[Chicago] Bongo Room
Brunch is the perfect vacation meal. Whenever I’m home on break, I sleep in until the double-digit hours (military time, mind you) – definitely too late for breakfast, sometimes (though let’s be honest, rarely) too early for lunch, but always perfect for brunch.
So let me introduce you to the Bongo Room, my favorite Chicago brunch spot. I went there last winter break with two friends from high school, and when we planned this year’s catch-up-gossip-fest, it was an easy choice. Now that we’ve been there twice, it’s practically tradition.
Now, I am an infinitely indecisive person, and if you’ve ever eaten with me, you’ll know that we’ll both peruse the menu for a few moments in awkward silence until one of us tests the waters and says, “sooooo…what are you thinking?” You’ll name a dish, I’ll say “ooh! I was thinking that too!” and the game will go on and on until we finally acquiesce to what should have been obvious from the start: of course we’re sharing! Now the only question is whether the table is big enough for family-style or if we’re going to eat-pass-eat-pass-eat-pass.
If we’re going to brunch, then we’re definitely sharing, because there’s absolutely no way I could choose between sweet or salty, pancakes or french toast, bacon or sausage. But if we’re going to the Bongo Room, I do have one demand: we have to get the pretzel pancakes. They are, hands down, the best pancakes i have ever had in my life. They’re moist and cake-y (I mean, it is a pancake, after all!), drenched in a white chocolate caramel sauce, with crushed pretzel between the stacks adding a mild savory crunch. It’s every indecisive brunch-lover’s dream: sweet and salty, soft and crunchy. Now, if it only came with a side of bacon…
The apple brioche french toast was also good – not as spectacular as the pretzel pancakes, but definitely solid. I thought the bread was a bit dry and the apple flavor a bit lacking, but the pungent cinnamon mixed with the white chocolate flavor made it all worth it. (Also – the menu says Apple Cranberry Brioche French Toast, but I don’t remember anything cranberry about it…)
And of course, the savory: the tomatillo salsa scramble is bursting with flavor. It’s got so much going on: tomatillo, jalepeno, avocado, chicken, spinach, not to mention the eggs! It’s the perfect counterpart to the sweets, though be warned – this dish is actually quite spicy.
The coffee is a bit pricey ($3.25) but it is a bottomless cup of Intelligentsia, which in my book is perfectly justified – although dangerous. (The refills just keep on comin’, and you keep drinking it because it is so good, and before you know it, you’re talking a mile a minute and cutting pancakes with shaky hands.)
A word of advice: Bongo Room does not take reservations. Last year, we got there at 11:30ish and waited for about half an hour in their cramped lobby area (which thankfully was away from the blazing cold). This year, we got there at 12:30 and didn’t wait at all. I don’t even want to know what the lines are like in more favorable weather conditions.