20130521-253118-the-brunch-dish-stax-cafe-chocolate-french-toast-1.jpg

[Photographs: Chelsea Ross]

Here's a naughty little confession: I secretly kind of love Waffle House, IHOP, Cracker Barrel, and the like. These types of breakfast joints are guilty pleasures that I thankfully only indulge on rare occasions, in moments of crippling weakness. So I'm thankful for Stax Cafe, which is as close as a restaurant can get to IHOP without throwing integrity out the door. This is very basic breakfast comfort food (I actually feel a little wayward calling such a homey, frills-free place "brunch"), but it's comfort food with a lot more soul than the syrupy conglomerates.

Remember that time I bemoaned overly sweet, "pan-fried birthday cake" French toast? Just kidding. I'm willing to make exceptions every once in a while, especially when I'm confronted with something like Stax Cafe's chocolate French toast with cherry-vanilla compote ($10). That compote reminds me of my favorite confection: cherry cordial. It tastes like candy bar French toast, with more chocolate and cherries than the average box of Valentine's Day candy. As decadent as it is, it's intoxicating and hard to stop eating. I realize that sounds more like a cry for help than an endorsement, but it's just plain delicious. It's not gourmet or froufrou, nor is it trying to be. It's sumptuous in the same way that Waffle House waffles call to me like a temptress, or in the way that I kinda just want to suck Aunt Jemima syrup right out of the bottle. When the waitress tried to take my remnants away, I practically screeched at her like Gollum defending his precious ring.

20130520-253118-the-brunch-dish-stax-cafe-mini-waffles-3.jpg

Speaking of waffles, Stax Cafe does the marvelous thing of offering miniature waffles and pancakes as side options along with the standard toast. This is an adorable surprise. I've loved mini waffles ever since Waffle Crisp stole my heart and drowned it in milk. I didn't really expect great quality waffles here, but the minis were surprisingly fantastic. I mean, they're basically just an excuse to shovel more syrup into your maw, but I'm OK with that.

20130521-253118-the-brunch-dish-stax-cafe-taylor-street-frittata-2.jpg

Mini waffles are a nice accompaniment to the Taylor Street frittata ($10.50). This being Taylor Street, the frittata is a nice hat tip to the Italian neighborhood, and arrives studded with prosciutto, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and mozzarella. It tastes like an Italian deli baked into eggs. They even go so far as to finish the plate with a sprinkling of parsley and Parmesan! Be still my heart. This is a salty beast, so buckle up for a sodium roller coaster. That being said, here's another dish that is impossible to resist. Stax Cafe is starting to feel like a slippery slope to a full-on Biggest Loser audition. The potatoes circled around the frittata in a silly manner are some of the best I've had, cooked well and salted liberally.

If you're looking to indulge your breakfast guilty pleasures with less guilt and more pleasure, Stax Cafe does a mighty fine job. Dining at such a sugar- and salt-happy place can be risky though, so you may want to bring a spotter, like your doctor.

Stax Cafe

1401 West Taylor Street, Chicago IL 60607 (map)
312-733-9871
staxcafe.com

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: