Two versions of history lay claim to the creation of eggs benedict, that classic breakfast staple of poached eggs and Canadian bacon on a toasted English muffin, topped with hollandaise sauce. In one version, the dish dates back to the 1860s, when Mrs. LeGrand Benedict wanted something new for lunch at Delmonico's. In another, Lemuel Benedict, a Wall Street broker with a fierce hangover, custom-ordered the dish at the Waldorf Hotel in 1894, which so impressed the chef that he added it to the menu.
Be it LeGrand or Lemuel, let us raise a glass to these hungry brunchers and the resulting bounty of eggs benny in Chicago. Those with an appetite for innovation can feast on benedict made with everything from crab cakes to duck to artichoke and tomato, and there is no shortage of classics to keep purists happy. Here are our top five beloved bennies.
Shockingly it's still possible to snag a table on the weekend here in under an hour. Whipping up Mexican food with a dash of Cuban, Cafe 28 has our mouths watering just thinking about its Southwestern eggs benedict. Two toasted English muffins layered with spicy chorizo, fresh tomatoes and perfectly poached eggs under a lip-smacking spicy hollandaise, this dish easily outpaces Cafe 28's crab cake version in popularity. Still, if you've got a hankering for seafood, that version won't disappoint. Mix in the cafe's laid-back atmosphere and occasional live music and the $11-$13 you'll shell out for this weekend brunch is a downright bargain.
Sure, most people here scarf down pancakes sweet enough to make Aunt Jemima wince, but those in the know order any of the rotating eggs benedicts that grace Bongo Room's menu. Skip the florentine (made with spinach, sans bacon) and benedict (albeit well-executed classics) and indulge in Bongo Room's inventive specials. Check out the lump crab benedict—sweet, chewy crab meat that perfectly balances the soft, salty eggs, topped with a tongue-tingling orange bell pepper pesto hollandaise—or the real show-stopper, the BLT version, with poached eggs, applewood smoked bacon, baby spinach, fat slices of fresh tomato and a dreamy pesto hollandaise. At just under $14, it's worth every penny (just don't watch while we lick the plate).
Hungry birds flock to Tweet, and with good reason. The four belly-busting benedicts each come with a hearty helping of hash browns and fruit compote or fresh fruit (tip: opt for the compote). The menu boasts organic eggs and includes traditional versions as well as a low-carb option (poached eggs atop steak and smothered with grilled veggies and hollandaise). The real crowd-pleaser, though, is the crab cake benny: two fat crab cakes, crisp on the edges with deliciously soft interiors, resting on toasted English muffins topped with poached eggs and a lemony hollandaise sauce. The eggs florentine, with the optional lox, is a close runner-up. Costing $10-$14, these bennys aren't cheap, but they are big enough to comfortably split.
Ok, so ordering eggs benedict at a New Mexican eatery would make most purists prickly, but Flo's dish is fantastically capable of going head-to-head with most of the weak-as-water versions served around town. Two thick slices of brioche come topped with slabs of grilled smoked turkey, raw spinach and two poached eggs. A hollandaise sauce made with basil, butter and plenty of lemon is spooned onto the dish before the cooks add a sprinkling of asiago cheese. Amidst a backdrop of funky folk art and lively conversation, who wants traditional? Coming in at under $9, Eggs Flo is both a belly- and wallet-pleaser.
Prosciutto-topped benedict drizzled with white truffle hollandaise? Sign us up—even if the wait time to squeeze inside this toaster-studded hot spot often pushes an hour. Though Toast Two may have been named with a focus on bread, the folks in the kitchen know how to handle an egg—the yolks of the poached eggs are wonderfully creamy and a perfect balance to the slightly salty, thin-sliced prosciutto. Veg-heads can get in on the action, too, with the veggie version, topped with sauteed spinach and grilled artichoke hearts under a velvety splash of white truffle hollandaise. Or enjoy a haute spin on the diner classic of steak and eggs with filet mignon grilled to taste. Diner prices these aren't, but for less than $12, you can eat like a king.
Can't get enough hollandaise? Check these other spots for scoring the sweet stuff:
Deleece serves up a benedict made with artichoke and spinach and topped with sun-dried tomato hollandaise.
X/O Chicago uses lardoons (a piece of bacon taken from the rendered back fat of a pig) rather than Canadian bacon, which buoys its bennys above the competition.
Kitsch'n on Roscoe offers benedicts made with crab cakes and served with cornbread and hashbrowns, both of which rock.