Brunch report: ROOF and Mercadito

The newest brunch trend? Bottle service.

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  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Estrellados y tampique�a at Mercadito

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Bloody Mary bottle service at Mercadito

  • Photograph: Jason Little

  • Photograph: Jason Little

  • Photograph: Jason Little

  • Photograph: Jason Little

  • Photograph: Jason Little

  • Photograph: Jason Little

  • Photograph: Jason Little

  • Photograph: Jason Little

Photograph: Martha Williams

Estrellados y tampique�a at Mercadito

It took three phone calls until we believed what the hostess at ROOF (201 N State St, 27th floor, 312-239-9501) was saying.


A party of three would require a $300 minimum, she said.


$300?


The hostess clarified: We could also opt for Champagne bottle service, which starts at $100 and tops out at $2,000.


So goes the newest trend in brunch, apparently fueled by Chicagoans who love bottle service so much that Saturday night isn’t sufficing—they want to wake up and do it all over again on Sunday morning.


What the hostesses at ROOF won’t tell you when you call is that bottle service at this Sunday-only brunch is required only to reserve one of the prime tables on the patio; those who walk in without a reservation are welcome to take a less desirable seat and order à la carte. But then, not much is as it’s advertised at this “all-day party.”


A chorizo goat-cheese quiche with watermelon feta salad arrived as an overcooked chorizo goat-cheese omelette with strawberry goat-cheese salad. A chicken melt, assumed to be a sandwich, arrived sans bread (just chicken). And though this is, despite the DJ booth, still brunch, we were told in no uncertain terms that there were no hot beverages available. So, no mint tea?


Uh, no.


No coffee?


Oh, yeah, we have coffee.


Coffee may pair best with the surprisingly light and spicy sweet-potato doughnuts. But considering the strength you need to deal with the rest of the experience (did we mention ROOF somehow reached into a 1988 music video and stole an electric violinist to play in conjunction with the DJ?), bottle service is the better choice.


We learned our lesson, so at Mercadito (108 W Kinzie St, 312-329-9555; brunch Sat and Sun) one Saturday afternoon, we purchased a $55 375ml bottle of Russian Standard Vodka (retail value: approximately $11). The bottle comes with three carafes of Bloody Mary mixers—tomatillo, chipotle and guajillo—on an adorable tray stocked with pineapple, pickled jalapeño, avocado, cucumber, lemon wedges, and salt and pepper. It has the potential for creativity and greatness, but it also has the potential to taste not quite as good as the ones being made professionally behind the bar probably do. And if you’re curious, a 375ml bottle of vodka has the potential to make eight Bloodys, and two 375ml bottles make 16 Bloodys…um, not that we’d know from experience or anything.


There we were, pouring vodka down our throats, DJ spinning, a duo of ladies sort of club-dancing for a minute in front of us, when the estrellados y tampiqueña arrived: This is a foot-long piece of stupidly tender, guajillo chili–marinated, aggressively seasoned skirt steak folded over a fried egg and a potato-onion hash. It is, without a doubt, the best steak we have eaten for $12. The best steak we have eaten for breakfast. And the best steak we have eaten while holding a bottle of vodka.



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