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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Son Of A Butcher by WHISK

SOB WEBSITE

Good Morning Gators!

Although as far as my internal clock goes it’s almost the middle of the day. SOB opens at 10. We were almost an hour early due to my incessant need to be early and traffic being cooperative. We sat in the BREKFST mobile and listened to tunes. As the magic hour approached people started to pile out of their cars. I had discussed my mission with the young and handsome Chef Owner Rick Rodriguez and he very kindly held us a table. Diane sat down and I grabbed my usual interior shots. There was good strong dark roast coffee to be found. I had expected to do some of the usual menu browsing but Rick had other plans for us. The menu is being completely refreshed and he wanted to show off some the new grub. Bring it.

SOB’s exterior sports a custom paint job and a wind break that wasn’t there last time I was there.

SOB Chicago
Exterior

SOB Chicago
Exterior

SOB Chicago
Exterior and my shadow

 

The super cool industrial interior is complete with a big bar and a hallway and bathrooms with pennies decoupaged to the floor. Love it.

SOB Chicago
Interior

SOB Chicago
Interior

SOB Chicago
Interior

SOB Chicago
Interior

SOB Chicago
Interior

SOB Chicago
Interior

SOB Chicago
Interior

SOB Chicago
Interior

 

There are some small decorative touches that add extra personality.

SOB Chicago

SOB Chicago

SOB Chicago

SOB Chicago

SOB and WISK are 2 of my favorites. I may be a bit biased but I have been to a LOT of breakfast emporiums and feel like that I can do an ojective re-review. OK enough chatter. Let’s go.

As we were settling in the first course arrived.

Pozole

I have had Pozole for breakfast before but not this degree of deliciousness. The hominy was perfectly cooked. The beans were tender. The chicken was succulent  the broth was perfectly seasoned and had the proper level of salt. The addition of fresh cabbage and radishes added crunchy freshness.  Although I would probably add a nicely poached egg to this, it was sublime.   9

SOB Chicago
Pozole

SOB Chicago
Pozole

SOB Chicago
Pozole

SOB Chicago
Pozole

SOB Chicago
Pozole Accoutrements

SOB Chicago
Chips

   

Just as I was licking the bowl the second course arrived

Diane:

I had been looking forward to visiting SOB for some time now, and it was exciting to hear that Chef Rick was in the process of retooling the menu. As soon as we walked in, a friendly host greeted us and a moment later Rick was there to usher us into a sunny front booth.  Hot coffee and ice water were poured quickly and  Gator left to  roam around taking photos. The first course of  delicious Pozole arrived steaming, with a bowl of chips and fresh limes and a little cup of oregano. The hominy was delicious, the chicken thigh tender and the broth spiced just right, but the addition of thinly radishes and chopped raw cabbage was delightful. 9

 

Breakfast Tacos

For the sake of transparency I need to state that I really don’t care for breakfast tacos. It’s too close to a breakfast sandwich which I also am not a fan of. Now that I’m whining I might as well continue with the fact that I’m also not a fan of steak for breakfast and I really only like my own scrambled eggs. That being said I have to say that these were pretty tasty. The marinated steak had a good balance of tenderness and chew and was well seasoned The eggs although a bit overdone for me were not hammered. The house made tortillas were great and 2 two house made salsas were fantastic. These are probably the best version I’ve experienced.   7   You will most likely enjoy these more than I did.

Diane: The breakfast taco platter looked beautiful and I was thrilled to hear Anna say that the salsa verde had avocado in it, which is my favorite pairing with eggs. The steak was seasoned perfectly and very tender, and the pico was fresh as can be   8

SOB Chicago
Breakfast Tacos

SOB Chicago
Breakfast Tacos

SOB Chicago
Breakfast Tacos

Diane orders a cocktail.

If you’ve been following us you’ll already know my  partner likes a little alcomohol with breakfast. The name of the concoction was called a Dove. It was a quite delicious combo of tequila lime and grapefruit soda.   9  

Diane:

This was one tasty beverage. It was hard to pass up the homemade Sangria  served on Sundays for $5… but seeing grapefruit paired with Tequila on the drink menu was so enticing so I ordered it up. The bartender on duty this Sunday morning took her craft quite seriously. I saw more than a few Bloodies crafted under her keen eye and deft wrist with the shaker. I want to come back and try the Kick Back Jack, looked delish. There is a very inventive drink menu at SOB and the prices are pretty good too. My dove, I give you a 9

SOB Chicago
The Dove

 

2 Kinds of Cakes

Apple Cobbler

In unconventional gator style I’m starting with the rating. I have never rated ANYTHING a  10   I never believed that it was possible that I would find a dish that would rate that high. Chef Rick has done it. He broke my streak and now has a place in Breakfast Gator history. When I took a couple of bites of these I was actually speechless. The pancakes were super light and fluffy. They were thoroughly cooked but not dry. (I hate doughy or gooey undercooked pancakes). They were excellent all by themselves. They were topped with a concoction of roasted apples and a freakishly fantastic apple pie seasoned sauce. It was sprinkled with pieces of charred pie crust. Pure Genius. Rick I’m not sure if I should Kiss you or punch you for creating this increadable sexy masterpiece. I’m weeping as I’m typing this. You know what was wrong with these? Nothing.

Diane:

The arrival of this dish left us staring at each other and mouthing the words “pie crust” silently in tandem. The combination of real, made-from-scratch pancakes, lightly roasted  and glazed apples and tender bits of nicely  browned pie crust is pure magic. I cannot think of any better summary than Oh My these are a total 10!!!      10

 

SOB Chicago
Apple Cobbler Pancakes

SOB Chicago
Apple Cobbler Pancakes

SOB Chicago
Apple Cobbler Pancakes

SOB Chicago
Apple Cobbler Pancakes

 

Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

More of the fantastic base pancakes topped with a delightful Poppyseed filled topping. A spoonful or 2 of blackberry compote and a dollop of ricotta. This is another killer execution of pancakery.    9    I can see the sign now. Rick and Davids Pancake Emporium

Diane:

I love how SOB uses all types of plates for their dishes…70’s harvest orange stoneware, delft blue stoneware as seen here under the tender and fluffy Lemon Poppyseed cream cakes. I call them cream cakes because there was a dollop of whipped cheese, maybe macsaparone, I forgot to ask Rick. But I tell you the berry compote on top was tart and a perfect foil for the creamy lemon poppyseed sauce. Kevin, (who kept our table full of goodies) and  I agreed, this dish totally beats out berry Pop Tarts. Way.  9

SOB Chicago
Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

SOB Chicago
Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

SOB Chicago
Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

SOB Chicago Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

SOB Chicago
Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

SOB Chicago
Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

 

Well Gators That’s it. A REMARKABLE visit with Chef Rick at SOB by WISK. Put SOB and WISK on your MUST go to list. Oh by the way they do lunch and dinner too.

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I had to get a selfie with the 2 of us for 2 reasons. One day Rick is going to be a star on the Food Network and he will forget we ever met and 2 to be able to prove that I know him. I have one with brother David for the same reason.

The amazing and Handsome Chef Rick and some dude

 

 

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

OM NOM NOM

 

 

 

The Lucky Penny Diner and Deli Naperville

The Lucky Penny WEBSITE

  Good Morning Gators!

It’s 6am and we are ready to get going. The Lucky Penny is in sort of a tough location. It’s tucked back in the corner of a strip mall and you can easily miss it.

The Lucky Penny
Strip Mall Sign

The Lucky Penny
Strip Mall Location

The Lucky Penny
Strip Mall Location

The Lucky Penny
Right next to the Nail Salon

 

As I was shooting these Diane went inside to claim a table. There aren’t any tables near a window so photo lighting will be a challenge.

 

The Lucky Penny
Halloween decorated foyer

The Lucky Penny
Waiting area

The Lucky Penny
Host station

The Lucky Penny
Interior

The Lucky Penny
Breakfast Bar

 

60’s rock music played in the background and it was very clean. We noticed a few cute things while we were deciding what to order. They have a big chalkboard with specials and other offerings. There were a couple of things on the table like a cool creamer cup, a hot sauce top decorated by a customer and a menu with their logo.

The Lucky Penny
Menu Board

The Lucky Penny
Customer Decorated Hot Sauce Bottle

The Lucky Penny
Menu Logo

 

We made some food decisions and ordered Coffee. The Coffee is decent but not outstanding   7   We also ordered made to order Donuts to start us off.

The Lucky Penny
Made to order Donuts

The Lucky Penny
Made to order Donuts

 

The Donuts are really more like Beignets. They were warm, super fluffy puffy, slightly crispy, a touch yeasty and melt in your mouth tender.  Yum   9

   Penny (yes there is actually a Penny at The Lucky Penny) noticed me using my light bar to brighten up the flat restaurant lighting and decided that she needed to check it out for herself.

Diane:

I really love arriving when a place is abuzz with all the startup activity…first pot of coffee, the smell of melted butter, cheery staff, all of it. We had visited Penney’s a few months ago to eat without blogging, so the menu was familiar and I was really looking forward to trying a few new items. I noted with glee that there were several pumpkin infused entrees to highlight the Autumn  season. I love the hearty coffee mugs, the roomy tables and comfy chairs. There is a very eclectic mix of art on the walls, including nature photos as well  as watercolor and pencil sketches, some of which are offered for sale. The vibe is comfy and  warm and clean and very friendly   9

The coffee was hot, which I really appreciate and our server understood my quirk or not wanting my cup topped off. When my cup of coffee (especially that precious first cup of the day) is “just right” with cream and sweetener, I want to enjoy it as it is until I have my 2nd cup. Props to Kris!

The made to order donuts were divine, golden  and crispy outside, melt in your mouth puffy inside, with a light glaze to complement  them, You can order 5 or 10, and they are so delicious. 9

 

The Lucky Penny
Penny Herself checking out my Light Wand

 

1st up

THE NAPER FRITTATA

I ordered this with a bit of hesitation. I thought that it might make for some dull photos and it does.

The Frittata was supplied with Hash Browns which I rarely eat. These were on point. They were salted properly and reasonably buttery. They were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. I enjoyed them.   8    

As you know I generally don’t like anyones scrambled eggs but mine. This baked concoction was pretty decent. It was brown but not rubbery. It was a bit overcooked for me but not hammered. It had a good balance of ingredients and was fairly tasty but it didn’t wow me.   7    There is an option to upgrade your toast to a piece of coffee cake.  It’s moist, dense, and fruity.  Definitely worth the extra buck   8   

Diane’s take:

I really love Caramelized onions and Gouda cheese, so when I saw this on the menu, I really looked forward to the addition of chicken sausage in a frittata. So since i prefer my eggs well done, this was a great combo.   The onions tended to overpower the dish, and I would love to see them on the side instead of folded into the eggs. 6

The hash browns are worth a trip in…buttery and crispy and simply delicious. 8   The coffee cake was truly the best, a layer of fresh blueberry in the middle of a rich moist yellow cake. The  cinnamon crunch topping was spiced with smooth cinnamon and nutmeg to complement the cake perfectly. I even ordered a slice to take home for Monday breakfast. A true 10

The Lucky Penny
Naper Frittata

The Lucky Penny
Naper Frittata

The Lucky Penny
Hash Browns

The Lucky Penny
Blueberry Coffee Cake

 

2nd up

THE CUBAN BENNIE

 

The eggs were a bit under. The whites were a little snotty.   6    The pork was tender and tasty. I would have liked the heat kicked up a bit.   8   The Arepas were good. They were crisp and Corny. They were a good choice for this dish.   8   Overall this was a good combo.   8

Diane:

The originality of the Arepas as a slightly crispy bed for the savory carnitas was a nice touch. As I do not like poached eggs at all (no matter how Gene has tried to convert me) I focussed on the meat and Arepas which were extremely tasty. 8

The Lucky Penny
Cuban Benedict

The Lucky Penny
Cuban Benedict

The Lucky Penny
Cuban Benedict

The Lucky Penny
Cuban Benedict
Arepa

 

Lastly A seasonal item

 

Pumpkin Nut Cinnamon Swirl French Toast

I am typically brutal on French Toast. This version was actually good. I would order it again. It wasn’t overly pumpkinie or over spiced. It was well balanced and tasty.    It was well caramelized on the outside and tender on the inside    8   My only niggle is that I would have liked some real maple syrup for it.  (see the rant page)

Diane says:

I love the taste of pumpkin. However, at this time of year it seems overdone. Not this dish…it was just the right combination of nuts, very moist inside, and crispy buttery on the outside. Cinnamon butter topped off the luscious  Seasonal french toast.  8

The Lucky Penny
Pumpkin Nut Cinnamon Swirl French Toast

The Lucky Penny
Pumpkin Nut Cinnamon Swirl French Toast

 

This was our second trip to the LP. The first time we went we just went there for a non Gatoring breakfast. We liked it so much that we went back for a review. We spent some time on both visits with Penny. She is super friendly and has a real desire and drive to run a top notch establishment. Hopefully when you go there you’ll get a chance to say Hi.

Well thats it Gators. A good visit with Penny at the Lucky Penny.

As for Diane and me we are off to our next adventure.

 

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esencia urban kitchen Chicago

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Good Morning Gators!

It was a beautiful morning in the Lakeview East neighborhood. There are nearly as many Dogs as people. At this time in the morning there was a fair amount of open parking. We were a bit early so we sat in the Gatormobile and listened to some tunes for a bit.

OK it’s almost opening time (8:00) so its time to get going. As per standard Gator operating procedure I took a few exterior shots and Diane went in to snag a table.

esencia Chicago
All that is missing is U

esencia Chicago
Exterior

The place is TINY. 6 tables and 4 counter stools. On the counter there was an assortment of baked goods. The place was carpet free   9   with Urban Hipster music playing in the background.   8    The music fit the venue. The decor is mish mash coffeehouse. Speaking of Coffee, it wasn’t ready when they opened. This shouldn’t happen. On a more positive note when we got some it was delicious. Im not a flavored coffee fan. I’d much rather have a cup of single origin coffee than some Hazel caramel mocha salted something. The house coffee is flavored with Cinnamon and was worth waiting a few minutes for.   8  

esencia Chicago
Interior

esencia Chicago
Interior

 

The menu is small.   8   It didn’t take long to make a decision.

1st Up

 

This dish was a riff on an Eggs Benedict.  The Canadian Bacon was your run of the mill grocery store stuff.   6   I was actually pretty surprised at this. The Sunny Eggs were a little under. I wasn’t surprised at that.   4    The Poblano Cream Sauce was good but it was a little bland   7    It was served atop a Buttermilk Biscuit. The biscuit was decent but a little tough.   7   It was served with cubed and Mexican spiced potatoes that were pretty tasty. They were the highlight of the dish   8    A salad rode sidecar. It was fresh, crisp, and properly dressed. A good addition.   7   This wasn’t a particularly strong start but it was an overall decent dish.   7   

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poblano eggs

esencia Chicago
poblano eggs

esencia Chicago
poblano eggs

esencia Chicago
poblano eggs

 

I saw that one of the featured bakery delights was a maple walnut coffeecake. I thought that we should give it a try. It was a good choice. It was buttery, nutty, mapley. cinnamony and had good texture. this cake was worth the drive.   9   

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Maple Walnut Coffee Cake

esencia Chicago
Maple Walnut Coffee Cake

esencia Chicago
Maple Walnut Coffee Cake

 

Next Up

First a Hibiscus lesson.Dried hibiscus is edible, and it is often a delicacy in Mexico. It can also be candied and used as a garnish, usually for desserts.

The roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is used as a vegetable. The species Hibiscus suratensis Linn synonymous to Hibiscus aculeatus G. Don is noted in Visayas in the Philippines as being a souring ingredient for almost all local vegetables and menus. Known as labog in the Visayan area, (or labuag/sapinit in Tagalog), the species is a very good ingredient in cooking native chicken soup.

Hibiscus

 

I have never eaten flowers as a main component of a dish so I of course had to order it.

The sauce (mole?) was rich, smooth and silky but it didn’t have a ton of flavor. Maybe this was by design. This dish is really about texture. It had that in spades. It was crunchy and tender crisp. It was tasty but it had a lot of grittiness. It crunched like it had a lot of sand that wasn’t cleaned from it. It wasn’t like anything that I’ve  had before. It was a solid   7   Served with some flavorful rice that was a   7    

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Hibiscus Enchiladas

esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas

esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas

esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas

esencia Chicago
Rice

Finally

While we were waiting the bus person came by cleaned off the table and brought new flatware.   9    

The cakes were light fluffy tender and lemony. They were served with jasmine syrup and ginger butter both of which were good. This was an overall   8    I liked em.

esencia Chicago
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

esencia Chicago
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

This was an interesting visit. I got to have a couple of things that I haven’t had before such as a flower (not Flour) enchilada.
So that’s it Gators Another decent downtown dining experience. As for us we’re of to another adventure.
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