Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Hearty Breakfast in the Heartland: Southport Grocery and Cafe

On a recent very short visit to Chicago, I wasn't able to hit all the food spots I wanted to. But I did manage to squeeze in an early morning meal at Southport Grocery and Cafe in a neighborhood called Lakeview which was very close to Wrigley Field. According to Time Out and a few other food blogs, this is one of the best breakfast places in Chicago. Famous for its vanilla cupcakes, Southport is a restaurant within a cafe within a bakery/specialty grocery. Worried about lines a la New York City's weekend brunch mobs, I took the subway very early from my hotel in Downtown Chicago to find, happily, an empty cozy neighborhood cafe without a tourist in sight (except me).

The menu had something for everyone. The Grown Up Pop Tart (homemade with berry preserves and mascarpone), Cupcake Pancakes (made with their famous cupcake batter) and Stuffed French Toast (apples, cream cheese, bourbon apple butter) would satisfy the sweet tooth in anyone. And if you want savory options, you got Steak and Eggs, Brisket and Gravy and an assortment of omelets (no making your own) to choose from. There is also a kid's menu that gives parents simple options like scrambled eggs or buttered noodles, gourmet style of course.

In typical Girl Uninterrupted fashion, I order both a sweet and savory: Bread Pudding Pancakes as a taste portion, e.g. one pancake (perfect idea for people like me) and the Sausage, Mozzarella and Pesto Omelet. The omelet was perfectly cooked, with fresh cheese and pesto and chunks of sausage oozing from the inside as you cut into it. But the star of the dish was the red potato mash on the side. This is mash potato at its purest. No herbs, dressing, other fancy things. Just the creamiest, fluffiest, most potato-y mash potatoes I have ever had.

And what can I say about the Bread Pudding Pancakes? Heavenly. The gooey center, the cinnamon-sugar butter melting on top and the homemade vanilla custard sauce that I wanted to drink out of the ramekin. I asked for seconds on the pancakes which means, yup, I had breakfast for two.

In the end, I also couldn't resist taking out a few of their vanilla cupcakes for my friends who ran the marathon. They were very good and reminded me of Magnolia Bakery's cupcakes in New York City, but less fussy. You can order them online and in fact you can order the Bread Pudding Pancake Mix online as well. Cinnamon-sugar butter and vanilla sugar sauce not included unfortunately. My already fat ass is thankful for that.

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