Saturday, June 18, 2011
m.henrietta, Chicago IL
Seeing as vacation was too short – as it almost invariably always is – our final day in Chicago would be restricted to only breakfast before beginning the drive back to Toledo and with my plans including a return to Columbus after dropping mother and aunt off I knew I wanted something hearty to last me through the day – a desire I had little doubt would be fulfilled by m.henrietta, the sister restaurant of one of my favorite brunches of all time. Featuring the same concept as its older sibling (local, seasonal, fresh, and organic) but reportedly with shorter lines and plenty of inexpensive/free parking just off the Loyola campus our arrival at m.henrietta would be surprisingly early despite my long morning run and just as promised we walked through the front door to find the restaurant approximately 1/2 full at 8:30am.
With the sun shining through large picture windows and the space decorated quite similarly to its North Clark sibling we were greeted shortly after entering the restaurant by a young woman who invited us to taste some samples – a blueberry poppyseed muffin and a slice of chocolate pound cake both still warm and tasty – prior to being led to our table where another young lady named Katie would take over again welcoming us and subsequently filling waters while handing us menus and taking drink orders. With mannerisms a bit rushed as it appeared she was the only server currently staffing the dining room we were invited to “take our time – and check out the bakery case” as she stepped away.
With the menu largely similar to that at m.henry yet featuring several seasonal variations it would not take us long to decide on our selections and despite the staffing issues Katie would return within moments carrying two coffees – a nutty blend by Metropolis – plus my aunt’s orange juice and when told we were ready to order she smiled stating “all the best stuff – great choices” before again returning to the front and subsequently returning less than ten minutes later with not only the first of many perfectly timed coffee refills, but also with a small order of the house-signature “amazing breakfast bread pudding” – a dish we’d experienced once prior at m.henry but this time perhaps even better with the brioche more dense and buttery, the custard sweeter, and the compliment of fruit a bit less overwhelming of the notes of cinnamon and vanilla.
Making short work of the bread pudding and with the restaurant now beginning to fill up our primary plates would arrive perhaps twenty-five minutes after we entered the restaurant and with each of us opting for sweets over savories the selections were exactly what I’d hoped for beginning first with my aunt’s selection of the daily special “Peach Blueberry French Toast,” a two-slice stack of thick cut golden brioche with a lovely exterior crunch and custard soft interior stuffed with (and subsequently topped with) warm peaches, whole blueberries, vanilla crème, brown sugar, and toasted oats that was every bit as good as the bread pudding and perhaps even better given the textural variation created by the oats.
Unable to get enough of the henry/henrietta family brioche and ever a fan of lemon in all forms my mother’s selection for the morning was another French Toast that would prove every bit as lovely as my aunt’s, but this time lacking the oats and instead described as “Lemon raspberry brioche french toast” served with two slices of dense and crispy Applewood smoked bacon. With the bread this time stacked three high and dusted in powdered sugar plus a dollop of warm house made lemon curd and sweet raspberry coulis I have to admit that although I am not a fan of lemon in general I quite liked the mildness of this presentation while my mother deemed it her favorite breakfast of the trip by far.
With the French Toast as good as our previous visit my selection for the morning would be a seasonal variation of another dish we’d tasted before – the appropriately named “bliss cakes,” this time presented as two light and fluffy hotcakes layered with warm blackberries, vanilla mascarpone cream and topped similarly to my aunt’s French Toast with a brown sugar and oat crust with the whole stack floating in a pool of sweetened blackberry reduction that negated any need for syrup but instead left me wishing for one more cake or perhaps a slice of that brioche to soak up every last drop.
With the restaurant now full (and a few more servers circulating) Katie again returned to clear our plates and asking us if there was anything else we’d like I requested a “to go” cup for my coffee along with the check – a wish that was happily granted and with the bill paid we made our way to the streets less than fifty minutes after entering m.henrietta all the happier for having visited and wishing for the umpteenth time that a place even half this good existed in Northwest or Central Ohio.