Review Revue: Tribune @ Brunch, TOC @ Blu Coral & Smak-Tak

This week (actually, for the past few months), Vettel & Co. span out across the grid to bring you not just the best, but practically the entirety, of brunch options in Chicagoland. There are 24 web pages of listings, so this is a real keeper, although the layout could use some work. Don’t get discouraged by the very suburb-heavy first third of the collection; it gets back to the city quickly enough.

Three things jump out at us as we scanned through the list. First, ethnic restaurants, especially higher-end ones, serve brunch much more frequently than one might think. Do keep in mind that MenuPages has a filter for brunch, so you can search by cuisine, and then narrow it by meal (for example, click here for a list of Latin American brunch spots). Second, and on the same topic, the list completely misses out on dim sum! If you’ve never had dim sum for brunch, there very well might be something wrong with you. Finally, one of the best things about this guide is the information on reservations. Many of the listed restaurants take reservations for brunch, a much appreciated service after one too many hours waiting in line for eggs Benedict.

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Over at Time Out, Heather Shouse rolls her eyes a bit at Blu Coral, a not dissimilar reaction to its last review. After reminding us that what we don’t like about Big Sushi (blandly minimalist decor, loud and crappy music, unknowledgeable service, the fact that it’s really more about the scene than the food) pretty much describes Blu Coral to a T, Shouse allows some mild admiration for Mackerel Madness maki (Half mackerel covered with marinated white seaweed and chopped cucumber on top of chef’s specially seasoned vinaigrette rice. Splashed with special sweet sauce, $16) for its willingness to not be like every other roll we’ve ever had. Otherwise, the diner is in for few surprises. We do think that the location (Milwaukee, Ashland and Division) is blowing up, though.

Meanwhile, David Hammond heads way the hell out to Norwood Park in order to drum up support for the oft-empty, but brilliantly named, Smak-Tak. One of the few Polish restaurants without a buffet (“’With a buffet,’ [owner] Piotr says, ‘the food is not so good, so here, we make everything fresh.’”), Smak-Tak suffers from its lack of a liquor license. One thing we don’t understand is why people aren’t happy to bring their own beer and wine for much, much less than they’d pay if the restaurant were serving it. BYO works for every cuisine at every price point. Anyway, if you go, expect all the Polish classics, including Warsaw-style tripe soup for $3.50. And there’s a liquor store a few blocks south on Milwaukee, so your Zywiec can be ice cold.

The ultimate brunch guide [Tribune]

New Review: Blu Coral [Time Out]

Blu Coral [MenuPages]

Blu Coral [Official Site]

Save this restaurant: Smak-Tak [Time Out]

Smak-Tak [MenuPages]

Smak-Tak [Official Site]

[Photo: Smak-Tak!]


Review Revue: Tribune @ Brunch, TOC @ Blu Coral & Smak-Tak