Everyone is detoxing right now. Cleansing. Resolving. Excreting. Probably evacuating a lot of bowels and tweaking from a caffeine and bacon deficiency. It’s no doubt a worth-while pursuit, the end of the year shenanigans provides such lethargy, abdominal discomfort and overall lumpiness that one must treat their body like the machine it is and get it back on track, flush it out and start anew, challenging it with rich, delicious, carby, fatty food once again. So, if you’re finishing a cleanse or about to begin one, send yourself into euphoria by experiencing the brunch greatness that is Bakin and Eggs. I am either lazy and boring with breakfast or so passionately craving it that nothing can stand in my way. More often, I am the latter. And more often, I want to explore the endless sustenance gift that is the city of Chicago and I want to try a new place, with new eggs, a new twist on french toast, new sausage and bacon. There’s only a handful of restaurants here in the city that I frequent regularly and that’s because they’re cheap, consistently delicious with great service and in close proximity to my Wrigleyville apartment. I’ve been to 10-15 brunch places, 3-4 consistently. I’ve been to Bakin and Eggs 4 times in 3 weeks. Considering the embarrassing amount of options, and good ones, the frequency of my visits says a lot. I know Chicago has a lot to offer, so to deliberately walk or drive over to Lincoln Avenue and Barry, over trying something new reflects just how great my experience has been, 4 times over. Can’t wait to go back.
I’ve noticed as I’ve shopped around restaurant hopping that you either get a good, greasy, traditional American breakfast with eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes, etc.; or, many restaurants in larger cities like to go real avant-garde and take your standard eggs benedict and put raspberry preserves and pork belly, or Gruyère cheese, truffle oil or any variety of somewhat luxury ingredients to make it special, aiming probably to make it a signature dish, to wow you. Often times those efforts fall flat. They’re either too rich, overpowered by their fancy ingredient(s), or the overall taste just comes across meh, not satisfying like you hoped their spin on a favorite would be. And then sometimes the care of the chefs, the quality of the ingredients and the mindfulness in creating and executing presents the most beautiful dish you’ve ever had the pleasure to chew. Something that makes your eyes roll back in your head, the guttural moans to emerge from your throat and the slow motion, bounce the food all over your tongue form of mastication. I find myself doing all three so often at Bakin and Eggs and that’s why in my humble opinion, through my vast experience in life and in this city, that I’d be willing to stick my neck (and tongue) out and call it the best brunch in Chicago. It’s that good. All around. Go!
Now, you’re probably thinking “words, words, words, blah, blah, yes, you like it, what about the actual food?!” I’ve opted for breakfast each time, so there will be no recounting lunch dishes here. I’ve been with small and large groups and we’re all game to order different items and share bites, which is the only way to go. Our first visit, my beau and I sat at the bar, as the restaurant is quite full on the weekends. We gazed at their great selection of homemade desserts, the shelves of perfectly placed mason jars resting against the brick wall, and eagerly perused the small menu as we drank great hot tea and coffee. On my first visit I ordered the Southern Comfort Bowl, a starchy, flavorful heap of yum, consisting of oven baked potatoes, two eggs made to order, pieces of broken up, hand-made biscuits, topped with cheddar cheese and of course their house sausage gravy.
It was a battle, meaning that deliciousness expanded in my fist sized stomach almost immediately so I took that and their incredible cheese grits (truly amazing to find excellent grits in the midwest, kudos B&E) home to revisit later. The hub got what could be the greatest breakfast item ever to be conceived, so simple yet so brilliant and a million ways to fuck it up. Naturally, it was executed with perfection and the taste sent us into oblivion. The Bacon Waffle.
It’s exactly what you think it is, except better. There’s chopped up bacon mixed with a rum waffle batter served as it should be with butter and maple syrup and a succulent strip of juicy bacon laid on top. Man, I can still taste it.
I immediately thought, somewhat selfishly, I should take more people here, so I can come back and spread the joy. And so I did. The next visit we went with our roommate, my brother, my food and humor soul mate, my bestie (isn’t that word nauseating? I’m sorry I even jokingly typed it. But I’m leaving it in.). He downed a Southern Comfort Bowl pretty easily while I decided to try something new. This time I chose the BLT, a simple favorite of mine, made a billion times better by it’s supporting cast, aged cheddar cheese, walnut and basil pesto mayo, and eggs your way. I personally love the stickiness and flavor of a runny, orange yolk bursting across the other ingredients as you take a bear sized bite. I’ve had this sandwich twice now, just as good the 2nd time. Derek chose the bacon waffle again, smart. I’ve gone back with more friends, enjoying their take on a breakfast burrito, their banana bread french toast, their cinnamon raisin sandwich with chicken apple sausage, eggs your way, cheddar and maple syrup. If you think any of these things sound bad or weird, just open your mouth for one bite, you will only want more! I’ve also tried the chilaquiles, their asparagus frittata, and their lovely french toast, all off other people’s plates. You love one, you love them all.
Let me digress for a moment and discuss the wonderful world of bacon. Apologies to my vegetarian and vegan friends. I can only hope you don’t harbor any self-righteousness toward omnivores regardless for your reason and just let people enjoy their lives. I respect and admire your choice. I’ve been a vegan and vegetarian during certain phases in my life and for a variety of reasons it does not serve my life. I do not recommend eating bacon, or even meat everyday, of course, but if you do enjoy the sometimes other white meat then I highly recommend you order the Bacon Flight from B&E. Wow. I’ve had some great bacon in my day, many of it here in Chicago, but their 5 flavor options will all tap into that hypothalamus pleasure center, immediately sending signals from tongue to brain that say yes, more, holy shit, amazing. I like maple pepper and honey roasted best but I’ll down the hell out of mesquite, cherry smoked and jalapeno too. If you’re going to eat meat, make conscious choices, and remember the awesome common sense tool and apply it to all aspects of your life, quality over quantity.
Whether you’re at the bar, an old wooden table or sitting comfortably in the old church pews they have as seats, you’ll enjoy yourself. The atmosphere is alive, happy, well lit, casual. The layout is simple and clean. Most importantly, 2nd only to their incredible fare, is their very hard-working, friendly staff. I’ve had such pleasant experiences and conversations with every server and barista there. Most don’t engage in too much role play, preferring my favorite method of being themselves, a human being engaging with another human being. They make great recommendations, rarely if ever mess up or forget an order and only seek to improve your experience as a diner, as a person enjoying food, simple as that. It’s that reason why I feel this is such a well-rounded restaurant, executing exactly what they set out to, consistently, efficient and effective, down to the detail, every single day from 8-3. They have a special brunch menu on the weekends and a stellar menu during the weekdays. And it's remarkably easy to split checks. You pay at a register with a friendly, helpful employee who doesn't make you feel like an asshole for not having cash, which is rare in Chicago. Doesn’t matter when, just go.
I’ve been contemplating whether or not I eat emotionally. I don’t think I do but you never know. I don’t eat from boredom or stress, but I sure as hell eat for happiness, any excuse will do. When I travel, the day is planned around meals, snacks, culinary delights, squeezing in a monument, museum, event or sight between one good meal after another. I love the visceral, primal experience eating provides and I love that humans have evolved to eat in the creative ways we do. I happen to love vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts, beans and the basic foods most doctors harp on about, and I make sure I eat them, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the rest of my life avoiding butter, rich oils, savory cheeses, tender meats, chocolate or any other ecstasy inducing foods that cause guilt. They’re real, natural, from this planet we call Earth and if you focus on quality and moderation, life can be a fun, healthy and balanced ride. Stop worrying about calories or cleanses for a second and take a bite of a fluffy, savory sweet bacon waffle, or whatever excites you. Leave your cereal in the box and go eat some real food every now and again. Maybe at Bakin and Eggs. You won’t regret it.
Take a bite. Share a bite. Feed yourself well. Enjoy.