My love for Balena has been very well documented. It is one of my favorite Chicago restaurants. This place has it all – stand out food, a great wine list, and a romantic but rustic atmosphere. Balena added brunch to it’s menu over the summer, and last weekend I finally made a point to try Balena’s brunch with some girl friends. The space provided a warm retreat from 3 degree weather, and a unique brunch menu that we could get excited about.
When we saw the bruschetta with scrambled eggs and smashed avocado arrive at another table, Jenny’s mind was made up immediately. Thick fresh bread was toasted, and topped with creamy avocado and perfectly scrambled eggs. A green salad was served on the site. It was simple, yet perfectly prepared – a common theme with the food at Balena.
Jocelyn ordered the Frittata. It was filled with giardinera and served with a green salad. This is one of the healthier items on Balena’s menu, and they even made it without cheese so it was paleo diet friendly!
Balena has some of the best pizza in Chicago and it’s all on the brunch menu, and you have the option to add a farm egg to any of them. Their brussels sprout pizza is a favorite among locals, and it think it would be especially good with an egg. That’s what I almost ordered, but instead, I got a little creative.
I went slightly off menu and asked if I could get a sunny side up egg on top of the cacio e pepe, a simple request that they were happy to accommodate. The runny yolk, fresh pasta, and cheesy Parmesan sauce were a match made in heaven. Then to push it over the top, I crumbled a little bacon over. It was the perfect combination of breakfast and lunch.
Overall, Balena offers a large brunch menu with a nice mix of breakfast and lunch dishes with an Italian twist. The space is formal enough for a special occasion, and they accommodate groups with ease.
Balena’s address is 1633 North Halsted Street. They serve dinner nightly, and brunch on weekends. They do accept reservations (including brunch reservations).