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A sampling of breakfast items from Chicago Cut Steakhouse.

The Breakfast Club

by Lisa Shames | Men's Book Chicago magazine | August 24, 2011

With its laundry list of documented health benefits, breakfast’s status as the most important meal of the day is hard to dispute. But there’s more to the first repast than just its feel-good possibilities. To wit: the power breakfast, that pre-work one-two punch meal that combines business and pleasure and gives new meaning to the phrase “the early bird gets the worm.”

Last year, when David Flom and Matt Moore opened Chicago Cut Steakhouse (300 N. LaSalle St., 312.329.1800, chicagocutsteakhouse.com), a white-tablecloth restaurant specializing in USDA prime aged-in-house steaks, they knew weekday breakfasts were going to be part of the picture from the get-go. Even though, says Flom, “People couldn’t believe a restaurant of our caliber would do that.”

The unusual pairing has paid off, with Chicago Cut earning a regular clientele of the city’s movers and shakers, who come not only for its breakfast menu mix of healthy items (egg white omelets, made-in-house granola) and heartier fare (filet mignon Benedict), but for its setting too. “For breakfast, we were looking for speed as well as an environment that’s relaxing in the morning,” says Flom, referring to the restaurant’s riverfront views and 45-seat patio. Private dining rooms accommodating eight to 80, Wi-Fi and audio-visual availability add to its appeal.

There’s also plenty of eye candy at Sixteen in the Trump International Hotel & Tower (401 N. Wabash Ave., 312.588.8030, trumpchicago.com), says Restaurant Director Dawid Klimek, who cites the views from the 16th floor as “magical,” especially when the sun is just coming up over the lake. But even if you don’t score a coveted window table, the three dining rooms, including a semi-private one, offer lots of visual perks, including a beautiful Swarovski crystal chandelier. Dishes such as the jumbo lump crab omelet and Italian breakfast sandwich with house-made charcuterie complement the luxe surroundings.

At the Elysian Hotel’s Balsan (11 E. Walton St., 312.646.1400, balsanrestaurant.com), it’s a more subdued affair but nonetheless sophisticated with leather banquettes overlooking the boutique hotel’s European-style courtyard. The relaxed ambience is conducive to conversation, says Balsan’s General Manager Tommy Lokvicic, who estimates that 75 percent of their morning clients are there to conduct business. For the cuisine, think local, as the menu spotlights many ingredients from nearby farms.

Executive Chef Todd Stein admits The Florentine’s (151 W. Adams St., 312.660.8866, the-florentine.net) location in the city’s financial district plays a big role in the popularity of its power breakfast. As does the sit-back-and-relax décor, which includes well-spaced cushy leather booths. But that doesn’t mean the food at this JW Marriott Chicago restaurant isn’t a major draw as well. Stein’s especially proud of the MLT Sandwich—thick slices of sourdough bread, griddled mortadella, lemon aioli and a fried egg.

How serious is newcomer Brunch (644 N. Orleans St., 312.265.1411, brunchit.com) about its power breakfast clientele? It has an in-house shoeshine station and a glass-enclosed private dining space, dubbed the “Board Room,” featuring a 50-inch plasma screen. Catering to the casual morning diner, Brunch’s loft-like space is perfect for those who don’t have actual office space, says partner Ryan Marks. The menu reflects that laid-back vibe with classic breakfast dishes, including pancakes, omelets and creative riffs on eggs Benedict.

The creative set will feel right at home at Logan Square’s Longman & Eagle (2657 N. Kedzie Ave., 773.276.7110, longmanandeagle.com), which has already earned a faithful following for its locally sourced American cuisine, extensive whiskey selection and gastropub décor. Beat the dinner crowd and opt for breakfast, where chef Jared Wentworth’s morning menu features plenty of flavorful surprises, including peekytoe crab eggs Benedict and fried chicken and waffles, served in a light-filled room.

Over at NoMI Kitchen (800 N. Michigan Ave., 312.239.4030, nomirestaurant.com) locally sourced ingredients play a vital role at breakfast, says General Manager Andres Munoz, from the house-made jams and compotes to coffee from Chicago’s Intelligentsia. The recent renovation of the Park Hyatt Chicago’s seventh floor has created a more approachable space with wood tables accented with leather replacing more formal white tablecloths. The open showcase kitchen means you can now watch your asparagus and leek frittata or buckwheat crêpes with smoked salmon being made. What hasn’t changed? The popularity of the window tables with their views of the lake and the restaurant’s commitment to elevating the dining experience. “We embrace breakfast instead of just saying this is something we have to do as part of the hotel experience,” says Munoz.

Embracing breakfast? That sounds like a trend that’s gaining steam in all kinds of circles.