Sunday was warm. Unseasonably warm. Unbelievably warm. We just knew that we had to go out for brunch, and we needed to be eating it outside. And so began the great outdoor brunch hunt of 2011.
The first place we thought of was La Creperie. It’s a crepe place at the corner of diversey, clark, and broadway. It’s a hidden little gem with charm and character, and they have a wonderful little outdoor patio. On late summer nights, it’s quite easy to sit back there, have a dessert crepe, some wine, and forget that you are in the city. They even have a small brunch menu that sounded really good. But we called them up and they apologetically informed me that their outdoor area wasn’t ready yet.
Then, I recalled that, just down the street from La Creperie is Duke of Perth. They, too, have a nice outdoor area. Plus, although they proudly declare that they do not have TVs, they do have free wi-fi. Go figure. Anyway, we checked out their website. No brunch menu.
Then, I thought about Erwin’s. I love that place. It’s probably my current favorite restaurant, which doesn’t mean much because I rarely think about restaurants long enough to rank them. But they serve well-crafted food. And their brunch menu looked great. I couldn’t remember if they had an outdoor area, but I don’t like talking to people over the phone, particularly strangers, so I didn’t even bother to ask. Plus, it’s a couple blocks’ walk farther than I wanted to go.
Ultimately, we decided to walk over to Matisse. We haven’t been there in quite a while, but we use to love their outdoor patio. And, although their food is more miss than hit, we thought they were due for a re-try. But, when we got there, no tables or chairs were set up. (the adjacent crab shack had their tables set up, but no brunch).
As a back-up, we decided we would go to Wilde. They have a small outdoor area, and I had just spent about ten minutes the night before drunkenly telling some friends about how much I like the curry gravy they serve with their breakfast burger (burger + egg. inventive, no?). When we got there, we were told that the wait would be 30 minutes. But we just couldn’t make it that long. We had been walking for a while, and we had sorely underestimated just how hot it was outside. Sweating and starving, we told them we would take a table inside.
But, despite the fact that we had just asked if we could sit outside, they sat us in the literal darkest corner of the restaurant. Even after letting my eyes adjust, I still couldn’t read the menu. I felt like I was going to be eating in a broom closet. So we left and went to Stella’s.
Stella’s was a place that we had considered earlier. They usually have a nice sidewalk cafe section. But, like everywhere else, the outside tables weren’t ready yet. So we sat inside. They have large windows, and the interior is brightly painted in hues that my color blind eyes can only discern as various shades of orange-ish(?).
The place professes to be a diner. And because it does not really deliver on that promise (not to New Jersey standards, anyway), I boycotted the place for the first several years that I lived in Chicago. (The Bagel, across the street, is a much better option).
The food at Stella’s is diner-ish in that they have your typical breakfast-y food. But it all has a Cal Mex leaning. Avocados and/or salsas appear a lot on the menu. And they do a lot of skillets, for some reason.
I had the Eggs Hudson. It was an english muffin, a slab of ham, poached egg, and cheddar cheese melted on top. What makes it “Hudson”, I have no idea. It was tasty, in a salty and processed kind of way. The eggs were poached well. Nice and dippy.
The coffee was bad, but that is how it always is, and that is something I never remember until it is too late. It may or may not have chicory in it. If it did, that is what made it taste bad to me. I don’t like chicory. Some people do. But chicory is a filler that they put in the coffee rations of soldiers during the Civil War. Telling me you like coffee with chicory is like telling me you like low-fat cookies because of the margarine-y flavor.
Sarah had the breakfast quesadilla special. This was a wonderful and gargantuan veggie omelet tucked into a large, white tortilla with cheese melted inside to keep everything in place. If it were a contest (and it always is), Sarah would have won on portion size. I would have won on taste, but just barely. Sarah’s breakfast special had hash browns cooked with diced onions and jalapenos. It looked like it happened on accident and was too spicy for Sarah to eat.
In all though, it was a much more pleasant brunch experience than I think Wilde would have been. The interior was technicolor bright and warm. The staff was straightforward and speedy. And the meal hit the spot. We felt good and full. On the way home, we decided to stop by the liquor store and make some mimosas on the roof.