Reviews of Breakfast and Brunch Restaurants

Buttermilk Naperville

Buttermilk WEBSITE

Good Morning Gators!

Its 6:55. I’m outside of Buttermilk Naperville taking pictures. Cold and ready to go inside. The is the new second location. The first location is in Geneva Illinois. I have been looking forward to reviewing the new place. Naperville is really lacking for good places to eat good breakfast. It’s such a breakfast desert that even the crappy places do good business. We saw them unlock the door so we went in. As you can see there were others waiting as well.

Buttermilk Naperville
Exterior Including the bright red BREKFST Mobile

Buttermilk Naperville
Exterior

Buttermilk Naperville
Exterior

We parked at a table near the window but Diane knew that I was unhappy. While I went off to take the interior shots she procured a different table. I was much happier.

Buttermilk Naperville
Interior

Buttermilk Naperville
Interior

Buttermilk Naperville
Interior

Buttermilk Naperville
Interior

Buttermilk Naperville
Interior

Buttermilk Naperville
Interior

Buttermilk Naperville
Interior

Buttermilk Naperville
Interior

Buttermilk Naperville
Interior

The strong scent of Bacon filled the air. The Music was a mash up of several decades. The Decor is white and medium brown with a splash of cow. Carpet Free.    8    

Somehow by magic coffee appeared. I usually have some name of some coffee supplier inserted here. I don’t today so make one up. The coffee is good however. A blend of some sort. No distinct flavor profile.    8    No artificial coffee sweetners are present. This is generally a statement by the restaurant that says “we love you so much that we don’t want to poison you. I find it ironic that they serve  Heinz catsup loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup. They have white sugar, Turbinado sugar, and Stevia. Stevia makes your coffee taste like weeds.  The Cream was in a cute mini Milk Can.

Diane:

I enjoy the crisp white n’ black Decor of the original spot, so to see dove gray walls and beechwood greybrown wood accents really made it look fresh. The chairs are this faux driftwood looking style.  The warm smiles of the hostess and servers are a good sign. I must divulge that during a non-Gator breakfast trip to the Geneva spot several months ago with Man o’ mine, sour scowls were the collective face of Buttermilk staff on that Sunday morn. I love dining where you feel the staff has fun at what they do. Music was Vance Joy and similar popfolk type tunes. Like.

Gene was long over being wee bit cranky since the lighting was not right but we settled in at a four top which was much better. A carafe of hot coffee appeared. My first time trying Stevia was a bust. Double yuck, I need to pack my Splenda next time.  Emma was so friendly and made the meal even more memorable, very patient and accommodating when I switched tables so Gene could have optimum natural light. Nice vibes here. 9

Buttermilk Naperville
Tiny Milk Can

Our delightful server Emma pointed out the specials. It didn’t take long to decide. The menu was bigger than I would have liked but I’ll live. It’s the same menu as the Geneva location. They had a reasonable sized Vegan/gluten free menu and they also had some alcohol options. The first thing we ordered was one of the specials.

 

House made cheddar corn fritters topped with smoked BBQ Brisket, Chow Chow Relish Poached Eggs, a Smoked Gouda Cheese Sauce and Pork Rinds

 

Our Entree arrived in seconds.

The highlight of this dish and the reason I ordered it was to try the house made Corn Fritters. I pushed the toppings aside to reveal a Golden deep fried disc. Close to Hockey Puck size but half the thickness. I forked through it and gave it a taste. Crunchy Corney Greasy and a tad sweet. Quite good.    8    Brisket next. It was super tender seasoned beautifully and smoke kissed.     9     The eggs were a bit under.    6     The Chow Chow Relish was excellent    9    This is a great conglomeration. They need to add it to the menu.    9    A great imaginative dish. It hits all the buttons. Sweet Salt and Fat. Good job Chef. Go get this before it’s gone.

Diane:

It could not have been simpler to pick our first dish. There were four specials, and this one sounded so right. It was delivered quickly and piping hot, so Gene got right to exercising his  photography chops. Much to his chagrin, I loathe poached eggs but I love the stuff that dresses up a Bennie. The pork rind garnish added a spot of whimsy to this superb dish.  8.  The corn cake was crisp  and sweet,  with the chow chow chutney adding a nice tiny flame to the forkful of taste.  8.  The brisket was thinly carved instead of served in little chunks, which was a nice touch. 8

I agree with Gene that Chef should add this to the Bennie offerings on a more regular basis. I call the sum of all this a solid  9

Buttermilk Naperville
Chow Chow Benedict

Buttermilk Naperville
Chow Chow Benedict

Buttermilk Naperville
Chow Chow Benedict

Buttermilk Naperville
Chow Chow Benedict

Buttermilk Naperville
Chow Chow Benedict

Buttermilk Naperville
Chow Chow Benedict

Buttermilk Naperville
Chow Chow Benedict
Pork Rind Topping

 

Diane wanted what is traditionally our last course to be the next course.

Three Milks French Toast

Our version of a Tres Leche cake (french toast style) encrusted in coconut fakes and topped with cinnamon whipped cream and hazelnut syrup and a drizzle of coconut cream sauce

 

This order took a few seconds longer than the first one I’m guessing because the place started filling up. I tasted the cream topping first. Delish. Coconutty but not overly sweet. The hazelnut syrup was a sidecar. It was fake maple syrup with a slight hint of hazelnut. Eh it was ok. You know how I feel about fake maple syrup… Then there is the French Toast. Yes I know I don’t usually order it because I’m pre disposed to not like the preparation of it. This was how I felt about this. It was very tasty but inconsistently prepared. Part of it was just dry bread and part of it was soaked correctly, Soft moist and eggy. They were SO close to a big hit. In spite of the sloppy prep I enjoyed it.    8   Give this a few tweaks and it will be a 9.  Soak the bread longer and offer real Maple syrup as an up charge.

Diane:

The possibilities this dish held wooed me to want it as a second offering….toasted coconut and cinnamon whipped cream!!! The downside I see was that the crusts and surrounding bread was not nearly as custard like as the center. The coconut cream sauce was delicious so the hazelnut concoction was unnecessary.  I honestly felt as though four bites from each slice were so good, but the rest was totally not good at all. I really would like to see this prepared so the entire slice is silky.   7

Buttermilk Naperville
Three Milks French Toast

Buttermilk Naperville
Three Milks French Toast

Buttermilk Naperville
Three Milks French Toast

Buttermilk Naperville
Three Milks French Toast

Buttermilk Naperville
Three Milks French Toast
Dry Bread

Buttermilk Naperville
Three Milks French Toast
Fake but Hot Syrup

 

It’s 8:19 and the place is packing up. We placed our last order.

Stuffed Breakfast Biscuit

Homemade biscuit stufed with cherry wood smoked bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage gravy, cheddar jack cheese. Topped with more sausage gravy, cheddar, and crumbled bacon. Served with farmhouse potatoes

This technical breakfast marvel was the size of a Baseball. The gravy was smooth soft and savory. It had just a slight hint of flour taste but delicious.    8    The biscuit was more like a thin layer of bread. Iv’e never seen anything like it. It was sort of like a breakfast Calzone. Right under the surface was a layer of Heavily smoked chopped Bacon. It was perfect for this. The eggs were overcooked of course. The Farmhouse potatoes were your standard diced fried potatoes. They were embellished with cheese bacon peppers and onions. Yummy.  This engineering marvel was quite a delicious treat.      8     I would get this again.

Diane:

Its getting very noisy by 8:30am, so much so that you cannot hear your dining buddy clearly. There are many young families on this Sunday morning so I suggest  coming during the week or on Weekends at 7am sharp. IT GETS LOUD.  5

Ok now for the biscuit situation. Buttermilk has an entire segment of the menu devoted to biscuits. That’s right. We tried the mini basket with honey butter on another visit so I was jazzed to try a savory biscuit offering! It arrives with a flourish and when you lift the plate it feels as though it’s 7 pounds of food. One bite is full of egg, bacon, cheese and delicious sausage gravy surrounded by a whisper thin layer of biscuit dough 8

The farmhouse potatoes are available for all entries at a two buck upcharge, but they come with this dish.  Cubed red potatoes crisped and seasoned perfectly, with melted jack,  sautéed scallions and a dash of sausage gravy 9

My suggestion is that Buttermilk retool this dish so it’s half this size. Three hungry adults could share this and a short stack of lovely upgraded cakes and go home satiated nicely. A very tasty and hearty dish it is!

Buttermilk Naperville
Stuffed Biscuit

Buttermilk Naperville
Stuffed Biscuit

Buttermilk Naperville
Stuffed Biscuit

Buttermilk Naperville
Stuffed Biscuit
Overcooked Eggs

Buttermilk Naperville
Stuffed Biscuit
Biscuit Shell

Buttermilk Naperville
Stuffed Biscuit
Biscuit shell

Buttermilk Naperville
Stuffed Biscuit
Layer O Smokey Bacon

 

Well Gators That wraps it up. I’m pretty pumped that Naperville has a new Upscale Breakfast spot. It was a good visit and we will definitely be back. I’m going to add this to my “Best of List”

 

Get there early or wait. Your choice.

I HATE to wait. Good thing I didn’t have to

 

 

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As for us were off to our next adventure

Ovo Frito Cafe Evanston Illinois

Good Morning Gators!

 

Ovo Frito Evanston
Exterior Complete with conspicuous gas meter

 

We have another Tasty Suburban spot this morning. Michele and myself were off to the the North Shore. Evanston to be exact. Just a rock throw from Northwestern U to a place called Ovo Frito. Ovo has only been open 7 months at the time of our visit and has already amassed a fan base. Diane is having a SPA day with her offspring so I have a ride along.

We arrived early as usual and popped in right at the opening gun. The usual ritual of photos and Coffee happened. The Coffee was roasted dark and properly strong.    8     The Coffee refill process was totally unique. It was just like a Brazillian Steakhouse. There is a coaster on the table with a yes no refill side. I had Michele steal another one so I could show both sides in the photo.  No booze menu.

Ovo Frito Evanston
Brazilian Steakhouse Coffee refill ordering system

 

 

The interior is interesting. Modernish with some pretty out there eggy art embellishments.

Ovo Frito Evanston
Interior

Ovo Frito Evanston
Interior

Ovo Frito Evanston
Interior

Ovo Frito Evanston
Interior

Ovo Frito Evanston
Interior
Eggy Art

 

The place was as cold as a walk in refrigerator. I actually had to put my coat back on. The music was Mexican flavored just like the menu. It fit perfectly. Speaking of menu, it had just enough choices to make choosing difficult but not overwhelming enough for me to think that there wasn’t  a lot of ingredients hanging out in back  getting old.

We finally settled on this morning’s line up and started the process.

Number 1

Hay Mama Estos Huevos

Scrambled Eggs with crushed tortilla chips Chorizo Jalapeños Chihuahua Cheese Sour Cream and Salsa Roja

I usually cut and paste the food descriptions from the website but alas they have none.

Our server took our order and returned quickly with a delicious looking Ham Omelette. We apparently got our wires crossed or my Spanish accent was not very good and Hay Momma sounded like Ham Omelette. He whisked it away and returned in a while with the proper dish.

Ovo Frito Evanston
Hey Mama Estos Huevos
(Not Ham Omlette)

Ovo Frito Evanston
Hey Mama Estos Huevos

Ovo Frito Evanston
Hey Mama Estos Huevos

 

As soon as it arrived I saw garnishes from 2 different decades. Orange slices from the 70’s and scattered herbage from the 80’s so you regular readers know exactly what I was thinking. Hey 1975 and 1986 called. They want their Garnish back.  (Note: Michele and Diane both LIKE the Orange slice)

Ovo Frito Evanston
Delux 70’s Orange Twist

This combo was supplied with Potato cubes that they like to call Desiree Potatoes and one slice of toastage of your choosing. Sourdough in our case. The Potatoes were average. Something you can get at many places. They tasted pretty fresh and decently seasoned.    6    The Toast was toasted and of course delivered unbuttered with a side of Smuckers. (see rant page)    5

Ovo Frito Evanston
Unbuttered Toast

I’ll say on the outset that I generally don’t like scrambles. The eggs are usually overcooked and watery from the ingredients added. This was the case here as well HOWEVER the crunchy tortilla chips and the on point red sauce saved the day. It was spicy but not too. It was an overall winner for me.    8     A great score for a Scramble

Second Up

Huevos Divorciados

A  couple of fried tortillas smeared with Refried Black Beans, 2 Over Medium Eggs, Salsa Roja, Cotija Cheese, Salsa Verde, with a dollop of Sour Cream and Guacamole

The Over easy Eggs were near perfect. The red sauce is sublime. The Tortillas crunchy. It also has a green Tomatillo sauce that was killer and I’m actually not a big fan of Tomatillos. (Did you know that Tomatillos are related to the Gooseberry)? This dish rocked. I would order it again.    9  

Ovo Frito Evanston
Huevos Divorciados

Ovo Frito Evanston
Huevos Divorciados

Ovo Frito Evanston
Huevos Divorciados
Must have hated it

 

There was a few pretty standard Pancake and French Toast offerings. You know french toast is a dangerous choice (rant page) and I saw an order being delivered to a neighbor and thought it was best not to go there. I have been thinking about Pancakes this week so it was a pretty clear decision.

Berries Pancakes

Three Pancakes filled with Black and Blueberries Granola and Blackberries Coulis whipped cream and Lemon Butter.

The Pancake Batter  was obviously House Made. If not it was a fantastic imposter. The Cakes were light and puffy fluffy. Cooked thoroughly but not dry. Just the right ratio of Cake to Berries. The sprinkle of Granola added a bit of textural intrest. Top Shelf.    8/9    Fakle Syrup (Fake Maple) These would have been a solid 9 with real syrup.  Please Please offer the real stuff for an upcharge. The Lemon Butter was fresh and tasty. A winner plate.

Ovo Frito Evanston
Berries Pancakes

Ovo Frito Evanston
Berries Pancakes

Ovo Frito Evanston
Berries Pancakes

Ovo Frito Evanston
Berries Pancakes

 

OK Kids that wraps it up for our visit to Ovo Frito. Just like your unattractive cousin, not much to look at on the outside but a wonder on the inside. Next time you’re on the North Shore pay her a visit.

 

As for me I’m off to my next adventure.

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Solstice Restaurant Western Springs

Solstice Restaurant WEBSITE

Good Morning Gators!

This morning we are off to another Suburban spot. Thats 2 in a row. This one however would be just as comfortable if it were in Logan Square.

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Exterior

We arrived in the BREKFST Mobile just shy of their 7am opening. As per standard operating procedure, I took the exterior and interior shots as Diane grabbed a table. I finished up and sat down. The only window side table is wall table with a bench. UGH (see rant page). Our server Lauren asked if we wanted something besides water to drink. I chose Coffee of course and Diane chose one of their loose tea offerings. (Roasted Almond) From Benjamin Tea Company. The coffee is from a roaster in Plainfield called Ten Drops. It was mild but good.   8    

The interior of the place is cute and small. Im quite sure that it was going to be stuffed full of Hipsters in no time. The Decor is Urban industrial. The wall art was a mix of Eggs, Plants, and Meats. The music was a mashup of current stuff with 60’s and 70’s easy rock.   8    

 

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Interior

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Interior

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Interior

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Interior

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Ingredient Source Map

 

As you can see in the above photo they are proud of local sourcing. YES it’s good but some of you know that I really don’t care if the Chicken was born in Illinois or not.

Much to my liking the menu is short. It has a mix of standard breakfast foodstuffs and more inventive creations. Diane and I pretty quickly made some decisions.

Diane:

Full of glee that we found an intriguing Breakfast  destination in the western burbs, I kept my grousing to a minimum when Gene nudged me awake at 5:45am on this balmy 38 degree January Sunday morning.  LaGrange, Countryside, Western Springs area is my old stomping grounds (in the late 80’s and all of 90’s) and its cool to spot a gem as Solstice turns out to be. The music mix was very uplifty…a bit of soul, R&B, indie folk and 70’s pop. Gene and I both feel the the right music  is rather important to complement the personality of the restaurant

There is a decent offering of unique loose teas on the menu with names like Love, Coconut Frenzy, and Moroccan Mint. As it turns out, the Roasted Almond was served in a generous teapot. Lauren gave a mini lesson on proper steep time for my tea, and was very sweet so early in the morning. She knows the menu very well and informed us that she had tried every single thing on the menu and was very proud to share that she had been part of the team for well over a few years (they have been in business for 3 years).

 

Solstice Restaurant
Cloth Napkins

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Loose Tea

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Loose Tea

 

1

Fried Brussel Sprouts, Egg, Bacon, Sesame Seeds, Chili Glaze

A few years back there were about 6 people eating Brussel Sprouts. I was one of them. When they are prepared correctly they are delish.  The problem was that most people didn’t know what to do with them except boil them until they were very dead. Luckily they have made a strong surge in popularity due to imaginative chefs cooking them correctly. One of the great ways to cook them is in the deep fryer. We could actually smell them cooking. Chef and co owner Lucas Bumba brought them to the table and presented them to us like they were a precious gift. As it turned out they WERE. They were tender crisp fried nuggets of deliciousness. They had some house made bacon, a wonderful sweet and savory sauce that was a great compliment to the bitter sprouts. They were sprinkled with sesame seeds that they grow on the roof. OK that part isn’t true. What IS true however is the    9    Rating. The Sunny Egg was a bit under done though. A bit of a letdown for a near perfect start. This is a definite re order item.

Diane:

If brussels are on the menu, any menu, anytime of the day…I will most likely order them. Steamed with butter and salt, or baked and served with a dipping sauce…..they are just so yummy and vibrant. A vegetable that says, “hey you, I am a force to be reckoned with, and now that you are a grown up, its time you forget those long nights sitting sullen at the family table staring at your stone cold  vegetables, and give us a try!!!”  Yes indeed, these brussel sprouts spoke to us. Halved and browned nicely, with a generous sprinkling   of toasted sesame seeds and a sweet chile sauce, amazing! Smoky  and meaty bacon pieces mingled with the veggie, and Sunny egg with crispy edges sat on top. I am still thinking of this dish, a week later.   9

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Brussel Sprouts

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Brussel Sprouts

 

2

Farmers Toast

House Made Goat and Lamb Sausage House Made Jam Sous Vide Mushrooms

Again a proud introduction of the dish by the Chef

I’m no food Anthropologist but I’m pretty sure that Toast has been around since Fire and Bread were invented. Some genius Chef decided that if he made some really scrumptious toast he could get 8 or 10 bucks for it. BOOM Avocado Toast is seen on menus everywhere. These boys  Sexy Toast game is on point. The sausage is pretty spicy but not stupid. The salt level is perfect.  This interesting combination of stuff made for another rare score of   9   It was again topped with a SS Up Egg and although better than the last one still had some snotty whites.  Another reorder item.

Diane:

Wonderfully inventive interpretation of savory french toast. Aside from the underdone Sunny egg, every bite of this dish hit the mark. The homemade tri-berry jam was not too sweet, and the house sausage was tender, not tough and chewy as some patties can be. There was a nice savory TANG without the salty sausage aftertaste. The toast was tasty but a bit overdone, otherwise a very nice dish    7

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Farmers Toast

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Farmers Toast

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Farmers Toast
Hated It

 

3

Brunch Poutine, Sunny Side Up Egg, Fried Chicken, Pimento Cheese, Potatoes

Another excellent table side presentation

Iv’e had breakfast Poutine at another place that I can’t remember. Possibly in Portland. It was A more traditional Canadian style version with Mushroom gravy and a soft cooked egg. This version is an elevated rendition. I have been inspired to serve Pimento Cheese with my eggs in the future. The chicken was tangy and mostly crispy. Most of you know that I’m not big on Fried Chicken but this is a winner winner. The potatoes tasted pretty fresh not at all like most places house potatoes that seem like they have been a Hotel pan on the steam table for a week. This delight was Tangy Spicy Crunchy and Creamy.  The Egg was the only miss in this Extra Delicious HIT.    9  

Diane:

When Lucas presents each dish, you can clearly tell he really enjoys his life’s work. Not only does he describe the dish’s content, but how it is prepared. No shortcuts in this kitchen!! The fried chicken pieces were soaked in buttermilk and spices, and it was evident that extra time is taken to ensure clear and distinct flavors. I loved the potatoes, they were definitely freshly prepared. The pimento cheese sauce was smooth and lightly bathed the potatoes and chicken. I am discounting the Sunny egg because as a rule, I do not eat them.

Something I noticed about each dish we tasted is that the chefs are highly skilled at spicing in proper proportions. Each bite of each item was so flavorful, but never screamed of one essence. Specifically, flavors never battle each other for attention. The combos here JUST WORK.    9

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Poutine

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Poutine

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Poutine

 

4

Brioche French Toast , Two Eggs

Instead of the Eggs I requested Grits. I wanted to try them.

Yes I know. I can hear your telepathic thoughts. French Toast Geno? I  was feeling brave. What am I talking about? Read my French Toast musings on the rant page.

While we were waiting for the FT we were treated to a Glazed Raised Donut from Stans Donuts. I am generally not a fan of these. I prefer glazed old Fashioneds however it was tasty. One of the best I’ve had. The dough part of the donut actually had some flavor. It was amazingly light and fluffy.    7

Diane:

I loved that a SUV pulled up the one of the front parking spaces, and a woman with a cute swingy ponytail got out with four large boxes of bakery goods. Here Comes the Donut Girl , I thought. It was a delicious gift from the owner, and it was light and fluffy and good 8

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Stans Donut

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Stans Donut

 

Gene:

Lauren brought the French Toast. I tasted the Syrup first. It was real Maple Syrup. Kudos to the decision not to wimp out and serve that other junk. The FT was spiked with Nutmeg and something else that I couldn’t identify. It was fairly well soaked in the batter. It could have used a few more seconds. It was a good representation of proper french toast. Custardy and moist.    8  

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
French Toast and Grits

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
French Toast

 

The grits were above average. Extra cheezee. They needed a bit more cook time but weren’t gritty. Yummy    8

Diane:

Gene and I agreed that the French toast had a distinct nutmeg flavor but could not discern the other spice. It was not cinnamon but may have been clove. Either way, this was velvety smooth and soft inside, and the real maple syrup was heated and a nice touch.      8

The cheesy grits were aptly named. So very cheesy, possible a very sharp cheddar. They were nicely peppered and a proper complement to the sweet FT.      7

 

Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Grits

 

You know what I hated about this place? Nothing

 

Well thats it Gators. This was like Downtown quality without having to deal with the parking. The place was standing room only when we left but was mostly families. There was surprisingly zero Hipsters.

I really appreciate when restaurant owners have the drive and the passion to put out a top notch product. it’s not easy and it shows in the end result. Thanks for the hard work. I will definitely be back.

As for us we’re off to our next adventure.

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Solstice Restaurant Western Springs
Diane and Menu