Breakfast is in a sorry state. Few of us would eat the same thing for dinner every night. So why do so many people wake up to a tired old bowl of cold cereal every morning? It doesn't have to be this way--especially in Chicago, where there are breakfasts from all over the world served every day. Here are just a few of the alternatives:
Restaurants around the city serve variations on halwa poori chole, the traditional Pakistani breakfast, but you can get a representative version at Shan Restaurant and Grocers (5060 N. Sheridan, 773-769-4961). Tang-colored farina, or sooji halwa, enriched with ghee and flavored with sugar and cardamom, is thick enough to be picked up with pieces of poori, a fried wheat flatbread. The accompanying chole, a spicy chickpea-and-potato stew, contrasts nicely with the sweet halwa, plus there's yogurt raita and funky green mango pickles to cut through the richness--and all for $3.99.
The bacon buns--freshly baked yeast rolls stuffed with a generous amount of pork--at Healthy Food Lithuanian (3236 S. Halsted, 312-326-2724) sell out quickly. But if you're too late, you won't be sorry you settled for the kugelis. This potato pudding cake, sort of like a juiced-up latke, is studded with bacon and onions. The pudding is baked in a pan, meat loaf style, then sliced into slabs and fried in lard. Crispy on the outside with a creamy center, it's the perfect platform for a couple of eggs over easy.
Julius Meinl Cafe (3601 N. Southport, 773-868-1856) offers a traditional Viennese breakfast, or fruhstuck. A soft-boiled egg--served in a cup, to be scooped out of its shell with a tiny spoon--arrives on a tray with a few slices of good Black Forest ham and mild Emmentaler cheese and your choice of toasted bread or a croissant. Be sure to try the Austrian chain's signature coffee, the Melange, a cross between a cappuccino and a latte sprinkled with cocoa.
Every Sunday morning the Turquoise Cafe (2147 W. Roscoe, 773-549-3523) features a traditional Turkish breakfast, or kahvalti. For $13.95 a set menu of up to ten items is brought to your table in courses. The parade seems never ending: fresh fruit; borek, a savory pie of phyllo and cheese; beyan peynir, a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh cheese; black olives; fried eggs with peppers; scrambled eggs with three cheeses; sucuk, fried beef sausages; vegetable stew; champagne. It's a feast fit for a caliph.
Eating a steaming bowl of soup on Saturday morning is a ritual in Mexican neighborhoods like Pilsen, Back of the Yards, and Little Village. The Sonoran specialty menudo, a stew of hominy, red chile, and tripe, is famous for its regenerative powers, said to erase the effects of any overindulgence lingering from the night before. The lesser-known carne en su jugo, or "meat in its own juices," is a rich beef broth studded with not just grilled beef but also bacon and beans. Goat lovers opt for birria, which is traditionally made from the hind quarters of a kid. The meat is marinated, then steamed in an airtight pot over an open fire. The spicy juices caught in the steamer ultimately become the broth, to which succulent shreds of meat are then added. All three soups are garnished with lime, onions, cilantro, toasted chile de arbol, radishes, and avocado and served with tortillas on the side--the meat makes a tasty taco. Join the throngs of Mexican families at Los Gallos II (4252 S. Archer, 773-254-2081) for carne en su jugo and menudo; for birria, try Birrieria Reyes de Ocotlan (1322 W. 18th, 312-733-2613). --Kristina Meyer
For more on restaurants, see our blog The Food Chain at chicagoreader.com.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Rob Warner.