5 Loaves Eatery
This family-owned South Side staple provides down-home Southern-style cooking in a cozy, unpretentious space. The restaurant, in Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing community, serves breakfast and lunch at a reasonable price, offering an array of sandwiches, omelets and scrambles, griddle items and salads. But the real showstopper here is the fried chicken — golden brown, thick, crunchy and juicy inside.
BTW: Try a two-piece mixed chicken breakfast with cheesy grits, and substitute the regular pancakes for the lemon zest stack, which comes topped with homemade buttermilk syrup.
5 Loaves Eatery, 405 E. 75th St., Chicago, Ill. 60619
Over Easy Cafe
Over Easy Cafe could be the best brunch spot in Chicago — and it’s not in the hip West Loop or booming Logan Square neighborhoods where you might expect such a claim. This Ravenswood haunt offers a creative and expansive menu of inventive egg dishes and griddled sweets. On the weekends, the line extends out the door — but the staff will serve you hot coffee while you wait.
BTW: Order the Sassy Eggs — a spicy chorizo potato hash topped with a pair of eggs, cheddar cheese, sour cream, poblano pepper ketchup (ancho) and guacamole.
Over Easy Cafe, 4943 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60625
At this special Archer Heights taqueria, you always get the goat. The restaurant’s staple offering is chopped goat meat topped with its own broth, served with warm homemade tortillas on the side, along with onions, cilantro and lime. You can order a large or small plate, or purchase individual tacos. Order at the counter and take your goat to go, or sit down inside the cozy and colorful eatery.
BTW: Order a side of the hearty and spicy salsa de molcajete for an extra flavor kick.
Birrieria Zaragoza, 4852 S. Pulaski Rd., Chicago, Ill. 60632
Publican Quality Meats
Cheaper and in a smaller space than nearby Publican, this casual coffee bar and sandwich shop still offers a lot of what people love about its West Loop sibling: quality cuts and ingredients, an inventive menu and expert curation from the staff. It’s one of the more affordable brunch options in an area that doesn’t exactly specialize in the affordable.
BTW: If meat isn’t for you, don’t fret. Try the BGS — a falafel sandwich with red curry soubise, pickled cauliflower, urfa yogurt, fennel and gem lettuce on a potato bun — or the Broccoli Crue — a charred-broccoli sandwich with sun-dried tomato, chile aioli, almond aillade, piperade and Gouda served on naan.
Publican Quality Meats, 825 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, Ill. 60607
Yassa African Restaurant
Yassa, a Senegalese restaurant in the heart of Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood (a.k.a. the Black Metropolis), cooks some of the best West African food in the city. The fare includes huge portions of traditional stews and rices, whole fish, chicken and lamb dishes — but it’s also veggie friendly.
BTW: If you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine, ask the staff for advice when you order.
Yassa African Restaurant, 3511 S. King Dr., Chicago, Ill. 60653
Here we have great New American cuisine at a relatively affordable price. The vibrant, sun-filled space that looks like a posh diner and has a strong roster of veggie options, elevated comfort food and well-crafted bird-themed cocktails. This is one of the best Chicago restaurants to open in the past couple of years, but somehow the farm-to-table haunt still seems to fly under the radar.
BTW: This is an ideal and well-positioned date spot — near a movie theater and a large park.
The Warbler, 4535 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60625
(Courtesy of The Long Room/Belen Aquino)
Long Room Chicago
The laid-back comfort of a favorite dive bar meets fantastic drinks and food at the Long Room. Locals flock to this favorite neighborhood haunt for biscuits from in-house partner the Biscuit Man, cocktails and an impressive selection of craft beer.
BTW: The space functions as a coffee shop during the morning hours — perfect if you’re in need of a caffeine pick-me-up.
1612 W. Irving Park Rd. #1, Chicago, Ill. 60613
Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar
This neighborhood favorite — named in honor of the co-owners’ mother, who used to run the joint and often works the front register — is the ultimate mash-up. It houses a liquor store, microbrewery, dive bar, beer hall and patio. It features Polish-fusion street food courtesy of Kimski, a restaurant attached to the establishment. The beer and cocktail list here is huge, and it rotates throughout the year.
BTW: The liquor store carries a wide selection of craft beers from the popular Bridgeport-based Marz Brewing, including its flagship wheat ale Jungle Boogie, which could make for a great Chicago souvenir.
Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, 960 W. 31st St., Chicago, Ill. 60608