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An Insider's Guide to Brunch in Chicago! - PrepEssentials

An Insider’s Guide to Brunch in Chicago!

OH MY, can this city do brunch. I’ve never traveled anywhere else that boasts such a long list of unique and incredible brunch locations, from rooftops to patios, bottomless brunches & along the lakeshore…you can truly have it all (and you still won’t cover even half of your “must-try” list.) For every brunch spot I cross off my list, three more seem to get added!
To help ease the headache stomachache over having to narrow down the long list of options, whether you’re a local or just planning to travel to Chicago in the near future. I’ve reviewed a few of my absolute favorites here, and what my go-to menu and beverage item are!
*Full Disclaimer: I am not always the most adventurous eater, so while I have loved the meals I’m recommending, you may be more adventurous and love something so much more! Trust me, every spot on my list will have you overwhelmed with choices!*


One of the first places I ever went for Chicago brunch, back when I was visiting my brothers as a little middle-school kid. Fell in love, and still insist on consistent visits.
Pros: The food is unreal. 100% worth the wait (as long as your wait is an hour or less). The good news is, it’s in an awesome area with a lot of shopping, and plenty of people end up giving up, so the wait time is always 15-20 mins shorter than they say. 
Cons: Fairly small place, super limited seating, and of course they don’t take reservations. The wait time can get pretty long after 10am, so suck it up and head there early – don’t worry, they have some pretty amazing Bloody Mary’s and Coffee cocktails that make up for the lack of sleep. 
Favorite Menu Items: Pancake Orgy. Personally, this is a little bit too much food for me these days, but my first few visits you couldn’t keep me away! Wash it down with their unbelievable strawberry mimosa. Hint: if you aren’t a pancake person, they also have a french toast version!
My personal favorite (you can see it frequented on my snapchat almost every single weekend, especially in the Spring & Summer!) The entire atmosphere transports you to California, with a beachy and well-lit vibe that makes you feel trendy just sitting in there. 
Pros: The atmosphere is what really puts this place over the top for me. Every time I sit here, I manage to convince myself by the end of the meal that moving to California would be a great idea. The food is incredible (also as a dinner spot) and everything on the menu is super tasty. Bonus points: they have a ton of options if you’re trying to be health-conscious and stick to the lighter side of things. 
Cons: Can be a tad pricier with certain items, especially the cocktails, but they do have a wide variety of those that range around $10 each. Getting a reservation is super tricky, but if it’s just for two, you can almost always snag a bar seat. (Try to book reservations more than 2 weeks in advance, unless you’re okay with super early, or 2pm! Still totally worth the wait and mid-morning snack to get you through the hunger pangs).
Favorite Menu Item: The avocado toast is amazing. I naturally opt for this because avocado toast is by far my favorite breakfast, but no one does it as well as Summer House. The bread is homemade and pretty thick, but it comes with super delicious poached eggs on top and scallion mascarpone. Your mouth will water when it arrives, and it’s always too pretty not to Snapchat it!
No matter what you get – you must get the fries as a side. They’re quite possibly the best fries I have had in the city, and I always order an extra plate just because. 

Pair your brunch with a passion fruit margarita, which I will tell you tastes completely different than what you would expect (i.e. not pink, and a lot less fruity tasting than I imagined) but in a very good way! This drink was super refreshing, and unlike many bar drinks in Chicago, it’s actually worth the $10 you spend, alcohol-wise. 
Right in the heart of Lincoln Park, I found this spot when I was an intern and exploring the DePaul campus area near my apartment. Definitely best-known for it’s sweet BYOB deal (more champagne for me!) and the giant jars of Nutella on every table. 
Pros: The BYOB thing is great, because that can definitely be where your bill starts to climb if you’re looking for a boozy brunch with friends. There’s a Whole Foods down the street if you forget to come prepared, and it’s fun because you can dream up new concoctions! The massive jars of Nutella are a nutella-lover’s dream come true (I’ve definitely had friends tempted to take one home with them…)
Cons: Another brunch space on the smaller end (and no outdoor patio), so wait times can stack up pretty quickly here but in comparison to other spots it’s not too terrible! You can always request a few glasses and get started on those homemade mimosas while you wait!
Favorite Menu Item: Stuffed French Toast & whatever mimosa combination you’re craving! The stuffed french toast is super filling and totally worth it, and the balsamic syrup on top is out of this world. Goes pretty well with some extra Nutella added on top!
This is my go-to if I slept in a little late, or don’t want to deal with fighting a crowd. Don’t let that fool you, though – this place is great, and the lack of wait time is anything but a con. The original Nookies is closer to the River North area and harder to get into. (Sidenote – this is right around the corner from Toast, so if your wait time there is too crazy, head here!)
Pros: Almost always get a table right away. Sits in a great location with lots of shopping nearby (including a Lululemon, always fueling my excuse to browse…) The service is pretty quick, so this is a nice way to get in a brunch without interfering with whatever plans you have for the day. 
Cons: Very little to complain about here. I wouldn’t rank the food above some of the others on this list, but it also has some things that I can’t get enough of (including the Tomato soup they bring out before your entree…not something I would ever think to order for brunch, but it’s mandatory for me here!)
Favorite Menu Item: The cup of tomato soup – no seriously…it’s amazing! The green goddess skillet is my go-to entree – it’s the perfect way to indulge in some brunch delights while still packing in the veggies and greens so I can brunch (somewhat) guilt-free!

I can genuinely say I’m not exaggerating here – Hampton Social has the coolest and most unique restaurant atmosphere I’ve experienced. I wasn’t even participating in conversation for the first 10-15 minutes we were there because I just kept looking around and observing all of the decor (and enjoying the incredible live music of beachy and relaxing songs.) If you’ve ever wondered what dining in the Hamptons or Montauk feels like, Hampton Social wants you to experience it firsthand!

Pros: Everything from the great music and beach vibes to the neon sign reading “Rosé All Day” on an ivy wall makes for a truly remarkable brunch experience, but it definitely doesn’t stop there. All of the food looks incredible, and some pretty key cocktails are in the mix too. Those copper pineapple cups that are so #trendy right now? Get your own when you order “The Royal Treatment” and sip away!

Cons: There was nothing I didn’t love about this place – it was actually even relatively easy to make a large reservation a little over a week in advance. We were definitely bummed that we didn’t get to have a group photo in front of the Rosé All Day sign because there are tables in front of it (not exactly a legitimate complaint…!) I was a little surprised at the menu, because after stalking their Instagram there were a lot of things missing that I would have loved to try! There seems to be a vast disconnect between the brunch and dinner menu, but it’s a great incentive to go back and try it out on a summer evening!

Favorite Menu item: I haven’t had a chance to try anywhere near the amount of things I want to try, but I would recommend going for the full Montauk experience and springing for a Hampton Roll – just don’t forget to ask for a side of fries! The Royal Treatment cocktail was excellent (fair warning: the cinnamon syrup is an overwhelming flavor though, so if that’s not your thing I recommend the Southhampton Smash!)

Just around the corner from Jam N’ Honey, this is a rowdier brunch spot with a big patio and a lot of day drinking action. What could be better than pizza for breakfast?! Tons of fun signs hang throughout the restaurant with slogans such as “I could give up pizza, but I’m not a quitter”. My kind of motto.
Pros: A great location and always fun with a big group of friends. There are plenty of picnic-table style seats to hold you and your #squad while you dig into some pretty amazing pizza (and don’t forget the appetizers). They’ve been known to give out free cake balls for dessert, too! The back patio is amazing and a great spot to enjoy beautiful Chicago summer weather. There are plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options as well!
Cons: Always a crowded spot with loud music and big crowds, so this is more on the high-energy atmosphere of the brunch scale. The wait times can be brutal, and you typically get ID’d at the door (although I have seen families inside as well, so not 100% positive on where they draw the line). 
Favorite Menu Item: I’m old school when it comes to pizza (and my choices tend to be limited toppings-wise because I don’t eat pork) so my go-to is the “Strike a Posner” pizza, prefaced with an order of the mozzarella bread sticks of course. Pair it with a Moscow Mule (and for an extra $15 you can keep the copper mug!)
Reserved for a specific type of day – Zella’s is famous for it’s bottomless brunch and incredible patio. Planning to spend an entire day with friends drinking mimosas and enjoying throwback music on a massive patio? This is your spot. 
Pros: You pay $40 and get all you can eat from the breakfast buffet, plus bottomless mimosas, bloody mary’s and beer from 10am – 3pm. They are always quick about refilling your pitcher, so they aren’t screwing you out of your time frame.
Cons: This place used to be the same deal, for $25. The breakfast buffet is plenty good, but nothing to write home about. The mimosas can be pretty heavy on the OJ and light on the M…but if you make a special request to keep it equal and stay friendly to your waitress, you can always remedy that pretty easily! Zella’s can also be pretty crowded, so get there by 10:30am at the latest if you want a table big enough for all of your friends!
Favorite Menu Item: It’s all you can eat, but make sure you grab the mac and cheese! So. Good.
Happy Brunching!

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