Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Wild Brunch

Go to Roscoe Village's Victory Banner for the irresistible French toast with fresh berries. (Photo: Victory Banner)

This week it is all about French toast. Thick, rich and filling, it is the perfect brunch entree on a blistering winter day. And so, I've picked out a few of my faves just for you!

You will not want to share the decadent Brioche French Toast (drizzled with apricot and almond spread) that's all the rage over at the crimson-hued Brasserie Ruhlmann (500 W. Superior St., 312-494-1900). At $8, it's one of the cheapest items on their brunch menu, but you can't get out of here without ordering the Ruhlmann potatoes (for an extra $5) or the Madrange ham (also $5) to accompany.

It's a special occasion every day at Sweet Maple Cafe (1339 W Taylor St., 312-243-8908), which is known for its Holiday French Toast (thick slices of Challah bread that's dipped in rich vanilla custard, scented with nutmeg and dusted with powered sugar) for $6.55. Add an addition $1.95 for turkey sausage or ham.

There's just something about vegetarian Roscoe Village eatery Victory's Banner (2100 W. Roscoe St., 773-665-0227) that drives foodies nuts. Ditto goes for their award-winning French toast (for only $5.95) that's absolutely dreamy with peach butter and thick maple syrup. Or, for a little umph to your selection, get it with fresh raspberries and powdered sugar for $7.45.

Coming to you soon . . .

Incoming this spring:

Hub 51 (51 W. Hubbard St.). R.J. and Jerrod MelmanLettuce Entertain You Enterprises' Rich Melman's sons—are in the spotlight as they get ready to open their hip, small-plates project in River North.

Shochu (3313 N. Clark St.). Will this Japanese-inspired venue be anything like London's sexy lounge with the same name? This one we will be keeping an eye on, especially this summer as they plan on having a nice outdoor patio. More on Shochu here, which is apparently taking over the old Platiyo space sometime in April.

It's Bob Marley Day!


Hey, Mon!

On what would've been reggae icon Bob Marley's 63rd birthday (Bob Marley Day is celebrated in Jamaica and Ethiopia today), don't let this dreadful weather get to you.

Warm up by checking into these spots that are all things Jamaican:

Calypso Cafe (5211 S. Harper Ave., 773-955-0229). Go for the jerk chicken Caribbean wrap, oxtail stew, smoked jerk baby back ribs or Rasta Pasta (sauteed jumbo shrimp, red peppers, green peppers, scallion and Jamaican spiced sauce).

Good To Go (1947 W. Howard St., 773-381-7777). Yummy Rogers Park Jamaican spot offers all the usual island delights (and a cow foot entree!), plus a host of delicious smoothies in flavors like Passion Lady (pineapple, ginger, carrot, banana, honey, soy milk), Tropical Treat (strawberry, banana, papaya) and Tidal Wave (kiwi, raspberry, banana, soy milk).

Ja' Grill (1008 W. Armitage Ave., 773-929-5375). New Lincoln Park spot offers all the favorite jerks: chicken, salads, pork and catfish. Also, you'll get curry chicken and shrimp entrees.

Uncle Joe's Tropic Island Jerk Chicken (419 E. 79th St., 773-224-7766). Hands down, the best jerk entrees in Chicago with budget-friendly prices to boot. Here, you'll also get curry goat, red snapper and a brown stew catfish. Lots of Jamaican beverages too, like ginger beer and Kola "champagne."

The Wild Hare (3530 N. Clark St., 773-327-4273). Live-music venue Exodus Lounge (3477 N. Clark St., 773-348-3998) is closed until March 8 for remodeling, but right across the street is this venerable venue where reggae is live seven nights a week. Also, their official Bob Marley birthday celebration happens on Saturday, Feb. 9.

Deal of the day . . .


The Wine Discount Center (1826 N. Elston Ave., 773-489-3454) offers one of the best deals in town for oenophiles. Their "first look" tasting happens the first Wednesday of every month, and guests get a wide range of newly offered vinos for only $10. You'll get to sample about 30-35 varieties, which will be complemented by appetizers, cheese and fruit. Reservations required; space is limited. Tonight 6:30-8pm.

Also happening tonight is the Chicago Wine Council's super social event, Fondue, Wines, Brews and Valentines. It's not too late to make those reservations at the Melting Pot (609 N. Dearborn St., 312-573-0011), where they've set up several stations for guests to roam around and sample all the goodies. And new this month is the brew-tasting station with unique brews by hometown hero Goose Island. Expect also more than 100 wines, light appetizers and a cool crowd ranging from 20s to 40s. The three-hour event takes place 6-9pm. $40 (advance); $50 (at door, cash only).