It was a sunny afternoon when we stopped into Porkchop (941 W Randolph St , 312-733-9333) to check out its new(ish) brunch. But in Porkchop’s woodshed-like dining room, it could have been midnight. “Sit anywhere you like,” a perky server said. Thanks, but…where are the chairs? We can barely see in here.
The cavern vibe made us want to drink, which is something Porkchop is built for. Lots of whiskey. Lots of beer. No brunch cocktails here—if you’re drinking, you’re drinking hard. We quizzed each other on what we would order. Whiskey? Yes? Whiskey! Yes! Then we remembered that outside of this dungeon, it was daytime. The sun was shining. So we were not quite ready to be fall-over drunk yet. We ordered cornmeal pancakes and a pork belly Benedict instead.
Wait—there’s cornmeal in these pancakes? Supposedly, though we didn’t detect any. And yet no joy was killed with this revelation. The pancakes were fluffy, sweet, textbook. The pork belly Benedict took some liberties with the egg—it was not poached but rather hard-boiled, which was surely not intentional—but there was a well-fried piece of chicken on top of a generically satisfying waffle. You know, maybe we like eating brunch in a dark bar. What’s so wrong with that?
Self-affirmed, we headed down to Little Italy’s Three Aces (1321 W Taylor St, 312-243-1577), a place that, according to its tag line, prides itself on resembling “Keith Richards’s basement.” We found two Dark Matter roasts to choose from; a French press of the house blend was $5, and it was the type of rich, strong coffee only a crew that worked until 3am the night before would be bold enough to brew. The brunch plates were sophisticated but equally bold: The pork mush commonly known as scrapple is here formed into small patties and fried to taste similar to falafel, then plated with mustard aoili and a crostini smeared with date jam. To eat the duck egg, you dredge crostini through a bowl of fontina fondue and prosciutto.
And while the biscuits lean savory—thanks to housemade bacon in the batter and cheddar cheese baked on top—the most important thing we learned from brunching at Three Aces is this place has a very, very sweet side. The monkey bread with stout glaze tries to express it but it’s too dry and tough; that’s where the coffee cake twist steps in. It’s moist almost to the point of doughy, geniusly paired with roasted grapes. And most important: The doors open onto a huge patio, drenched in sunlight.