Thursday, June 16, 2011
Longman & Eagle, Chicago IL
With our early time of arrival noted and my love of Chicago’s Breakfast/Brunch scene well established the first breakfast (following appetizers from Doughnut Vault) of the trip would be of the Michelin Starred Variety – the daily brunch Service at Logan Square hipster staple Longman & Eagle. Helmed by Chef Jared Wentworth and described with nearly every ubiquitous foodie buzzword from “Gastro-Pub” to “farm to table” to “nose to tail” yet continually garnering great reviews from all who’d been there I have to admit that going in I was a skeptic, but at the same time the menu looked great and by going early on a weekday I figured we could avoid the scene – a scene we almost avoided twice because despite the use of a googlemaps we still drove right past the scantily marked restaurant twice before noting the simple “&” over the door and finding a parking space just outside.
With the weather mild and the doors open as tunes from Robert Johnston and Charlie Parker flowed into the streets we made our into the restaurant to find it largely empty – only two tables filled in the whole space – and wondering if they were even open for business yet we were greeted warmly first by the bartender and then by our waitress, a young lady named Gina who suggested we sit wherever we like. With the scent of pork heavy in the air and the bartender mixing up a whisky sour for one of the ladies at the table nearest the back door we opted for a nicely lit spot closer to the front and navigating heavily wooded and unfinished brick room there was unquestionably a slightly artificial feel to the space, but at the same time it wasn’t so much as to make it feel forced.
Seated now with menus in hand and water filled adult beverages were offered and declined with myself and my mother opting for coffee (Metropolis) that unfortunately reached empty far too many times for a restaurant so unpopulated while my aunt opted for Orange Juice – at $3 actually a bargain compared to other breakfasts in Chicago. With the menu rather short decisions were made and within five minutes of seating our orders were placed allowing us to sit back, relax, and listen to everything from slave-era chants to late 40s big band while we waited.
With a few more folks trickling in, mostly young men opting to sit at the bar and booze over breakfast, our first dish to arrive would be an appetizer shared by all and despite my mother’s insistence that she dislikes scones this was the second time in a row (the last at Bouchon) that she exclaimed the words “Best Scone Ever” as she took a bite of the house-made Cinnamon, Honey, and Apricot Scone topped with Clotted Cream. Beginning first with the scone itself – a heterogeneous biscuit dotted with pockets of butter, sugar, and dried apricots – it was marvelous, but what truly put this scone on another level was the smear of clotted cream and an ample drizzle of apricot tinged honey.
With the scone devoured and our coffees finally receiving a refill at my request it would be another short wait before our main courses would arrive and when they did each looked wonderful but only one actually turned out to be so. Beginning first with mine; Croque Madame with Local Ham, Gruyere, Mornay Sauce, and Duck Egg was overall quite good – a prototype in its ingredients and balance but foiled slightly by the country style bread which was far too crunchy at first but became more pliable with the addition of some of the creamy Mornay served alongside and the rupture of the salted quivering egg. Served with skillet potatoes that were fine but nothing to write home about this was a competent dish, but not on par with other croques I’ve had (Michelin Starred or not.)
Moving next to my mother’s choice, Fried Chicken, Waffles, Sweet Potato & Pork Belly Hash, Vermont Maple Syrup – let’s just say the waffle was good and the hash was great while the chicken was…well…even a bit too undercooked for my tastes and damned near raw compared to my mother’s preferences. Beginning first with the waffle – thicker than generally served with chicken but fluffy and full of yeasty vanilla tones that went great with the syrup. Next up, the hash – smoky and sweet, a touch of nutmeg and perfectly prepared. Finally, the chicken – great coating and crunch, but pink flesh and skin so fatty that it was actually wet – a disappointment that my mother (who “doesn’t like to make a scene”) refused to mention, but stated just last week was some of the worst fried chicken she has ever eaten.
Last but not least my aunt selected the Bananas Foster French Toast with Banana Pudding, Bourbon Caramel Sauce, and Goat Cheese Semifreddo – a dish oddly similar to the dessert she’d order that evening at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, but actually even better. Featuring two thick slices of golden brioche with a supple interior (note to L&E, use this on the Croque) and an eggy custard wash resting in a puddle of warm pureed bananas and topped with savory cream cheese frosting plus boozy salted caramel this was the sort of sweet breakfast I’d have expected from a place like Bongo Room or M.Henry but definitely not from a gastropub – it was shockingly sweet yet surprisingly balanced and while dessert worthy also rather light on the stomach given the fluffy nature of the bread.
Again having to request a refill, this time by raising my hand like a child in elementary school, Gina stopped by to inquire if we were “all finished” and entirely ignoring the mostly uneaten pink chicken proceeded to collect our plates before filling the coffee and leaving the tab. With the bill paid and a modest (undeserved) tip left it was exactly one hour after we entered the Longman & Eagle that we left and all things being equal I rather doubt I’ll ever be back – though I will admit looking at the dessert menu and having experienced the brunch the team does seem to have some skills with the sweet stuff.