Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Over Easy Cafe, Chicago IL

As my daily breakfast is usually vegetable, egg, fruit, and yogurt based I tend to go all out for the sweet temptations when on Vacation and during my recent trip to Chicago I kept true to form in electing to check out Over Easy Cafe for one of my two breakfasts. Conveniently located with unique dishes and cozy size and appearance, Over Easy is the kind of place that would be at the top of the breakfast food-chain in most major cities, but on my visit there was something lacking....that something was service. To avoid bashing the place entirely, as my food was quite delicious, let me just suggest avoiding the chubby female waitress with the nose ring - unless of course you want to have her avoid eye contact while she helps her myriad other tables.

All service issues aside, I found the setting to be very quaint and the prices to be about what one would expect for a restaurant of its ilk. Parking was cheap and plentiful, Coffee was Intelligentsia and refilled rapidly by our bus-boy, and the original service of our food took only approximately 15 minutes from the time we ordered. For our dishes we selected three of the
specials, the famous banana french toast, and a glass of the speckled orange juice - Pretty, but $4 for 8oz? Skip it.

Dish one, selected by my aunt, was the Banana Stuffed French Toast with whipped creme fraiche, bananas, caramel, crumbled walnuts, and powdered sugar and it was worth every bit of the hype. Not overly sweet, the Brioche was perfectly grilled and wonderfully soft while the filling was airy and light, yet smooth and creamy. The crumbled walnuts provided a modest crunch while the caramel and dusting of sugar allowed for just enough sweetness without burying the subtle flavors. A winner, by all accounts.

The second choice, my sisters, was vastly less impressive. Titled Blueberry Crunch Pancakes with granola, candied pecans and blueberries, cinnamon butter and whipped cream, the dish was excessively dry and modestly flavorless until syrup was added...syrup that we saw poured from a large container akin to those you'd buy at Sam's Club behind the bar. For the prices charged, I rather expect pure maple syrup at restaurants like Over Easy; if they can do it at Griddle Cafe in LA and Bongo Room in Chicago, Over Easy should be able to do it too.

Dish three, my mothers, was Spicy Corn Cakes with Scrambled Eggs and Berkshire Ham and another knockout. The Corncakes were like fantastic corn bread with a slight hint of sweet and an undertone of spice that perfectly offset the salty pork and airy cooked eggs. While a better syrup choice would have made the plate an even bigger hit, I was glad my mom had eaten too much sweets at Bleeding Heart and left me a whole pancake to endulge in.

The final selection, and second only to the Banana French Toast in appeal, was my Cannoli French Toast with brioche and sweetened mascarpone cream, chocolate chips, strawberry coulis, pistachio, and whipped cream. Another stunning example of perfectly prepared brioche, this dish was similar to the other French Toast in its subtlety and excellence at bringing forth multiple flavors and textures while still maintaining a cohesive concept. While not as sweet as a typical Italian Cannoli, the smooth mascarpone was brilliantly highlighted by crunchy mini chocolate chips and chopped pistachio. The strawberry coulis was a wonderful addition, but far too little graced the plate to have any meaningful effect on the taste.

Great concepts handicapped by corner cutting and service that suffered from both inadequate staffing and poor attitude - All told, Over Easy is a good little place for breakfast and we happened to luck out with immediate seating when we arrived (When we left there was quite a line,) but it isn't the sort of place I'd rush back to on subsequent visits to Chicago - or the kind of place I'd wait more than 10 minutes to grab a seat at. Try it once, then head over to Bongo Room...repeatedly.


Anonymous said...

It's Julius Meinl coffee. And stick to reviewing the food and service, not the body type of the people you encounter.

uhockey said...

Thanks for the advice, 'twas noted. The service sucked and that was the best way to describe her.