With its kitschy decor of pseudo-deviant '50s photographs and Truman-era aphorisms, Clarke's reigns king among late-night diners. But buyer, beware: the king can be cranky. The waitstaff is often seemingly non-existent, and the hostess has no problem allowing you to linger in the foyer. But once you're in a booth, menu clutched in your greasy paws, there are few finer venues for the egg skillet and otherwise breakfasty bliss you seek. While the Lincoln Park outpost is older, this is the place that draws the suburban indie-kids in droves to compete for floor space with hipsters, Goths, punks and many a random visage otherwise limited to the dive bars along the notorious intersection of Clark and Belmont.
Clarke's is known for its shakes and baked pancakes, and both are well deserving of their obsequious reputations. But the shining gem of this menu is the big 'n healthy, an omelet of epic proportions tarted up with egg-whites and veggies, and accompanied by a side of seasonal fruit (which somehow always seems to consist of blueberries, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and grapes). Those who like to tow the cardiac arrest line may prefer the veg out omelet with bacon and sausage tossed into the yolky mix. Just be ready for all the '80s you can stomach, as the soundtrack to Clarke's is decidedly "Pretty in Pink."
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Jacob Knabb