Serious Eats: Chicago
The Brunch Dish: M. Henrietta
Dining at m.henrietta is like wrapping yourself in a blanket knit by your grandma. Everything about this cottage-esque Edgewater nook wafts of comfort, most especially the "screw the New Yearʼs resolutions" menu of sweet and savory indulgences.
m.henrietta (and sister/brother restaurant m.henry) is a pancake whisperer. They manage to make their pancakes as soft as a down comforter, striated with enough mascarpone to frost a cake. The blackberry "blisscakes" are the menu mainstay, but thereʼs always a seasonal adaptation as well. The winter rendition is sweet potato flapjacks ($9.50) layered with maple-mascarpone crème, roasted pecans, and dulce de leche syrup. Basically, this is the fancy flapjack version of the sweet potato casserole that your favorite aunt makes.
If I see sweet potatoes on a menu in any form, my eyes bulge out of my head like a Looney Tune and I inevitably order it. These flapjacks satiated my craving. The pureed sweet potatoes lend an extra creaminess to the flapjacks, and the satiny maple-mascarpone crème oozes forth with each bite, like a melted marshmallow between two graham crackers. Pecans provide a toasty crunch against the pillow-soft backdrop, and dulce de leche renders maple syrup a laughable afterthought. Sliced apples are served alongside, masquerading as healthy, but once swirled in dulce de leche, they taste like caramel apples, just in case you needed another way to get sugar in your mouth.
Comfort food reaches its apex on m.henriettaʼs comfort plate ($11.75), a seasonal medley of everything you could crave in the a.m. Sausage, bacon, eggs, and a crêpe comprise The A-Team of brunch plates, all made with canny touches. A thick slice of apple-Gouda-chicken sausage is glazed with enough red wine syrup to give you another hangover. The sausage is smoky and reminiscent of kielbasa in texture and flavor, while the sauce calls to mind a boozy barbecue. Applewood-smoked bacon bundles up with tender morsels of butternut squash inside and atop a silky crêpe for a sweet and savory one-two punch, and eggs are jazzed up with a piquant salsa verde. Complete with a smattering of fruit, the whole thing is like a continental breakfast that went to finishing school.
Bread pudding is one of those things that occasionally shows up on brunch menus, but oftentimes itʼs just some form of French toast with a sexier pseudonym. Not at m.henrietta. The out of this world breakfast bread pudding ($5.50 for half order, $6.95 for full) is unabashedly dessert-y, a deep bowl of vanilla-infused bread pudding that practically melts into custard with the touch of a fork. The affluence of warm peaches and blackberries heaped on top do a good job of disguising this as a fruit bowl (so fellow diners donʼt judge you too harshly when you order additional food after pancakes), but rest assured, the fruits are just foreplay for the manna that lies below.