The Dawson had a rocky start, including the rapid departure of the opening chef and the later departure of the head bartender, but the glorious patio has wiped away memories of my first few strange meals there. There a bar, plus tables, greenery and high walls that make you feel like you’re far away from a busy corner next to the Grand Blue Line stop. Last weekend, I stopped in for a quick brunch that resulted in several hours spent sitting outside, sipping cocktails and trying some pretty solid items from the brunch menu.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to brunch in Chicago
Clint Rogers is the Dawson’s beverage director, and he’s put together a menu with some exceptional brunch drinks. The Bayonet, a gin-based drink with watermelon, tarragon and sparkling wine, is an ideal light sipper for the morning, while the Smokehouse Bloody Mary uses liquid smoke in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the tomato base. For something a little stronger (and cooler), ask for the frozen mai tai—the machine wasn’t running when we sat down to brunch, but when enough people asked for it, they fired up the machine and soon every table was ordering rounds of the frozen rum drink.
It’s fine if you’re simply there to hang out on the huge patio and drink all afternoon, but you’d be remiss not to eat. The deviled eggs are stuffed with yolks mixed with smoked ham and topped with bread and butter pickles. They’re simple but well done. The French omelet featured fluffy eggs wrapped around yellow squash, zucchini, onions, peppers and cheese, with tomatoes on top—it was light and summery, and precisely the thing to eat on a hot day. The American Madame was heavier, since the sandwich had a toad-in-the-hole top layer, plus Canadian bacon and a rich mornay sauce, but it’s delicious. Sides of crispy smashed potatoes and a side salad were both excellent, but next time I’ll plan to save room for the cinnamon roll, which comes with Templeton Rye–spiked icing.