White Palace Grill(1159 S Canal St, 312-939-7167) The waitress calls you doll, hun or honey. You’ll let her call you whatever she wants if it means getting some of the—hands down—best diner food in town. A scoop of soft butter and warm syrup transforms a stack of plain pancakes, and they’re flanked by the city’s only diner bacon worth its fat.
THE TAB 3 pancakes + 2 eggs + 3 strips bacon = $5.99 COFFEE $1.25
Melrose(3233 N Broadway, 773-327-2060) The 2x2 (pancakes and eggs) isn’t much of a bargain, but there’s a reason Melrose charges a few bucks for a side of bacon: it’s porky without being overly salty. Pancakes, on the other hand, are a nightmare: spongy, heavy and crusty on the bottom.
THE TAB 2 pancakes + 2 eggs + 4 strips bacon = $11.20 COFFEE $1.89
Golden Nugget Pancake House(4229 W Irving Park Rd, 773-777-7107) These waitresses serve up pancakes slightly fluffier than the competition and some fatty, juicy, delicious bacon. And even though the Nugget is a chain, these ladies work the room as if it were a small-town diner.
THE TAB 2 pancakes + 2 eggs + 2 strips bacon = $7.29 COFFEE $1.99
Golden Apple Grill & Breakfast House(2971 N Lincoln Ave, 773-528-1413) You’ll forgive the more-watery-than-most coffee and the too-runny eggs, because the waitress will wink knowingly at you as she sets down your plate—and a massive amount of whipped butter with your short stack.
THE TAB 2 pancakes + 2 eggs + 2 strips bacon + 2 sausage links = $6.95 COFFEE $1.75
Cozy Corner Diner & Pancake House(2294 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-276-2215) Decent bacon and pancakes aren’t going to make this place stand out, but incredible service will: The ladies here call you honey, plop down a newspaper at your table, assiduously refill your coffee and hand you a Blow Pop on your way out the door to work.
THE TAB 2 pancakes + 2 eggs + 2 strips bacon = $3.49 Mon–Fri 5–9am COFFEE $1.79
The New Archview Restaurant(3480 S Archer Ave, 773-254-4862) So there’s a policewoman, a passed-out man and a handful of gum-cracking waitresses. This is not a setup for a joke; it’s the early-morning scene at this McKinley Park restaurant, which serves average coffee, flimsy bacon and unremarkable pancakes—but for a pretty unbelievable price.
THE TAB 2 pancakes + 2 eggs + 2 strips bacon = $3.99 Mon–Fri 6–10am COFFEE 49 cents
Mellow Yellow(1508 E 53rd St, 773-667-2000) You can’t find a cheaper 2-2-2-2 deal in the city, but that doesn’t necessarily make this breakfast a value: The bacon was swimming in grease and the mushy pancakes were a letdown. But where it really gets you is with the coffee: That’s some weak, burned Intelligentsia they’re brewing.
THE TAB 2 pancakes + 2 eggs + 2 strips bacon + 2 sausage links = $2.99 Mon–Fri 8–11am COFFEE $1.99
Beef ’n Brandy Restaurant and Bar(127 S State St, 312-372-3451) Deduct points for the packaged butter and syrup, and you’re still left with a plate of flabby but well-seasoned bacon and something extra you never knew you wanted: a hunk of pineapple.
THE TAB 2 pancakes + 2 eggs + 2 strips bacon + 2 sausage links = $8.75 COFFEE $1.85
Diner Grill(1635 W Irving Park Rd, 773-248-2030) What this tiny, narrow spot offers in old-school ambience it lacks in taste. Think runny whites on over-medium eggs and dry, burned bacon. But the coffee’s a little stronger than most, and the regular clientele’s as fascinating as it is crass.
THE TAB 2 pancakes + 2 eggs + 3 strips bacon = $9.75 COFFEE $1.40