Breakfast in Chicago is a "thing" in a very different way than it is in other parts of the country. When people plan to get together, in Chicago, they might plan lunch, dinner or drinks, sure, but they might just as easily say, "Hey, let's grab breakfast." And we're not just talking about boozy mid-day weekend brunch, here. We're talking breakfast--eggs over easy with hashbrowns and bacon in a diner. Like that.
So, if you're visiting Chicago, you should definitely take part in the breakfast culture. You can ask a local for a good place to get breakfast, before starting out on a day of sightseeing, but in case you're looking to jump start your breakfast plan, we've got a few of our favorite suggestions to plant with you.
Lou Mitchell's is the quintessential Chicago breakfast restaurant, located at the beginning of Route 66 at 565 W. Jackson Boulevard, and owned by the same Greek family since 1933. The food is top-notch, and its proximity to The Loop makes it a frequent place for business breakfasts--people conduct business over pancakes and omelets, they way they do over a 3 martini lunch in other cities. The restaurant has some quirky little traditions, too. For example, women and children get a little mini box of Milk Duds when they enter the restaurant. Milk Duds at breakfast? Apparently, it has something to do with the Greek tradition of offering people something sweet when they walk through the door to pay a visit.
People line up outside The Bongo Room to get a table right when they open. If you show up fifteen minutes after opening, the place will be full, and you'll have to wait until the first round of diners settles up and vacates. That's one reason that they insist that you place your entire order all at once. Ordering in "courses" is not allowed. The Bongo Room is famous for having pancakes that are practically desserts. Oreo cookie crumb pancakes with a vanilla crème anglais? Pumpkin spice pancakes with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon swirl and a vanilla orange zest whipped cream? Yeah. They're over the top and out of this world. Their savory options are just as good, though. You'll frequently find more than one breakfast burrito option on the menu at any given time, and their variations on eggs benedict are fantastic, too--like their deconstructed lobster roll benedict, the ground sirloin benedict, or the BLT benedict. There are three locations--in Wicker Park, the South Loop, and Andersonville. Pick the one that's closest and go early!
Swedish breakfasts are a thing in and of themselves. Ann Sather Restaurant is probably the best known Swedish restaurant in the Windy City since they have three locations on the north side of town. And they're definitely famous for their cinnamon rolls. But if you ask me, the best Swedish breakfast to be had anywhere in Cook County is at Tre Kronor, a small restaurant on Foster Avenue, west of the area that most people think of as Andersonville. The decor is a little kooky and kitchy, with murals of Swedish trolls painted onto the walls, but the food is seriously the real deal. Tre Kronor has fantastic omelettes, stuffed with smoked salmon, dill and cream cheese, or with Falukorv sausage and havarti. The pannekaker with lingonberries are delicious, too, but the Danish pastries and cinnamon rolls are unreal. If you've ever had a Danish from a normal bakery, you have no idea how much better the real deal is. I would walk a mile in bare feet through a Scandanavian winter to get one of these pastries. YUM!