The Reader's Choice: Curio Cafe
To quote one of our voters, I don't own a toddler. So when I made this pick, what I really meant was "best place to eat brunch with your friends who have a toddler if you actually want to carry on a conversation with them." This corner storefront has a family-friendly vibe, from its mismatched, hand-painted chairs to the La Leche League flyers on the bulletin board to the sunny inspirational slogans on the blackboard, but the key is the communal kids' table and play area: send the wee ones off to mingle and you're free to talk in your grown-up voice for at least 15 minutes at a go.
I was introduced to the Curio, tucked away in a residential pocket of Avondale, by a pal with a three-year-old, but I've returned many times with a party of adults for the food, which is not only delicious but often organic, hormone free, free range, and/or fair trade. My favorite is the Guatemalan plato tipico—a plate of eggs your way, dabbed with mild red sauce and served with sliced avocados, perfectly seasoned refried black beans, a square of salty queso fresco, sweet fried plantains, and warm corn tortillas. Smaller breakfasts include a bacon and egg sandwich on a croissant and a pretzel bun with house-made strawberry cream cheese; crepes, pancakes, and French toast involving strawberries use the real thing. And despite all the wholesomeness, this is a place that's not afraid to put chocolate chips in your flapjacks. A savory Spanish omelet incorporates serrano ham, Spanish chorizo, red onion, and red pepper, but you can choose from these and many more high-quality ingredients to build your own.
On the lunch side, there are fresh-looking house-made soups, pastas, and salads—but I've only watched other people eat them while I'm making little egg tacos out of my plato tipico. A simple dinner menu is available on Friday and Saturday only; it's BYO with no corkage fee. 3400 N. Lawndale, 773-463-2233, curiocafe.net. —Kiki Yablon
&Our readers' choice: Wishbone
1001 W. Washington, 312-850-2663; 3300 N. Lincoln, 773-549-2663; 6611 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-749-1295; wishbonechicago.com.