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Photograph: Martha WilliamsSaag paneer scramble at Township

Custom House, Township, “Stop! It’s tea time!” | Brunch reviews

Indian brunch. Tavern brunch. Retail brunch?


As long as you’re selling incense and handmade jewelry, why not serve brunch? This only begins to describe the strangeness that is Stop! It’s Tea Time!, a new weekly brunch served in the back room of Oxala (1651 W 18th St, 312-850-1655), an eclectic shop in Pilsen. The whole affair seems informed by Kafkaesque logic: The menu was priceless. (Literally. There were no prices listed.) Though there were three of us, we were heavily encouraged to order the “menu for two,” then tack on an extra entrée for the third person. And we got the vibe that there was potentially both a teapot shortage (we were dissuaded from ordering more than one type of tea for the table) and a tea shortage (there wasn’t enough loose-leaf tea in the pot for the quantity of water, hence the pretty, floral tea was barely steeped).

So there we were, having one of the stranger brunch experiences of our Boldfaced Brunch career, when the food arrived. Was it better than what we could make at home? Not really. Did we bite into a gristly piece of pulled chicken? Yes, really. When the nicest thing you can say about a place is that it properly soft-boiled an egg, it’s time to move on.

And so we did, to Logan Square, where hipsters and their babies eat their scrambles in peace and harmony. And where Tamiz Haiderali, the chef-owner of the now-closed Treat, has resurfaced as the chef of Township (2200 N California Ave, 773-772-7811), which used to be Pancho’s bar.

This place is at heart a music club, and like most music clubs, it does not show best in the bright light of Sunday morning. But the feeling in here was of a friendly diner. Behind the regular ol’ coffee mugs is Dark Matter coffee, and in the back room is a pleasant little acoustic-music duo. And in the kitchen, as we mentioned, is Haiderali, who gives this blessed morning meal a Subcontinental shot in the arm with standout dishes like savory pancakes packed with sliced scallions and a saag paneer scramble of fresh spinach and the fresh, tofu-like cheese, accompanied by two big puffs of the fried Indian bread called puri. The music in the back room is mellow, but the potato cake that completes this plate was anything but. We were sweating.

Kind of like how we were sweating with anticipation as we approached the brunch at Custom House Tavern [Closed]. The first time we tried to eat it, we found that it was closed for the Super Bowl. Would March Madness shut the joint down, too? No. Custom House was open for business, though the servers seemed genuinely taken aback that they had people to attend to, and the kitchen was unprepared to deliver what is surely the most enticing item on this menu: the chicken and waffles. “We’re out of chicken,” our server said. And so we went with fried oysters instead, which come on top of an omelette that also sports a flavorful medley of sharp scallions, hot jalapeños and bacon. The “Sunday pastry,” moist banana-chocolate bread with housemade Nutella, helped us forget the fried chicken, too. But most of the comfort was provided by Custom House’s hefty, juice-gushing burger. No, it’s not very breakfasty (and indeed, the burger is available for lunch throughout the week). But when you’re denied chicken and waffles, sometimes only a burger can ease the pain.

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