Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: South Loop brunch favorite Eleven City Diner recently opened a second location in Lincoln Park, complete with an old-fashioned soda fountain and other charming touches. With so many promising savory options (bagels and lox! Latkes! Egg dishes galore!), I even surprised myself when I went with the signature french toast instead. But now it’s hard for me imagine ordering anything else because it was just. That. Good. The fresh-baked challah is the star, striking that elusive french-toast balance of a crispy, golden crust outside and a super-soft inside without being the least bit soggy or overly eggy. Fresh strawberries and bananas with a dusting of powdered sugar always make an excellent topping, but it was the extra crunch of the toasted coconut that brought the dish to another magical level. It was too much toast to finish on the spot, but the challah held up well as leftovers.
Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: This novel Negroni slushy has appeared in basically every Chicago summer/cocktail/patio/drinking article since Parson’s Chicken and Fish opened in mid-May, even called “the coolest Negroni in the world.” The fanfare is justified, though: it’s an excellent Negroni in a fun format, avoiding the watery or overly sweet fate that befalls most frozen beverages. With locally made Letherbee gin and citrusy Luxardo bitter, it’s mellow, refreshing, and just bitter enough.
Snack-wise, I was torn between the shrimp and pimento toast, and though I still plan to try the seafood variety next time, I was more than satisfied with pimento. My Midwestern upbringing didn’t involve a lot of pimento cheese, but especially as Southern-influenced cuisine becomes more popular in Chicago, I’ve now tasted several knock-out versions (including Zingerman’s, my favorite to have at home) and am starting to understand its following. At Parson’s, the pimento spread is smooth (no coarse shreds) and ultra-cheesy atop buttery toast. The sourness and acidity from pickle relish and charred radishes beautifully round out each bite, punctuated by the pea shoots. I also appreciated the portion of three moderate slices, enough to share easily.
Of course, I liked the fried chicken, too – though I found it to be best on its own, without any of the housemade sauces – and the mezcal margarita gave the slushy a serious run for its money. Check out more photos below of the food and atmosphere.