Aside from lox, fish and brunch don't exactly go hand-in-hand. So color me impressed to discover that Fish Bar implements a successful brunch formula into its seafood shanty-like ethos with great aplomb. Far beyond cured salmon, the restaurant does a stellar job proving that a seafood spot can serve brunch just as handily as the other stroller magnets around town, and they do so with an array of coastal-inspired morsels and sips.
It should be known that brunch cocktails at Fish Bar are already some of the best in Chicago, and it's all thanks to DMK Restaurants' dexterous beverage director Michael Rubel. The man not only makes a mean Bloody Mary bracing enough to jolt you out of the most stupefying of hangovers, but his beer-based cocktails are genius. This is best exemplified in his Bait and Tackle ($6), a potent medley of Sixpoint Crisp pilsner, lime, and ginger beer that tastes like the finest lemonade mixed with ginger candy and adulthood. It's an ideal backdrop for the ensuing spree of beignets, eggs, and gravlax.
Paying homage to New Orleans is paramount at Fish Bar, seeing as the Big Easy is not only one of the most exciting food cities in the country, but the fact that it's entrenched in alluring seafood and seafood-adjacent pleasures. Case in point: beignets ($6). Mercifully lax on the excessive powdered sugar, these little nuggets of joy taste like the most satisfying of deep-fried state fair foods, heaped in an embarrassingly large mound with a side of vanilla creme anglaise for dipping.
Such a saccharine onslaught calls for a savory heavy-hitter, like Fish Bar's poached eggs Sardou ($11), another New Orleans tribute by way of crispy artichokes, creamed spinach, and béarnaise, a saucy Benedict originated at Antoine's in New Orleans. It's excessive, indulgent, and sloppy, but in all the right ways. The dish is similar to cheesy spinach dip, with the added bonus of poached eggs and tender English muffins. A few spears of artichoke slivers scattered around the plate enliven the heinous melange, adding some bitter notes to the mix.
Of course, you'd be remiss to visit a fishy brunch spot without ordering gravlax and a bagel ($14). Not surprisingly, Fish Bar does a masterful job with cured salmon, heaping succulent slices of fish atop dense sesame bagels along with goat's milk cream cheese, tomatoes, onions, and cucumber ($14). It's about as simple and straightforward as it gets, but since Fish Bar pours legit effort into the basics, it proves the restaurant's merits as a strong addition to Chicago's brunch gamut.