This South Loop spin-off satiates the need for a hearty brunch just as deliciously as the original in Wicker Park. Owners Derek Robles and John Latino, who know when they have a good thing going, have given their second location the same sunny, urban feel and an identical menu to boot. Sunshine cascades onto Ikea-style blonde furnishings and orange and pea green accessories, creating an atmosphere that feels thankfully removed from the hectic Wabash and Roosevelt intersection just outside.
The pancakes at the Bongo Room are the stuff of legends, and may single-cakedly be the cause of long hour-long lines on the weekend. Just reading off the menu's Pumpkin Carrot Cheesecake Flapjacks and Banana, White Chocolate & Macadamia Nut Pancakes has been known to elicit groans from hungry just-having-sat-down eaters. The hearty portions and ample saucing will leave you feeling stuffed, but spiritually satisfied.
The egg dishes also win rave reviews, and some claim the eggs benedict to be the best in town. Or go dressed up with the Roasted Red Pepper Feta Benedict and the BLT Benedict, topped with applewood smoked bacon, baby spinach, tomato and basil-pesto hollandaise. The lunch options are just as inventive and delicious. While a chicken sandwich can be found on any lunch menu, the Smoked Chicken & Apple Club, with melted brie, bacon, sprouts, sliced apples and shallot butter on a toasted bolo roll, is a fabulous invention. Salads, like the Roasted Tenderloin of Beef Nicoise, are large and whopping full of vegetables. Though my vegetarian friend lamented that were no meatless options for her on the entire brunch menu, a quick chitchat with the server revealed that any dish on the menu can be served sans meat.
A caveat: With no outside signage this place is hard to find. Be sure to jot down the address before you head over. While we want the Bongo Room to stay as much of a well-kept secret as possible, it's frustrating to walk past it three times in an un-caffeinated frenzy.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Joanne Hinkel