West Egg Cafe
620 N. Fairbanks Ct.
Chicago, IL 60611
Open Mon-Fri 6:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Sat & Sun 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Accepts cash and credit cards
Date of Visit: Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 10:30 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: On a recent trip to Chicago with some friends, we spied a breakfast joint across the street from our hotel called West Egg Cafe. It looked quaint and busy, so we set aside the last morning of our trip to visit. Earlier we had observed a big line out front, so we tried to plan ahead. We got in quickly with four of us (my wife Beth and I, and our friends Andy and Amanda), despite it being Mother's Day. We called ahead as we were checking out of our hotel across the street (the excellent Doubletree Hotel on the Magnificent Mile). When you arrive, there's no direct sign telling you where to go, so you either guess or follow a line of people up to the counter toward the back wall.
Also... no mention of the West Egg reference to The Great Gatsby. Is there supposed to be a connection? If so, nothing about the Chicago cafe mentions it.
ATMOSPHERE: West Egg Cafe is a tall, big place, with plenty of tables, booths, and even a faux diner counter on one end. So if you have a seating preference while you breakfast... the choice is yours (provided the place isn't too busy)! The overall color palette features beiges and blues - the standard scheme for your relaxing, family-ish, breakfast/brunch hub (see First Watch in Columbus for another example). Basic artwork of giant stylized breakfast items adorn the walls. When we visited, the place hummed with activity: every table was full, a line of folks stood at the register to sign in or pay, and servers darted in and out of the kitchen. We could see through the wide opening in the south wall into the kitchen which, as expected, was clattering and alive.
FOOD: The menu is pretty funny and snarky. It features items called As the Bird Turns (for the rotisserie chicken), In Pursuit of Eggcellence (their egg dishes), The Swiss Account (a Swiss cheese omelet), Berried Treasure (blueberry pancakes), and The Benediction (their list of eggs benedicts). There's a great variety of menu items - something to please everyone, and the dishes we tried were certainly tasty.
Here's Beth's hot chocolate, complete in tiny mug with dollop of whipped cream. I like that the clear mug allows you to appreciate the look of the hot chocolate. And Beth said it wasn't half bad either!
I myself was in a Steak & Eggs mood, and I happily obliged my appetite. The potatoes, eggs (over easy, of course), and English muffin were great. Eggs were done right; the potatoes seasoned nicely. The steak was pretty good. That's the thing with breakfast steaks: because they're typically thin and cooked quickly, you can't really have them cooked to order, and they often come out a little bit tough. You're then left to soak them in your runny egg yolks or A1 Sauce (or some other sauce available). West Egg's was not bad - it fit well with the eggs, potatoes, and bread. But these types of steaks are naturally limited in terms of flexibility.
Beth ordered the Myron and Phil's Scramble, consisting of lox, grilled onions, and eggs. I personally had never tasted lox (being previously turned off by its inclusion in an Encyclopedia Brown mystery... long story, don't ask), I was wary, but the salted salmon was quite good - salty, but good. Being spread around in the eggs helped temper the saltiness. And the bagel and potatoes were all tasty, too.
Andy ordered the Pork Chops & Eggs. Again, a new dish for me, but given the usual success of steak and eggs, pork chops makes total sense. He let me try a bite - some similar problems to the steak, but otherwise good.
Finally, here's a peek at the side of biscuits and sausage gravy Beth and Amanda split. They said it was good - not a lot of meat in the gravy - but worth ordering.
SERVICE: The service was just okay at West Egg. I understand it was a busy morning, and Mother's Day, but we felt a bit ignored by the server. It took him a while to come to us to get our drink orders, and even after we ordered, he forgot our coffee and Beth's grapefruit juice. The food came out pretty quickly, but we got the overall feeling that we were in the way or just not important enough for him. Maybe it was just him, or maybe it was just the day, but still... lukewarm service makes an impression, doesn't it?
That being said, the host still got us seated immediately when we called ahead. We walked past a line of at least a dozen people and were shown directly to our table. Nice.
OVERALL: West Egg Cafe wasn't a totally eggsceptional (ha ha) experience, but it's a good quality breakfast/brunch place, and with a prime location (several, in fact) in downtown Chicago. Judging by the clientèle that day, it's a great place for families looking for some grub. The next time I'm in Chicago, I'll probably seek out something more unique (like the one of the Orange With a Peel locations recommended by my sister-in-law Katelyn), but I can't say I was unhappy to dine at West Egg. The food is well above-standard, the location spot-on, and if the service could improve a bit, it would be well-worth the return visit.
-> West Egg Cafe on Yahoo! Travel
-> West Egg Cafe on Yelp.com