Back in February, when Jacqui and I first stepped inside Honey, on an afternoon where there was muddy snow on the ground and we wore winter coats, I knew right away we’d found something special. It was either that visit or our next where this café filled with Amish chicken, grass-fed meat and organic greens had me fully won over, slapping the table and saying, New life goal! I’ll try every single item on this menu, just wait!
Seven months later, after more visits with Jacqui, several lunches with friends, weekend breakfasts, random takeouts, a great dinner date and a quiet birthday brunch, would you believe it, I am more than halfway there.
In fact, since I last told you about it, Honey’s become a part of my regular life, that place where I celebrate and enjoy conversation and always want to bring friends. We’ve now spent three seasons getting to know each other, the way you want to do when something (or someone) has really caught your fancy, and I’m happy to tell you this: we’re still going strong. In fact, yesterday, you could say we hit a new milestone, because yesterday is when I sat down with Honey’s lovely owner, Elizabeth Janus.
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
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.
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.
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.