Saturday, January 26, 2008

Golden Nugget Pancake House, Chicago (Lincoln Park)

Golden Nugget Pancake House
2720 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614

January 23, 2008


We hadn't planned on visiting the Golden Nugget in Lincoln Park, but we were short on time and slightly famished, and finding street parking near any other restaurant that looked promising was proving to be much more difficult than we expected. The Golden Nugget offered the most tempting of amenities that made dining there an easy choice for us: free parking in their adjacent lot.

This is the second Golden Nugget franchise we've visited, but it's really on another level compared to the location on Irving Park Road: bigger, cleaner, and with better service. Even the sprawling, colorful, glossy menu outclassed the one we'd last read at the other Golden Nugget. Or maybe all their restaurants have these new ones now? The stained glass windows might not be on loan from the Smith Museum or anything, but I resent Centerstage's dismissal of them as "faux stained glass." Do you really want to offer up the real thing within arm's length to the drunken stragglers and hyper kids that probably come stumbling in at 2 a.m.?


I ordered the all fruit waffle. "Fresh and fruity. Covered with strawberries, blueberries, and apple compote. Topped with bananas and whipped cream." Sure, the toppings look delicious, but what you're really witnessing is a fruit flood bursting through the whipped cream levee that was built around it as a last resort. Was this disaster brought on by natural causes, or was it an intentional act of destruction? No, I don't have proof, but someone has to pay.


Amanda here. Joe pretty much said it all. Finding this restaurant was a pleasant surprise...and it's a nice, cozy place to eat on a snowy night. I got the strawberry waffle, which was pretty much like Joe's waffle, but without the massive orgy of fruit on top. Just plain strawberries...the ooey gooey kind (yum!) surrounded by a whipped cream wall. Can't beat a good strawberry waffle.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Clarke's Pancake House, Chicago


Clarke's Pancake House
2441 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614

January 16, 2007

Despite the fact that it was advertised as "Clarke's Pancake House" online, the sign said "Clarke's Bar and Grill" on the front of the restaurant, leading us to wonder if we'd made a terrible mistake. I don't typically think of a "bar and grille" as a place where you can get breakfast entrees. Luckily, Clarke's does have an all-day breakfast menu. Mostly pancakes and waffles, with some egg dishes. I was disappointed by the lack of breakfast combos--if you want pancakes and eggs, you pretty much have to order them as two separate items. But the blueberry pancakes I got were delicious, with plenty of compote on the side. Mmm, compote!


The decor was rather aggressively fun and cute--little clouds painted on the blue ceiling, faux 1940's posters with wacky sayings on the walls, et cetera. Even the menus were covered with old black and white photos of people with humorous cartoon thought bubbles over their heads. I'm not saying that's bad. Maybe "fun and cute" is your thing. I'm just saying they came on a bit strong. It's still not nearly as bad as, say, Applebee's or TGI Friday's, where the "fun" is rammed down your throat with a hot poker, and Clarke's felt more authentic, anyway, like the decorating choices were made by a person and not a circle of men in business suits with dark, shadowy faces and reflective glasses, sitting around a table and saying things like, "We must focus our core competencies and formulate a new paradigm to increase the bottom line" in their deep, monotone voices.

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Joe here. Our first visit to Clarke's, and for a few minutes as we drove in a circle down Lincoln, Sheffield, and Fullerton, it looked like our trip might have been in vain. There was a Clarke's at the very address we were seeking... but Clarke's Bar and Grille? Had they been muscled out of the breakfast business by the Chicago pancake mafia, or had Lincoln Park gentrified ordinary restaurants out of existence in favor of yet more bars? Fortunately, Lincoln Park denizens still need both; Clarke's Pancake House sits next door, inconspicuous from outdoors but every bit the classic, archetypal breakfast diner inside.

Their menu offers specials for every meal, but there's a good emphasis on pancakes and waffles. I chose the multi-grain waffles, which came with a side of fruit and yogurt. I wasn't really sure if I was supposed to put the yogurt on the waffles or eat it by itself. I ended up dipping my most of my waffles into it. However you choose to eat them, they're really good. Everyone needs a healthy break from the whipped cream orgies that most pancake and waffles dishes have become in this young century.


We passed on coffee and juice, sticking to water while trying to save a few dollars for the rest of the day out. I proceeded to spill said water all over the floor while haphazardly sliding my glass across the table. I should have been more careful, and I apologize to the busboy who was stuck with the job of mopping up my mess. In my defense, I hadn't noticed or expected such a dramatic drop in height from one table to the next. But that was my mistake.

Another mistake? Thinking I could pull up to this parking meter two doors down from Clarke's (while giving the car behind me enough room to safely pull out) without getting a ticket. I'd never knowingly park in a crosswalk, but that's because I've been brought up understanding that crosswalks are designated by markings like these, and have to be more than just unmarked, corresponding dips in the curb (at an intersection without any stop signs to aid pedestrians, no less). Would a dictionary definition have given me a chance to fight this in court? Would taking a day off work and negotiating the one-hour commute each way to Chicago to fight it have been worth it? Did I have a chance? Probably not.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Nick's Breakfast House, Brookfield

Nick's Breakfast House
9132 31st St
Brookfield, IL 60513

January 8, 2008


Nestled next to a dry cleaners and a convenience store, Nick's Breakfast House is a cozy little restaurant with less than a dozen tables, and selective offering of low-priced breakfast dishes. It's less than a mile from the Brookfield Zoo, so if you're attending the zoo on any of its free admission days (Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays through the end of February) out of financial necessity, Nick's might be the affordable breakfast that you've been looking for.

But I'm having trouble coming up with any other possible reason to stop by. The pancakes are adequate but nothing to write home about. My bacon strips were the most thinly sliced I've ever seen. I'd missed having my coffee earlier in the morning and was pretty desperate for some when we walked in. We arrived more than an hour before their 2:00 closing time. I was told they were done serving coffee for the day, unless I wanted the decaf they had still had left. I didn't bother to look, but maybe that steaming cup of coffee pictured on their sign has a tiny asterisk next to it.

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Ayinsan here. Not a whole lot else to report about Nick's. The food was fine, though the menu choices were rather limited--no crepes, blintzes or anything fancy, just the usual pancake/waffle/French toast, along with assorted omelettes and skillets. I got the basic breakfast combo. Our waitress was friendly enough, and the food came very quickly, but the whole coffee thing is rather perplexing. She told us something about how her supervisor would get on her case if she brewed another pot, so it's not like they were out of coffee, they just didn't want to make anymore. If we'd decided to make a bigger deal about it, she probably would have brewed a new pot for us, but really, should you have to make a big deal about getting a cup of coffee? At a pancake restaurant?