The Bristol!)

    Caitlin, HA! Right? He picked a good time of year to be born!

    Alicia, Very true; nothing wrong with caffeine-free! 🙂

  16. Wow all of the food looks amazing!!! Boys can seriously eat like a horse, do they have a hollow leg?

  17. Sues says: Reply

    That short rib benedict looks SO SO SO good!

  18. Jessica, It’s like, they’re taller and built with more muscles or something, and they can just eat more! Crazy.

    Sues, Great way to start the day!

  19. Emily says: Reply

    Beautiful photos ~ the one of the leaves in the gutter especially. The food photos are serving to make me feel very hungry and it’s only 10:03am where I am writing from!
    Happy belated birthday wishes for your brother 🙂

  20. Emily – Thank you for your sweet comment!

  21. […] waffles covered with berries and whipped cream and chocolate syrup; in October, my brother and I split a waffle at Sola that was topped with goat cheese and strawberry-rhubarb compote; but it wasn’t until recently […]

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