While the rest of Chicago yammered over Little Goat and Au Cheval, there's a sleek, well-oiled diner perfecting the diner formula in Lakeview. Amidst the flurry of re-imagined diners, City Dough stands as one of the best examples of the template. From the polished, sunny vibe to the jovial servers and heartwarming, heart attack-inducing menu, the restaurant is what diner dreams are made of. The name suggests carbs aplenty, which they have plenty of, but the sleeper hit on the menu are the dishes made with Italian sausage. These fennel-y, herbal sausages abet some of the most interesting brunch items around.
Italian sausage and shrimp are likely not the first bedfellows you'd envision when thinking of brunch fodder. But the unlikely surf & turf makes for a killer combo in City Dough's eggs Palermo ($10). The medley tastes like something you'd sooner expect to find flecked atop a pizza, but instead City Dough scrambles it all up with eggs. The results are surprisingly satisfying, with the spice- and herb-laden links a perfect yin to the sweet, saline yang of the plump shrimp. There's also some basil thrown in for good measure; always a welcome addition. The adjoining potatoes are pure diner bliss. Succulent, toothsome slivers have the haphazard-yet-lovely feel of state fair spuds, generously salted and pleasantly greasy.
We need to talk about the potato boat ($10). It's a potato skin. Filled with eggs and cheese and guilt. Basically, it sounds like the best kind of TGI Fridays freakshow, but so much better. Here, the potato skins don't taste like shriveled up inner tube, and the cheesy innards are actually lush with flavor and don't resemble charred cardboard. It's an absolute mess to eat, especially when more of those piquant Italian sausages are thrown into the mix, but it's worth the melee. Some verdant marinara is splashed over top, rounding out the dish nicely and mellowing out the cheese + eggs + sausage overload.
And because this is City Dough, doughnuts are essential. Options here are pure Americana, and they look the part too. The cinnamon-sugar ($2) variety was solid, albeit not terribly memorable. The doughnut sports a good cakey crumb, with an ample coating of spiced sugar, but it still tasted just a smidge on the lukewarm, stale side. Thankfully, that's nothing a good dip in coffee won't fix. These doughnuts are made for dunking.
Despite the spate of chef-y diners that have been popping up around town, humble fixtures such as City Dough are what the concept is all about. It's nothing fancy or convoluted, just a simple, straightforward diner churning out solid American food with a dash of flair.