If you can't start off each day with a song, at least you can have a great breakfast to fall back on. Here's a fine scramble of pleasant eateries that practically specialize in breakfast fare seasoned with a bit of retro (as in diner) and a touch of homey (as in Mom's kitchen).
I for one am in favor of making breakfast the most important meal of the day. (Oh, right, I think that's already been determined.)
Sweet Maple Cafe Breakfast lovers come to this homespun urban storefront to eat, not to be dazzled by the decor. Service remains pleasant and in control even when hordes of UIC students jockey for a table. Better to go during the week, if you are averse to waiting in line. Corned beef hash with two eggs and terrific home-made biscuits are my first choice, though I always check the chalkboard for daily specials. Fail-safes include the omelets (the Taylor Street with Italian sausage, cheese, tomato, fresh basil is a beaut) and French toast. One splash of pure maple syrup on its stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes and you'll be in flapjack heaven. Coffee could use a boost in flavor, though.
Hashbrowns Cozy and comfortable, this is a fine place to get the day started if "getting it started" means a hearty breakfast, coffee and newspaper. Service is slow or swift, depending on your preference. Specialty omelets and "famous hashbrowns" are the breakfast winners here. I favor the Bridgeport—a steak, mozzarella and cheddar cheese omelet—but have been unfaithful a few times with the Greektown (spinach, feta, tomatoes). The hashbrown menu offers five choices; if I'm eating light I have the rosemary hashbrowns (the cheesy "Killer Hashbrowns" are true to their name). Excellent coffee.
Wishbone The dining areas sprawl to the right and left of the entryway at this down-South eatery, and counter seating calls to the retro-diner foodies. Very casual, very noisy when full (weekends are a growling bear), Wishbone is always lots of fun. The service staff here know how to get the job done, so don't let a wait for a table put you off. Other than the great pancakes, I favor those breakfast dishes that have a Cajun-Creole twist, like the Southern Benedict, with its depth-charge of delicious eggs, biscuits and gravy. Cheese grits, ham and grits, andouille hash...all great. The hot stuff never stops coming.
White Palace Grill What was once an urban oasis is slowly being surrounded by urban sprawl (gentrification to the max); still this is the place to be for breakfast 24/7/365. Whether you sit a the counter or grab a table, expect snappy service all around the house. In terms of breakfast items, it's all here, from pork chops and eggs to sausage and egg sandwiches to banana Belgian waffles. Omelets galore (the "Pancho Villa" with chorizo and green peppers is boffo), pancakes, breakfast burrito, steak and eggs—making up one's mind is the hardest part. The coffee is excellent, too.
The Original Pancake House It's not much to look at from the outside, but when you see the out-the-door line on weekend mornings, you know something good is going on inside. Seating is tight in the one-room eatery, and service is swift, so be ready to order. I can't wean myself from the German apple pancake. Big enough to split, as I often do with my wife, the plump beauty comes chock-full of tender apples and sweetness that will charge you up for the day. Also: a fine assortment of more pancakes, egg dishes and one of the best corned beef hash creations around. Go during the week and you'll get a seat in a heartbeat.
Pauline's Pick up Pauline's, drop it in the northwoods of Wisconsin, and it would be right at home. Two rooms, plasticized tablecloths, wonderful servers who never stop moving and a menu capped at $10 makes this spot a winner. Pauline's is the home of the five-egg omelet, a golden glory that stretches from one end of the oval platter to the other. Omelets (14 choices in all) come with Pauline's potatoes, a dandy mix of roasted potatoes, onions amd red and green bell peppers. Fine alternatives include the three eggs and corned beef hash (calling the hash "heavenly" would be appropriate) and the biscuits and gravy with Italian sausage.