Breakfast, according to nutritionists, is the most important meal of the day. When I was a kid, I thought it was also the worst. Cold cereals were soggy, hot cereals were lumpy, toast was made with limp white bread, juice was loaded with pulp, and Pop Tarts didn’t exist. I didn’t drink coffee until I started college, and it’s for sure I didn’t know about heating the milk for the coffee until my first trip to Paris.
Breakfast gradually changed for the better, both at home and in restaurants. Options expanded, the quality of the ingredients improved, and someone invented a portable breakfast sandwich. I changed with the changes, and breakfast eventually became my favorite meal of the day, even when it's nothing more than a crusty roll and a cup of really good coffee.
I almost always order the breakfast tacos when I'm at 3rd Coast, a homey neighborhood restaurant in one of the city’s swankier neighborhoods. In fact, it feels odd if I order something else. It’s like going to your mother’s house and ignoring the dish she made especially for you.
Note the references to “Mom” and “home.” In restaurant speak, they’re shorthand for a restaurant that’s comfortable, casual and affordable. The last descriptive is especially important. It’s what writers are talking about when they say a restaurant is “approachable.” Bottom line: 3rd Coast is one of a dwindling number of full service independents that really are approachable. My breakfast tacos, for example, are $9.25. Add coffee (love the infinite refills), and breakfast is definitely approachable.
One friend describes 3rd Coast as a place that's always busy but rarely crowded. Brunch on Saturday and Sunday is the exception. At 11 am on a recent weekend, there was a short wait for seating, and I wound up chatting with the woman standing next to me. As it turned out, her family has been eating at 3rd Coast for decades. Her in-laws favor the omelets, her daughter likes the pancakes, and her husband routinely orders a scramble. She, on the other hand, loves the bacon.
Listening to her litany, my loyalty to the breakfast tacos began to waver. That turned out to be a plus, since-as I soon found out- the breakfast tacos aren't on the brunch menu. The Greek omelet, complete with feta, spinach and tomato, was a good stand-in, and my friend's veggie hash topped with two sunny-side up eggs was equally good.
Like a lot of neighborhood restaurants, 3rd Coast has neither a parking lot nor valet service. Most of the people who frequent the restaurant live in the neighborhood and come on foot. There's lots of public transportation nearby, however, and the welcome mat is always out.
3rd Coast, 1260 N. Dearborn, 312.649.0730
Nothing Like Home
Restaurant Week is designed to give diners an opportunity to sample various restaurants at a price that's a relative bargain. As it turns out, Pacific Standard Time's prix-fixe ($24) lunch is an especially good value.
Glancing at neighboring tables, it was obvious that most diners tried to sample as many dishes as possible. There were two options for the first course, four for the second. Portions were right-sized for a three course lunch, so we had ample room for dessert.
Chef/partner Erling Wu-Bower carefully constructs each and every one of his dishes, and if you have a curious palate, you're re in for a treat.The first course juxtaposed a wood roasted carrot soup made with smoked trout, miso, and a carrot-chili vinaigrette with a salad made with apples, endive, country ham and a celery seed vinaigrette. Next up were a freshly baked pita stuffed with pork and beef shawarma and a banh mi made with duck confit and salami cotto.
Dessert was two scoops of ice cream. With four different flavors to choose from, we managed to sample all of them. The hands down favorite was the "banana halwa fudge swirl" followed closely by the "dirty chai." We'll be back.
Bits: February 6
The Florentine is offering a special, four course Valentine's Day prix fixe ($120 for two) from Thursday, February 14 through Sunday, February 17. Dinner includes a Prosecco toast and Baci hand wrapped hazelnut chocolates. Call the restaurant for reservations.
The Florentine, 131 W. Adams Street, 312.660.8866.
Chicago Pizza Party
Chicago Pizza Party is holding its 3rd annual pizza festival on February 9th(National Pizza Day) at the Ravenswood Events Center. The party will feature multiple sessions, three floors, 20 restaurants, 60-plus pizza styles, a rooftop dessert lounge, local brews, wine, signature cocktails, games, special guests and top local DJs.
Tickets ($25) for both the 1 pm and the 6 pm parties are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/chicago-pizza-party-tickets. The 1 pm event is open to everyone; the 6 pm event is limited to guests over 21.
Ravenswood Event Center, 4021 N. Ravenswood
Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year Dumpling Making Dinner is scheduled for February 9th and 16th at Hing Kee Restaurant, 2140 S. Archer Avenue, 2nd floor. The program includes Chinese New Year story telling, the traditional Lion Dance, dumpling making, and an authentic 10-course Chinese meal. For reservations: 312.842.1988, email@example.com
Adults:$40, Children $35