Almond Croissant at Milk + Honey

I don’t know whom to thank for the weekend phenomenon we call brunch—a simple Google search points at different times to the French Quarter of New Orleans (or really, the “Fench” quarter, which doesn’t engender confidence); Britain in 1896 thanks to some publication called Hunter’s Weekly; reporter Frank Ward O’Malley, who looked for a new term to define his journalist-on-the-go eating habits; and Britain in the 19th/20th century, when the convention demonstrated the leisured privilege of the rich.

What I do know is this: there is nothing quite as nice as late-morning meals, especially at new places and especially with people you love. To prove my point, here are three reasons I love brunch (i.e., three Chicago-area restaurants that make nice ones):

1. HARNER’S 10 W State Street, North Aurora, IL
harners in aurora

A few Saturdays ago, my mom and my brother and I tried this new-to-me restaurant/bakery that I’d read rave reviews about online, where the menu is reasonably priced, the bakery is packed with made-from-scratch coffee cakes (and doughnuts and bread and cookies) and, at least if the wait is any indication of popularity, everyone loves to go.

corn beef hash
ham
denver omelette

Between the three of us, we ordered omelettes, ham, sausage, toast, breakfast potatoes and slices of the famous coffee cake to go, and amidst the leisured hour or so we spent there, we discovered a marvelous surprise: that the suburbs can do brunch well (and cheap!) and, best of all, I managed to take the first photo of my mom approved for posting here.

Mom and Adam

Small steps, people.

2. MILK + HONEY CAFE, 1920 West Division Street, Chicago, IL

Milk and Honey

Thanks to @TCrustDDish on Twitter, I remembered I’d been wanting to try Milk + Honey in Wicker Park, so on one of those beautiful November afternoons we were given, in near 60-degree weather, my brother and I walked up to this crowded cafe and saw people dining al fresco outside, wearing light jackets and sipping hot drinks. Our orange brioche French toast and egg-bacon-cheddar panini were good, but the almond croissant (pictured at the top) was perfection: flaky, light, the almond filling the ideal complement to the buttery dough.

hot apple cider
orange brioche french toast
breakfast panini
ricotta tart

3. DUCHAMP, 2118 N Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL

DuChamp

This past Sunday afternoon, a $40 groupon brought us to DuChamp, recently featured in Chicago Magazine‘s “Best Restaurants in Chicago: 30 under $30″ (now I’ve been to two of the restaurants featured there!) and located just down the street from The Bristol.

inside DuChamp
French toast
omelette at DuChamp
Parmesan-garlic fries

In the restaurant’s almost-empty dining room, we tried the houska French toast with lemon mascarpone and nutella, which I may have scraped every last bit of off the plate; an omelette with bacon, havarti and spinach that reminded me of the things I do like about that breakfast meat that I have yet to cook again; and garlic and Romano fries, which were crispy outside and soft inside. Excellent meal.

The combination of all these trips out has been adding up, I’ll admit (am I the only one who spends most of her free budget on more food?), but I have loved every bit of it. Now it’s your turn: where are your favorite brunch places, whether in Chicago or your own town? I’d love to know.

Cooksnaps
Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Emily

    I really need to come visit you more often, I love the pace of your writing! (I think it’s called syntax, but I’m no expert.??…).
    I love brunch but so rarely eat it out, as for the most part I don’t really eat meat and cheese. I am however enamoured with the idea of it, and if you’re ever in London, UK, you’ll have to come by for some of Andy’s top notch blueberry & spice pancakes smothered in the very best thick maple syrup :)

  2. Antonietta

    Hi Shannalee,
    I love brunch too! It is by far our favorite meal to eat at restaurants, especially on lazy sundays.
    I wish I lived closer to these places, especially the Milk and Honey cafe. Those pastries look like perfection!

  3. kate

    That Milk & Honey french toast is quite the plateful! And it all looks so delicious. I love a good breakfast place too, and lovely platters of golden omelets, crunchy bacon (with the fat, especially) and golden fried potatoes. We have LOTS of stellar little cafes around the Twin Cities. LOTS. A good breakfast is never hard to find.

  4. ToKisstheCook

    Great tips on all three- particularly that stop in Aurora the photo makes it look plucked from the Scandinavian coutryside. Milk & Honey is my regular brunch spot because it’s down the street from me. If you head back in that direction, the huevos rancheros in individual cassoulets is an absolute nonegotiable. SO so good. I haven’t made it to Duchamp yet but if you continue heading southeast, I’d recommend Flo on Chicago Ave for bloody mary’s and a breakfast burrito. If you were to head northwest, Lula Cafe is worth ever ounce of a sterling reputation. Chicago does brunch better than most.

  5. Shannalee

    Emily, Would it sound weird if I told you I am mentally plotting ways to get to the UK now?

    Antonietta, I just can’t say enough about the croissant at Milk + Honey. The rest of the meal was satisfying and not bad, really, but that croissant? Coupled with the hot apple cider? Yum.

    Kate, Oh gosh, it WAS quite the plateful! And LOL (!) about the bacon comment. You are a funny one.

    ToKisstheCook, I remember looking at the huevos rancheros on the menu – good to know! Thanks for the recommendations about Flo and Lula Cafe, too! You’re right – Chicago does brunch right.

  6. Shannalee

    Kim, Clearly I need to get back to California!

    Caitlin, Your fiance thinks loving brunch is crazy!? Travesty. You need to set that right!

    Jessica, DuChamp’s meal was seriously perfect – go soon.

  7. Danielle

    Brunch is indeed the best meal of the day, especially when you can pair it with a glass (or two) of champagne :) That almond croissant looks like it can feed me for two breakfasts and I absolutely love the chairs at DuChamp…looks like we’ll need to visit Chicago to check out all these gorgeous places you’re sharing with us!

    Where we live (in the Bay Area), my favorite brunch meals include: (1) Dim Sum at City View in SF’s Chinatown, (2) Cafe Brioche in Palo Alto and (3) Alice’s restaurant in Woodside

  8. Nastassia

    I love love love brunch, well breakfast and if it is eaten later in the day then brunch. That almond croissant looks divine. In Chicago I love Orange. In LA where I live I love to brunch at Le Pain Quotidien or Cafe Stella. If you make a trip be sure to try those spots!

  9. Niki

    I love brunch! I hate eating super early, so brunch on the weekends is perfect! My fav place to go close to home is The Country House in Alsip, IL. They have some yummy skillets, like the Gourmet Skillet: Fresh Chicken Breast, Artichokes, Asparagus, Tomatoes and Feta Cheese cooked in olive oil or if you have time (or call in advance), the apple pancake. It is delicious! And close to home. Plus, they are so awesome, they donate dinner twice a year to the soup kitchen my food team and I work at. :)
    http://thecountryhouserestaurant.com/

  10. Celeste

    Anytime you feel like visiting Vancouver Canada…let me know.
    I have some places for you to check out.
    That french toast looks amazing, my husband would be in heaven. Here in Canada we don’t usually served potato chips with anything, normally fries for salad.
    As usual, great pics, great writing Shannalee

  11. Val

    Milk & Honey has been on my list of places to go for a long time! I get their granola from Whole Foods and it is delicious.

    Two of my favorite brunch places in Chicago (although maybe because they are right down the block from me…) are Orange (for pancake flights and frushi) and Frasca (it’s actually a pizzeria and wine bar, but for brunch they had one of the best omelets I’ve ever had).

  12. Shannalee

    Rachel, I know, I can’t wait to see you! Will you have all the kiddos with you? If so, I’ll look for a family-friendly place in Sandwich or Aurora area and get back to ya.

    Danielle, They’re cool, right? They were made out of plastic or something – very light and easy to pick up. And wow with your recommendations. Between you and Kim, I am leaning more and more towards a California trip. Thanks!

    Kim, You’re so sweet. We have been getting hit hard with snow, and my commute tonight was LONG but thankfully nothing too bad yet. Thanks for thinking of me – you’re really kind.

    Natassia, Orange has been on my list for a long time! I need to go there soon. And thanks for the California recommendations!

    Niki, Thanks for the tip about Country House! Would you believe there’s another great restaurant in Lisle (and a few other towns) called The Country House that makes killer burgers? Must be a sign. I hope to visit next time I’m in that area!

    Celeste, Some good friends of mine will be moving up there in a few years, and I’d love to go visit! Either way, maybe I could pass on your recommendations to them! Thanks for your always sweet comments.

    Val, I saw their packaged granola at the restaurant, and one lady came in just to buy that! Another vote for Orange has convinced me I need to go there – and hey, I have been to Frasca, back in the day, and got pizza (we were doing a months-long tour of all those pizza places). you must live close to my brother!

  13. stevi

    i grew up right by harner’s and attended the dance school that is right next to it! so glad i happened upon your site today! have you tried the bongo room on milwaukee? there’s always a line out the door but it is delicious.

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