Brunch review: Three Aces
1321 W. Taylor St. 312-243-1577
Brunch times: 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, changing to 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily starting April 28
Rating: !!!! (out of 4)
Former Fianco chef Matt Troost has been rocking the kitchen at this Little Italy spot since it opened in 2010, and generally, the volume has been turned all the way up. Three Aces is part bar, part restaurant, and all attitude, complete with an Elvis pinball machine and heavily tatted servers. But the new weekend brunch service, which rolled out March 17 and expands to weekdays later this month, feels like the kitchen's inner rock star has gone from jamming in his parent's garage to playing the hippest lounge in town.
Day drinking: It'd be a shame not to begin the meal with Father Flanagan's Blood Mary ($9), made with small-batch vodka, a noticeable splash of stout and enough skewered meat, cheese and pickles to tide you over until the food arrives. For an extra buck, the 7-ounce High Life beer back is a no-brainer. I also liked the Ginger Baby ($9), a play on a dark 'n' stormy that perks up dark rum and ginger beer with pineapple juice and a novel skewer of sliced banana.
Good eggs: You've had 'em fried, you've had 'em scrambled, but have you had them smoked? Troost pairs a slightly smoky egg with pork scrapple ($12), a breakfast meat that's traditionally formed like a loaf, then sliced and fried. His version has the pleasing texture of a perfect falafel: slightly crunchy on the outside and piping hot and savory on the inside.
Sweet stuff: Rather than veering into sugar bomb territory, the sweets are surprisingly balanced. Cinnamon roll monkey bread ($8) pulls apart in individual puffs, making it an easily shared plate for the table, and stout glaze adds an almost chocolatey, spiced layer of flavor. Sourdough waffles ($10) with caramelized banana sauce come with a side of airy cinnamon whipped cream that you'll want to lick off the plate.
Bottom line: This fresh, creative brunch menu would be at home at a high-end restaurant, and the fact that it's served at a neighborhood bar that pumps The Ramones makes it an even more delicious surprise.
Brunch review: Fritz Pastry
1408 W. Diversey Pkwy. 773-857-2989
Brunch times: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday
Rating: !! (out of 4)
Fritz Pastry—and its near-famous French macarons—have been around for years, but new owners and a new chef have shaken it up since January. The Lincoln Park space has been revamped, with a brighter interior, chalkboard wall menu, small side patio, and since late March, new brunch service. Head baker James Gray is a Chicago native, but only recently returned from Pittsburgh where he ran a successful bakery. After slinging doughnuts and danishes during the week, the team at Fritz fires up the stove for Sunday brunch, with a Saturday brunch to launch in the next few weeks. The small menu focuses on seasonal and local ingredients, with a number of vegan entrees and pastries.
Crowd surfing: Unlike trendier brunch spots with 45-minute waits, Fritz feels like anyone's neighborhood cafe, a place where a table of 20-something girls could grab a quick bite next to a grandfather leisurely reading the Sunday paper over a scone and cup of coffee. After ordering at the counter, you'll have your choice of a table, though the small dining room does make any group of more than four slightly unmanageable.
Menu pointers: While the veggie dishes may not initially appeal to a staunch carnivore, they're actually some of the better options. Vegetable hash ($8) binds together perfectly cooked carrots, zucchini and two types of potatoes with tofu instead of egg, and roasted red-pepper ketchup adds flavor without fat. The breakfast burrito ($9.50) with organic eggs, black beans, chorizo and queso fresco is the only option with meat, and while the quality of the eggs is commendable, the total package isn't anything you haven't tried before.
Sweet stuff: In addition to brioche French toast with blueberries and pistachios ($9), there's also a stack of vegan cherry-chocolate pancakes ($8.50). Four dense, half-inch thick flapjacks are nearly redeemed by tart cherries hidden within, but an overzealous smear of chocolate atop the whole pile only adds to the sticky heft. Instead, I'd go with a savory entree and choose a muffin or cookie from the pastry case for a sugar fix.
Bottom line: Vegetarians and Lincoln Park residents will want to give the new crew at Fritz a shot, especially for a low-key brunch with quality ingredients and no fuss. The basics, like great baked goods and Metropolis coffee, are there, and perhaps some of the brunch dishes will find their footing with a little time.
5 MORE NEW BRUNCHES
Storefront Company (1941 W. North Ave. 773-661-2609) in Wicker Park serves lemon-ricotta souffle pancakes and a blue crab omelet with homemade Canadian bacon and mascarpone cheese. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
City Farms Market & Grill (1467 W. Irving Park Road. 773-883-2767) in Lakeview cooks up black forest French toast, organic omelets and pan-fried oatmeal. 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Premise (5420 N Clark St. 773-334-9463) in Andersonville is debuting brunch service this weekend, featuring dishes such as duck-fat biscuits with coddled eggs and sweetbread gravy. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
Eggy's (333 E. Benton Pl. 773-234-3449) churns out hearty dishes such a "green eggs and ham" with avocado and tasso ham, grits and tomatillo gravy. The breakfast menu's served all day. 6:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Badhappy Poutine Shop (939 N. Orleans St. 312-890-2165) serves hangover-helping dishes such as a poutine Benedict, chicken and waffles and biscuits and gravy. BYO vodka to spike bottomless pours of bloody mary or mudslide mix. Noon-4 p.m. Sunday. –Lisa Arnett