Hands down my favorite meal of the day would be brunch. There is always sweet and savory options to meet my every craving, creative and classic cocktails are served up for hours and conversation flows like lava as the sun peaks higher in the sky.
Just a few weeks ago after a morning hike, brunch was calling our names but the predicament on where to go was troubling everyone. Yes there are the tried and true options like Lucile’s, The Hornet and Root Down but we were all looking for something new. Insert: cafe|bar ... a West Washington Park establishment that serves up classic American food with a modern and comfortable twist.
I have dined at cafe|bar a few times since they opened nearly two years ago and I will admit, I was not too impressed. Yes the inviting minimal space was charming and I could not quit admiring the great lighting but other than that, I was left with uninspired food and slow service. As you can imagine, I quit visiting this neighborhood spot and it had been nearly a year since I walked into their doors. Luckily, I think my time away from cafe|bar gave time for the owner, Dane Huguley to infuse a point of view and quality food that was previously missing… and quite frankly desperately needed.
Our brunch had standouts like the shrimp and grits. Delicate rock shrimp were sauteed with peppers and onions and served over silky rosemary grits and two eggs your way. I loved the rich yet light combination but would maybe take out some of the onion and peppers as they seemed to be a larger portion than needed. The house made buttermilk biscuits topped with eggs and pork green chili was another stunner. The green chili added a smoky heat which complimented the moist biscuits well.
One of my fellow brunch-goers was also greatly impressed by the vegan skillet the kitchen specially made for her. She was eyeing the Bing cherry-pistachio sausage skillet filled with fingerling potatoes, sweet spring onions, bright peppers and summer squash but of course she was not able to eat the sausage or eggs that were part of the dish. No worries at cafe|bar as they whipped up a new batch of potatoes (they cook their’s in bacon fat) and filled the skillet with endless veggies including wilted arugula and summer tomatoes.
Of course brunch would not be complete without a bloody mary and cafe|bar serves their’s up spicy with garnishes to keep you busy until your meal arrives. The peppery mix is house-made and full of spice that will wake you up if you are still rubbing the sleepies out of your eyes. I prefer a slightly less-spicy and more acidic version for my bloodys but yet again, was impressed when the wait staff brought out a glass of tomato juice for me to mix in (regardless if they charged me $1.50 for it).
If you would have asked me to recommend cafe|bar to you previously, it would have been a hard sale. However, I have been converted through a delicious brunch that I know will bring me back to dine again. I hope they continue to transform my past impression and make a name for themselves in a neighborhood that needs more approachable and charming places to dine out.