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It's Morning in the Loop

When you need to refuel after pulling an all-nighter at Looptopia, head to these nearby spots for some breakfast grub.
Tuesday Apr 29, 2008.     By K. Tighe
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

The Looptopia hangover presents a challenge that's a bit more complex than that of an average Saturday morning. When you're toting around a brain that's been marinating overnight in arts, music and architecture, you'll no doubt need to employ the sacred ritual of "greasy hangover meal." Given your geographic locale, it will be tempting to hit up the 7-Eleven for a nuked-burrito, or join the gaggles of tourists waiting in line at the Loop's higher-end hotel brunch spotsóbut resist these urges and huff it to these downtown eateries instead.

Breakfast buffet at Emerald Loop
Rather bask in the cavernous glow of a pub than the harsh, unforgiving sunlight? High-tail it to Emerald Loop for one of the best breakfast options in town. Starting at 9 a.m., the Loop opens up its breakfast buffet for only $9.95. (The little ones are welcome, too; $6.95 for kids under 12.) The typical spread here consists of leavened goodies, including muffins, pancakes, waffles and breads of all kinds; meats like Irish sausages, bacon and black and white puddings; and early-riser staples like potatoes, eggs and grilled tomatoes. The piece de resistance is the build-your-own omelet station, where you can construct that ultimate hangover remedy from scratch. Sip on a bloody, cider or screwdriver for a little hair of the dog. The buffet stays open until 1 p.m.

Dumplings at Wow Bao (Jackson) or Wow Bao (Wacker)
Have a craving for dim sum but don't feel like hauling your brood down to Chinatown? This downtown fast-food joint doles out chewy dumplings in two Loop-friendly locations. For a savory meal, try one of the specialty breakfast buns, like teriyaki chicken, BBQ pork or an American-breakfast take with egg, bacon and cheddar. Sweet baos filled with coconut custard or apple cinnamon are also available. You can grab a single bao for only $1.29, or order up a six-pack for $7.50, but as far as breakfast combos go, you can't beat $3.49 for two buns (try mixing one savory with one sweet) and Intelligentsia coffee. Health-conscious patrons can choose goji berry or Chinese red-date oatmeal (in a bowl, not a bun), or order from the menu of nourishing beverages, like freshly squeezed orange juice and homemade ginger ale.

Eggs at Yolk
Off the beaten path it ain't, but this breakfast concept-spot has an enormous menu perfect for accommodating large parties, and a long counter for anyone who's flying solo. Wander in as early as 7 a.m., grab a seat and start reading. It can be a bit intimidating to crack open the Ulysses of breakfast menus, but here's a hint: Any place named "Yolk" better have some major ovo skills, so you can't go wrong with a frittata, scramble or a fluffy creation from the massive omelet menu. Upgrade your toast to a specialty pancake, so you can get your sweet fix while basking in the greasy glow of a savory breakfast. Biscuits and gravy, crepes and a pesto-egg sandwich are also on offer, as are healthier options like an impressive sampling of oatmeals, like peach pecan.

Beef at Ronny's Original Chicago Steak House
Just because it's the break of day doesn't mean you can't indulge in an enormous steakóthis is Chicago, after all. A mainstay for downtown workers, this cafeteria-style steakhouse serves enormous breakfast portions from 7 a.m. until noon, at prices your wallet will barely feel. If a 14-ounce sirloin cooked to your specs and served with two eggs, hash browns and Texas toast for only $13.99 doesn't sooth your carnivorous urges, there's probably nothing that will. Also on hand are plates flanked with two barbecued pork chops, a couple of omelet options and French toast. A few steps above a greasy spoon, Ronny's doesn't have all the white-linen pretense of your typical downtown steakhouse, but the quality of meat is the best you'll find at these low prices (and at 7 a.m.).

photo: Julia Steinberger; Eleven City's matzoh ball soup
Deli or diner fare at Eleven City Diner
The cozy deli is bound to satisfy (and sober up) every last member of your party. The options are endless: Go lumberjack with the Tom Waits breakfast, two eggs, two flapjacks, two bacon, two sausages, house potatoes and toast ($10.95); grab an Old School Platter, with hand-sliced, regular or nova lox, capers, tomato, cucumber and a chewy bagel ($12.95); or try a well-seasoned Tofu Scramble, with mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach and tomato sauce ($9.95). If you need to cut the hangover, opt for the corned beef and pastrami hash served with eggs your way ($10.95). And if you've got the sniffles from being out all night, slurp up some matzo ball soup.


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