The Bongo Room

by Steven Behling


True to form, my tribute to the city of Chicago and the food that got me through graduate school is taking longer to complete than promised...much like the graduate school experience itself.  October 2014 was a crazy month with some rather tough stuff in it, but here we are in November and I'm hungry to continue celebrating some of my favorite Chicago eateries. 

The Bongo Room.  Photos simply do not do justice to the decadence that is brunch at The Bongo Room.  Very few photos exist of my many trips to this fine establishment, mostly because I could not wait another moment to take in the fluffiest pancakes coated in crushed pretzels and drizzled with chocolate and bananas, or perhaps an aromatic vanilla crème anglaise and ribbons of salted caramel, or maybe a dusting of graham cracker and webs of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla sauces with fresh strawberries dancing in a Neapolitan wonderland.  If you play your cards right, you might happen upon said pancakes topped with crushed candied praline and buttery hazelnut cream.  I could go on and on.  And on.

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Pancakes not your thing?  No prob.  How 'bout their chocolate tower French toast?  Bittersweet chocolate chunk bread with maple mascarpone (did someone say autumn?), banana crème brûlée sauce (what?!), fresh bananas and a little chocolate tulip plus chocolate shavings on top. #becausechocolate

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I suggest going with a friend and ordering one sweet, one savory, and splitting them amongst yourselves.  My favorite savory has always been their baby spinach, roasted red pepper, and feta Benedict, shown photobombing the chocolate tower French toast above.  That Benedict is such a ham.

The Bongo Room has three Chicago locations: 1470 N Milwaukee in Wicker Park (check out the ceiling fans!), 5022 N Clark in Andersonville (perhaps the most seating of the three), and the original South Loop location at 1152 S Wabash.


Toast

by Steven Behling


Mascarpone-stuffed French toast, lightly dusted with powdered sugar and served with seasonal berries.  Shh.  Don't say another word.  Nobody likes it when you talk with your mouth full.

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Toast has locations in two Chicago neighborhoods: 746 W Webster Ave in Lincoln Park & 2046 N Damen Ave in Bucktown.


Frog N Snail [CLOSED]

by Steven Behling


I admit it.  I'm a big fan of Top Chef.  Although I've never been a reality television supporter, something about [variably] delicious food prepared in the pressure cooker of competition and ingredient sabotage keeps me glued to the television.  During my visit to Chicago the spring before last, I stopped by Top Chef Miami finalist Dale Levitski's Frog N Snail on the morning of my friend's wedding for a delicious start to the day.  While I was waiting for my breakfast to arrive, I sipped silently on a velvety milk chocolate violet steamer and contemplated what unique finds I might discover at Foursided, one of my favorite shops in Lakeview that offers framing, unique cards, and little bits of this and that (all of which you need).  

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Post-steamer, I enjoyed the rabbit dumpling hash with salty truffle dumplings, tender braised rabbit, garden fresh asparagus and peas, smooth "broccoli n cauliflower" purée, and preserved lemon jus.  Gorgeous!

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Just when I thought my meal was complete, Dale himself stopped by to see how I liked it.  What?!  This is what my Top Chef obsession has turned me into: one of those guys who asks for a photograph.

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It was glorious.  Sadly, Frog N Snail, along with Levitski's other Chicago venture, Sprout, are both closed now.  You can still enjoy Dale's haute cuisine if you're willing to drive for seven hours down I-65 from Chicago to Nashville to arrive at his newest venture, Sinema, located at 2600 Franklin Pike, Suite 102.  I'm pretty sure you should.


Ann Sather

by Steven Behling


One of the first places I fell in love with after moving to Chicago in the autumn of 2004 was a little place just around the corner on Broadway off Roscoe (and also down the street, by the Belmont El stop) that served the gooiest, sweetest, frostingest cinnamon rolls this side of Scandinavia: Ann Sather.  This Swedish-inspired breakfast and lunch spot delivered reliably delicious offerings the many times I stopped in over the years, but the one thing I always went for was a[t least one] cinnamon roll.  Hey, they come with your breakfast entrée.  How can you not?  On more than one occasion, I stopped by the Belmont Ave location and picked up a dozen (extra frosting please!) on my way to campus for a meeting; take note...dry research meetings are made better with gooey frosting.  Always.

Also, if you're headed to Seattle from Chicago, note that Ann Sather's cinnamon rolls travel fairly well, at least within the day.  Message me for my address.  I'll stay up late for you.  

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Ann Sather's flagship restaurant is located at 909 W Belmont Ave in Chicago, Illinois, next to the Belmont El stop.  They can also be found at 3145 N Broadway St and 1147 W Granville St.


The Breslin

by Steven Behling


In September 2013, I was visiting NYC after a midweek research conference in Boston and did some serious online research to find a tasty brunch spot near the questionable shoebox I booked through Airbnb. My travels led me to The Breslin at the Ace Hotel, a hipster haven that was remarkably quiet for a Saturday morning. There I enjoyed a bubbly housemade lemongrass and allspice tonic with lime to start, poached eggs served over curried lentils with a smooth and smoky heat, creamy yogurt, cilantro, sun-dried tomato flakes, and deep-fried garlic slices to finish. Perfect for a day of walking from art museum to art museum.  

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The Breslin is located at 16 West 29th Street, New York City, New York.