Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Fat Kids Brunch Club

As law school was winding down and the weather was looking up, a few of us decided that Wednesday afternoons were not for spending in school. Instead, we would travel up to the South Loop and hit up some brunch. We dubbed ourselves the Fat Kids Brunch Club, since there was really no reason for us to gorge ourselves the way we usually did at said events. Though the FKBC only met a couple of times, they were two quite enjoyable experiences.

The first meeting of the FKBC occurred at the Bongo Room (as would all subsequent FKBC meetings were Sara to have her way). We each ordered our own meal and split an order of pancakes in what would become a theme of these meals together. I'm typically not one for ordering pancakes, since they're so easily and cheaply made at home, but it's a bit more justifiable when you're sharing with friends.

Though the Bongo Room is a brunch spot, and a local favorite at that, I had sampled a few of their breakfast offerings at their Wicker Park location prior to this visit. Not feeling quite in the breakfast mood myself, I went for the Smoked Chicken Asian Salad, which featured smoked chicken breast, honey roasted peanuts, snap peas, yellow and red bell pepper, shredded carrots and rice noodles above mixed greens, all finished with a sesame vinaigrette. The salad was pretty well balanced, if a little standard, though the smoking of the chicken was done with the skin still on, so it achieved a nice moist quality. The noodles were a bit thick for how delicate the rest of the salad was, and had been advertised in the menu as glass noodles. I think the original menu offering would have been better suited to the salad, since it would not have overwhelmed the other ingredients as much. Overall, though, it was a pretty good salad, and a quite large one at that.

The pancake order was a pumpkin pancake topped with a maple glaze (at least I think it was maple, though I could be totally wrong). The pancakes themselves were great (not to mention partially devoured before my camera could get to them) – fluffy and sky-high, with the perfect balance of pumpkin pie spices that I love so. The glaze, though, was incredibly overwhelming, leading me to burrow underneath the top layer with my fork in hopes of retrieving some dry pancake. The rest of theFKBC members, though, seemed to really enjoy the glaze, so I will leave it at that.

The atmosphere at the South Loop Bongo Room location is a bit different from that of the Wicker Park location, mostly owing to the South Loop location’s larger square footage. There are large windows and a great deal of sunlight pouring through them, making the small amount of artificial light from the bulbs nearly unnecessary.

The second meeting of the Fat Kids Brunch Club occurred, after some persuasion of
Sara by myself, Simone and Mel, at Orange, which also has couple of locations further up North. The space is kind of bizarre, as it is in the bottom floor of an office building with no bathrooms of its own, forcing its patrons through a complex maze of hallways and foyers when nature beckons. It was a bit dingy, sparsely decorated, but not unpleasant since it was spacious and full of light.

This time, I went for the Pan Seared Oatmeal, mostly because it was too intriguing to pass up. Essentially this dish is steel cut oatmeal, which has been cooked with apple cider, cream and spices, forced into a dense block and pan-seared served drizzled with apple cider reduction and mixed dried fruits (in my case it was apricots, golden and regular raisins and apples – I’m not sure if they switch this up). It was an interesting concept, and I think it was executed as well as could be. It was astonishingly dense, and a half of the serving filled me up beyond belief. There was something going on there that was throwing me off a bit though, and I cannot seem to put my finger on it, though I have a strong suspicion that it was the texture. I had expected something more supple, with a bit more creaminess and wetness to it, and I really had expected it to come to my plate in a round, and not a square. In the end, I’m glad I tried it, but I’m not sure I would order it again, nor am I sure that the way I imagined it would have been a success.

The pancake order for the table was a special, peaches and cream, a downright classic. The pancakes were your standard, run of the mill, buttermilk pancakes, but they had great flavor and texture. They were topped with some peach slices and a cream-like sauce with a texture reminiscent of yogurt. I thought it was pretty decent, but there could have been a lot more, especially with two large pancakes – there was just not nearly enough to sufficiently cover the pancake, especially if you’re not eating them as a stack.

Orange apparently offers orange-flavored coffee, the idea of which I find repulsive. Needless to say, I went with the ordinary coffee. The water though, is served with cucumbers in it, which happens to be something I quite enjoy. Both experiences were very enjoyable, though I’m sure they were heightened by a significant degree by my company. I have not dined at the other Orange locations, so I cannot say which of the two I prefer, though friends of mine really enjoy the outpost on Clark Street. As far as the Bongo Room goes, I prefer the original Wicker Park location, hands down, the atmosphere is superior and the window seats make for great people watching.

Bongo Room
1152 S. Wabash Ave. (between E. 11th St. and E. Roosevelt Ave.)
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 291-0100

Other Location:
1470 N. Milwaukee Ave. (between N. Honore and W. Evergreen St.)
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 489-0690

75 West Harrison St. (between S. Federal and S. Clark St.)
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 447-1000

Other Location:
2011 W. Roscoe St. (between N. Seely St. and N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 248-0999

3231 N. Clark St. (between W. School St. and W. Belmont Ave.)
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 549-4400


SAF said...

Great post, as always. :) Glad you mentioned the drama that came with trying Orange - though you forgot to say how right I was. I agree with you re: the pancakes from Orange - I thought they were pretty standard. The ones at Bongo Room, though, I didn't think I could make myself.

CJ said...

I'm definitely a fan of both places, but I'd go w/ Bongo Room if I had to pick, I think.