Late Sunday morning and the sky is blue, the temperatures are moderate, there is a gentle breeze in the air, and I am meeting one of my great friends for brunch. I am a mathematician, so my life should be spent doing stereotypical stuff like refuelling my pocket protector with pens, studying some calculus or statistics equations, and contemplating which pair of awful pants to wear to work instead of having fun. Bleep that! Aside from some bizarre passing storms and temperatures waffling between hot and cold with a few minutes that have made outdoor activity spotty, I obliged my atypical ego and opted to have fun instead.
It was off to Chicago’s Wicker Park to catch up for the usual weekend clowning session with my room mate. Since she knows that I am a puppet to my appetite, she had suggested a certain Italian restaurant that she was certain I would love with a great deal of culinary enthusiasm. Side note: no one should know me that well. Club Lucky, located at 1824 W. Wabansia Avenue, is a hidden gem. It is not on or immediately off the main stretch of Wicker Park that boasts swanky boutiques, trendy restaurants, hipster pedestrians, and bicycle riders galore. It is a bit off the beaten path, which I found to be perfect. On entry, there is a diner feel with a hint of a bar atmosphere. My past room mate and I chose to sit outside so that we could enjoy the natural breeze blowing about.
Our chill waiter came to the table and because the brunch crowd was quite light, he was laid back with us. He gave us the specials and offered some suggestions: cool. With it being brunch, I said that I would start off with a mint mojito. Fantastic! I have not had a mojito that did not have me puckering from the shock of the alcohol. This liquid satisfaction that the bartender prepared was so good that the bartender deserved a tip, a hip-hip-hurray, a tap dance. When the mint mojito came to the table, there were also small complementary scones with raisins and pecans in them. I am not a fan of nuts, with the exception of pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and macadamia nuts. However, the pecans were so small, almost fine, that they added a hint of flavour that made the scones taste like heaven when spread with the honey butter. My room mate and I were quite pleased.
For our main orders, my room mate ordered a cheddar broccoli frittata with chicken sausage and a side salad. The food looked too delicious to eat. I ordered the cheddar broccoli frittata without any meat, but also with a side of seasonal fruit. Let me just say that the broccoli burst with so much flavour that it was almost certain the chef had brought a bit of it from a garden that had not been sprayed with any pesticides or growth chemicals. The colouring was rich, not that colouring was important, but it was clear that it was an indication of freshness. All I have to say is, thank you, Italy, for introducing such a pleasant treat to the diet. My room mate’s salad was another visually stunning sight, and quite a smile-inducing dish considering my room mate polished off every bit of it without grumbling. I was quite pleased with the fruit that I had, ever so grateful that the rind on the honey dew melon had been peeled off completely, not left to blend in with the meat of the melon. Tasty were the strawberry, pineapple, cantaloupe, honey dew melon, grapes, and blueberries that I would have asked for some more, quite possibly with yogurt if they had some in the kitchen.
After we had finished our frittatas, salad, and fruit, we sat for a few minutes people-watching. While Club Lucky is not front-facing on the busy intersection of the North Avenue/Damen Avenue/Milwaukee Avenue intersection, there is a migration of the crowd that wonders down the side streets. And it is also quite evident that a rather eccentric lot lives in the area. For example, while watching life pass by us as we delighted ourselves on our brunch, we saw the most interesting sign in the window of an apartment across the street with a crowd of hippies out front. Now killing Palestinians, Afghanis & Pakistanis is as easy as paying your taxes. You have to love an armchair revolution from a cushy, high-priced neighbourhood far removed from the politicians who make decisions for that which the sign reflected opposition.
After we had let the first round of food settle, there was then the second round. I ordered a peach bellini that secured my belief that the bartender needs to give classes to other bartenders on how to prepare a damn good mixed drink. That bellini was so full of love that I wanted to throw the glass on the ground and scream booyaaaa!!!!! My room mate and I had malted waffles with honey butter, baked apple slices, and pecans. I picked the pecans off of what I ate, of course. These waffles were so good that I am declaring officially that these are the best waffles in the world. I know there is someone moaning that their mother makes the best waffles or they know where the best waffles are and I have no idea what good is. I may be wrong, but my growling stomach is never wrong. These were not simple pancakes that had the waffle indentations. These were not enlarged Eggo waffles either. The apples were not compost, drowned in syrup. My gums did not throb from a sugar high. My room mate and I finished that plate of waffles off with smiles.
So, Club Lucky is a winner. I am surprised that I have not gone to more Italian restaurants than I have during my sixteen years of living in Chicago. I guess that when restaurants tend to be in excess, like McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, and the like, you avoid surplus staples. Then again, many Italian restaurants serve up the same fare ala Chef Boyardee and those plates of salt and sauce wreck my appetite and my blood pressure. My wallet was pleased. My appetite was satisfied. As for my room mate, she could not wipe the smile off of her face, no matter how hard she tried. I was not the only person who waddled away from the table with the usual stupid grin this time. Hmm. Guess who will be going back to Club Lucky for a lucky good time putting his pretty white teeth to use, gnashing away at some happiness-inducing menu item.