1417 W. Fullerton Ave. 773-348-0706
Rating: !!!! (out of 4) Already hot
Brunch hours: 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday
After Dale Levitski got the boot on “Top Chef All-Stars,” which wrapped Wednesday on Bravo, he started development in earnest for his Sunday brunch at Lincoln Park restaurant Sprout. But he’s been thinking about it for even longer.
Some dishes, such as the crab hush-puppy-wrapped skirt steak and Caesar salad omelet, he had on paper for Town & Country, the restaurant concept he planned (and eventually scrapped) after placing runner-up in the third season of “Top Chef.” And then there’s the brioche with chocolate butter and lemon curd, which came to him at 3 a.m. the morning before his first brunch service.
Entrees are brunch classics done over Dale-style, while side dishes at the bottom of the menu are best treated as appetizers, “a la frushi, but 10 times better,” Levitski said, referring to the brunch starters he coined at the first location of Orange in 2001. We sat down last Sunday to see if Levitski can still rock the brunch beat, 10 years later.
Server says: Everything’s amazing, but the skirt steak and eggs ($17) is especially tasty, and the oatmeal ($9) is one of the best but least-ordered dishes on the menu.
We say: It would have been easy to overlook the oatmeal, and even Levitski acknowledges that. “Oatmeal is one of those things that, on a menu at a restaurant, you would consider a cop-out,” he said. “Like, ‘Oh fine, we’ll offer oatmeal for the boring people, or the tree huggers or whatever.’” But boring is the last thing I could call this oatmeal, seared to a cake-like consistency and served with creme fraiche, poached carrots, oat granola and a marmalade of madarinquats, a hybrid fruit crossing orange with kumquat. As for the skirt steak, it’s seared first, dunked in crab-studded hush-puppy batter and then fried. With a sunny-side-up egg on top and a Vietnamese-inspired fingerling potato salad below (courtesy of sous chef and fellow “Top Chef” cheftestant Sara Nguyen), it’s nothing like we’ve had before.
It’s worth a return trip to… try the menu’s many other dishes. With 12 entrees and nearly as many sides, I couldn’t help but feel that my table’s two entrees and two sides hardly made a dent in what Levitski has to offer. Next on my to-eat list: the malted Belgian waffle with strawberry-rhubarb compote, marcona almonds, basil, oven-dried goat cheese and Black Dog’s goat cheese gelato ($12), and the croque madame ($12) made with a rosemary ham-stuffed version of the grilled cheese sandwich that’s netted raves on Sprout’s dinner menu.
I can’t stop thinking about… the Lithuanian bacon buns ($7). Traditionally called lasineciai, these bacon-stuffed beauties served with black sea salt-sprinkled vanilla butter are Levitski’s homage to the traditional lasinecia that his Lithuanian and Russian father would buy. Even though Levitski’s brunch is only two weeks old, I understand why he already sees the buns becoming a signature: They’re a crazy kind of delicious.
Day-drinking: The cocktail list, which Levitski created with the help of roommate (and bartender at Maude’s and Gilt Bar) Zach Friedlander, holds its own next to the food, from a banana-garnished tequila-coffee-horchata creation called the Curious Jorge to the perfectly balanced Afternoon Delight, a basil-fennel-raspberry-flavored prosecco creation. Look for more cocktails joining the lineup starting this weekend, including “bugey-mosas” made with bugey, a sparkling rose wine.
Bottom line: With many more dishes to try and no end to Levitski’s innovation in sight, we can see ourselves making an excuse to brunch here for special occasions, ordinary Sundays and pretty much whenever we’re in the neighborhood.Copyright © 2015, RedEye