Let’s face it, brunch is always on my mind when the weekend rolls around. I’m sure most of Americans can agree with me. Who doesn’t love waking up on a Sunday morning, putting on a fancy outfit and meeting up with friends and family to enjoy pancakes, eggs and whatever else your heart desires? A side of hash browns, bacon, fruit… and don’t forget the iced coffee! Sunday brunch is the one day when you can relax and treat yourself.
Brunch is even more of a staple in my life since I work at a restaurant in downtown Chicago every weekend where brunch is our busiest part of the week. It’s what people line up out the door for and continuously keep coming back for despite the 30 minute to an hour wait. Yet thanks to a sunny day off and an invitation from Presidio in the Bucktown neighborhood, I was able to get my own brunch on last weekend. Thankfully, my best blogger bud Emma was able to come with me to enjoy the afternoon sipping on iced water and a cocktail in between our several courses.
We were the first ones into the small space located at 1749 North Damen Avenue right as it opened it’s doors for brunch at 11a.m. I had visited Presidio only once before, a few months back, for their phenomenal farm-to-table dinner with my dad. I mentioned to the manager, Christina, my decision to return to Presidio based on their honey cauliflower ($8) dish I ordered. It might have been the best preparation of vegetables I ever encountered. If my dinner exceeded my expectations, I figured their recently new brunch menu might deliver the same affects. Good news — it did.
Before diving into the menu of fresh and seasonally rotating items, Emma picked the Love & Haight cocktail ($10). The cocktail was simplistic and refreshing, matching perfectly with the 70º weather outside. Gin, strawberry infused Pimm’s, preserved lemon cordial, mint and soda made this a wonderful libation to start off the afternoon. If you’re one who prefers lighter cocktails rather than anything heavy, this would be the right pick.
After gazing over the menu and instantly eyeing down the fresh egg options, I was tempted by the market omelette ($15) with fresh goat cheese and baby squash (hello dreamy!) but had to jump out of my comfort zone and wanted to opt for the lobster Benedict ($19). Among our other choices we ordered all at once, our waitress suggested for us to save the lobster Benedict for last. Instead, we started out with my second favorite dish of the day: the breakfast burrata ($14). Emma and I discussed how burrata is the new must-try item this year. It is sneaking it’s way into numerous menus as an appetizer and quite frankly, I’m loving it. For a girl who doesn’t like cheeses (aside from some goat every now and then), I love a great burrata dish.
The dish was comprised of two bite-sized rounds of cinnamon raisin bread, topped with a serving of creamy burrata, golden raisins and pumpkin seeds. To accompany the creamy bites, a small bowl of berries came on the side. My favorite part of this dish? The black sea salt lightly coating the raisins. This gave the dish a savory component where it would otherwise be sweet. At home I put himalayan pink sea salt on 90% of my dishes so seeing black salt left me pleased.
Unlike other burratas I’ve tried that are overly creamy, this had the right mix between a soft mozzarella and a creamy ricotta. With the slight honey drizzle, it reminded me of a french toast without the soaked milk and egg coating.
Next up, we tried the pisco cured Irish salmon ($15), a bright and refreshing take on the classic bagel and lox. In between an array of dishes Emma and I devoured that day, this was the perfect palate cleanser. One small, perfectly toasted bagel with a slight char on the outside but still maintaining a soft center.
The cream cheese was smeared on the serving platter the meal arrived on with luscious layers of smoked salmon rippling over each other like dominoes. I’m not a bagel fan but I did take pleasure in the pickled onions accompanied with each slice of lox. A great way to foodie pre-game our next dish: the epic lobster benedict.
As soon as we finished each half of the bagel and every inch of lox we could consume, it was time for more. The most awaited dish was the lobster Benedict, accompanied with a side salad rather than breakfast potatoes.
Every time I order a Benedict at a restaurant, I always opt for no hollandaise. However, at Presidio they’re infusing their hollandaise a little differently than most breakfast comfort food spots. This one is infused with blood orange juice which not only makes the dish visually appealing and vibrant but balances out the buttery lobster. It was impossible to not order it with the hollandaise and I’m glad I didn’t. Along with flooding over the lobster, it soaked right into the light brioche rounds that replaced your traditional english muffins. Creamy but not overly-so.
The star of this entree was the lobster rather than the bread. What struck my culinary eye was the thinly shaven asparagus ribbons surrounding each round of brioche. You never can have enough greenery in your meal!
After slowly savoring each bite of the Benedict, I did not think I was capable to consume more food. Yet this is why you brunch with friends so you can share endless amounts of dishes and taste-test each one without exploding like it’s Thanksgiving.
Our waitress had told us before we ordered about the seasonal bread pudding and right as our lobster Benedict plate was cleared, we received a surprise moments later. The delicately arranged vanilla basil crème fraîche bread pudding surrounded by strawberries, a bright green basil infused sauce and edible flowers.
The bread pudding was split in between small cubed pieces which one might easily face plant into with one bite but we each took our time exploring the flavor of each one in several few sliced pieces. The raisins in this bread were barely noticeable but I didn’t mind thanks to the slight crisp and soft texture each cube had. Emma and I got a kick out of swirling each piece in the white and green mixture then sticking a strawberry right on top.
Move over french toast, this bread pudding is taking over. P.s. – For an extra $2, you can switch out the flavor for one with maple syrup and figs. Sounds heavenly doesn’t it?
Before Emma and I finally relaxed into the comfortable couch in Presidio’s front room to start digesting our endless brunch, the manager Christina mentioned to us how the chef really wanted us to try the thai shrimp & grits ($16). As we both hesitated, not thinking we could spoon one more bite into our mouths, we decided to try it. “We’ll just have one bite and taste it”, we said with a laugh. Little did we know, this would be one of our favorite dishes of the day and we would eat pretty much the entire thing.
This was my first time trying shrimp and grits and I believe Presidio has now made it one of my new favorite meals. The grits were infused with coconut curry while the tiger shrimp were coconut breaded, surrounding a single poached egg. There were 6 shrimp to begin with, layered on top of hot chills, bamboo shoots and cilantro. With our first bite, we decided we would each try one shrimp to see how flavor-packed and different it would be from the usual shrimp and grits.
Long story short, we ended up finishing off 3 shrimp each and almost clearing the whole plate. As the poached egg oozed on top of the shrimp, each bite was different than the next. Some were more spicy than others, while most of mine were packed with the full flavor of coconut curry. I’m coconut’s #1 fan and paired with seafood, you can’t go wrong.
As we finished our last bites, sipped our water glasses to recover from stuffing our faces with some of the finest farm-to-table food and discussed the wonderful background music of Lilly Allen and Ben Folds, we set off in hopes of returning for another glorious Presidio brunch.
Presidio (located at 1749 N. Damen Avenue) is open for dinner Tuesday-Thursday 5p.m. to 12a.m., Friday 5p.m. to 2a.m., Saturday 6p.m. to 2a.m. and brunch every Sunday 11a.m. to 3p.m.
Thank you again to Presidio for having us and preparing the finest and freshest food for a lovely Sunday brunch in Chicago.