Picture it: Sunday morning. The Pump Room(Public Hotel, 1301 N State Pkwy, 312-601-2970). Brunch. A server says: “The French toast comes with Nueske’s bacon. Is that okay with you?” To which you want to answer: Are you for real? Here is the great dilemma of brunch—the impossible choice of sweet versus savory—solved in a single plate, in which two strips of extra-crispy bacon are casually draped over exceptionally fluffy, thick-cut challah slices. Of course that’s okay with us. It’s also okay with us that the “sunny side up” frittata we ordered was not much like a frittata at all, but rather a beautiful and revelatory plate of toasted sourdough croutons, sliced asparagus, bacon, red chilies and dill bound together by the set whites of two still-runny yolks. In fact, the only thing we were kind of not okay with is the fact that the Pump Room seems a little uneasy with its brunch identity. Apart from the French toast, “frittata,” sticky bun (we’re pro), eggs Benedict and pancakes, the rest of the large menu is very serious about a meal we’re not quite as intrigued by: lunch.
Not so at MarketHouse(DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 300 E Ohio St, 312-224-2200). There, a new brunch menu is based on chef Scott Walton’s childhood experiences. And dang, what a childhood it appears to have been. Walton’s brunch focuses on baskets of beignets (seven varieties) and seven versions of biscuits and gravy. Can you imagine? Growing up on rich buttermilk biscuits with more buttery layers thanMelancholia? We should have been so lucky. The duck-confit gravy we chose for the biscuits was a little too salty, but this, the meal’s only misstep, did nothing to dampen our mood. We had a Slagel Farms beef hash to keep us happy. And we had those beignets, which we knew were well executed because, well, it was a basket of beet-and-goat-cheese beignets—there was lots of room for error.
Speaking of errors, there’s a new brunch at Wave(W Hotel, 644 N Lake Shore Dr, 312-255-4460). It’s got a wordy name (Remedy Brunch: Cure for the Common Weekend) and frat-boy hours (noon–8pm), but we went with high hopes anyway. Unfortunately, this buffet, inspired by Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods, showcases little of chef Kristine Subido’s talent. There were slivers of mayo-doused banh mi on dry bread. Tortellini in a too-sweet red sauce. A serving vessel labeled “potato hash” that, when opened, was unapologetically empty. The warring tastes on our plate started to make us feel as if we were making a meal out of Costco samples, but then, thankfully, we got to dessert: an airy chocolate glazed doughnut,a flaky apple cinnamon “Pop Tart.” This redeemed things. But the mix-your-own Bloody Maria (that’s with tequila, not vodka) threatened to muck things back up. Seriously, W Hotel? You’re supposed to be a full-service operation. Surely you can mix the cocktail for us.