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Reviews of brunch dishes.

The Brunch Dish: Sharing is Caring at Tavernita

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[Photographs: Chelsea Ross]

Shared plates are a risky endeavor at brunch. Depending on your dining companions' grogginess, you could run the risk of a fork to the wrist if you attempt to share off someone's plate. Choose your comrades carefully when eating brunch at Tavernita, as the shareable tapas format translates to the a.m. with a prix fixe menu ($12.50 per person for four items for the table or $18.50 with a cocktail) of invigorating nibbles and noshes that you almost want to horde for yourself.

Tavernita's brunch menu features four sections: small plates, eggs, on bread, and sweets. Of the small plates, Greg's meatballs are exemplary. Whoever Greg is, he's a meatball Messiah, and he could teach the red sauce Italian joints a thing or two about properly prepared meatballs. Made with Wagyu beef and pork, these golf ball-sized morsels are a hole in one (sorry for that); plump, juicy, and none too dense, immersed in a Nickelodeon-orange hazelnut romesco sauce, with the rich, fatty body of the hazelnuts a perfect foil for the peppery romesco.

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I've never had Frito Pie, but I assume it tastes much like Tavernita's chilaquiles. Thick tortilla chips are cut into curly rectangles and baked with roasted vegetable salsa, Mahon cheese, and scrambled eggs. Unlike some mushier varieties of chilaquiles, these chips stay firm and crispy. I'd prefer an over-easy egg with an oozy yolk to puncture, but the eggs are cooked well, making it easy to build bites and and share with relatively little mess.

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Of the bread items, the artichoke crostini is a standout. The bread has the ideal density and thickness, so it doesn't fall apart when you tear into it. Smeared with chickpea puree, flecked with tangy slivers of artichokes, and adorned with lightly dressed arugula and Pecorino cheese, it may not be remotely brunchy, but I'd happily eat this well-balanced nosh any time of day.

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Sweets come with the highest risk of fork stabbing, particularly the custard-tastic French toast. Plates feature one hella thick slice of brioche bathed in vanilla sauce with ginger whipped cream and mango. It's so thick, one might assume the innards are dry and untouched by the French toast better. But nay! This is the creamiest French toast I think I've ever tasted, soaked through with sweet custard and as velvety as pudding in the middle. Granted, it's treacly sweet and you might feel awful afterwards, but it's worth the strife.

When dining at Tavernita, you'd be wise to select a few of your less greedy, more docile friends, so you can have your fair share of brunch bites. Trust me, you'll want your fill.

Tavernita

151 West Erie Street, Chicago IL 60654 (map)
312-274-1111
tavernita.com/

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