How in the heck is it April 2nd? Anyone else feel like we just celebrated New Years Eve? Now the days, weeks and months are flying by and I’m suddenly typing 4/2/2016 and yet no surprise, it’s snowing in Chicago. Ahhhh, spring!
I just got home to the Windy City after a fantastical vacation in Delray Beach, Florida. More to come on that trip – I can’t wait to share a roundup of my favorite places in that adorable beach town we’ve been frequenting the past three years. It’s hard to believe just last weekend I was sipping frozen piña coladas in shorts & a tank while now I’m bundled up under the covers watching the snow whip around outside. But yet, here we are. Am I bitter? Nah. Do I have the post-vacation blues? Maybe a little.
In between my trips to Florida, I was back in Chicago for 72 hours and in that time I discovered an incredible neighborhood restaurant with a ridiculous brunch spread. The Cotton Duck is about a 10-minute walk from our place and after trying to walk in the weekend beforehand (they were closed for a private event), we decided to venture out again and check it out. Best. Decision. Ever.
Slightly tucked away on Damen Avenue, The Cotton Duck is both a restaurant and an art gallery. It’s a small space, rustic and inviting. One of the reasons we were so intrigued to check this place out was the fact that they offered Nitro Cold Brew coffee. As someone who has been happily battling a coffee addiction since college, the discovery of nitro cold brew has been life-changing. It’s basically cold brew coffee that is infused with nitrogen gas, which yes sounds super fancy but all it really means for you is that you’re left with a smooth, creamy cup of strong iced coffee that looks like a Guinness and tastes like heaven. You can read more about it here.
The Cotton Duck brews Metric coffee and their nitro cold brew was one of the best I’ve had as of late. As someone who usually takes their coffee with a side of soy, it’s been great to find that nitro cold brew (or most cold brew coffee in general) is delicious on their own, sans milk. If you love coffee and haven’t tried cold brew or nitro cold brew, do me a favor and give it a taste test. You won’t be sorry.
My biggest issue with brunch is that I hate deciding between sweet & savory. Gimme them both! I want eggs, hash browns AND french toast and I don’t want you to judge me while I eat. I was immediately drawn to the “Sweets” section of the menu and while deciding between S’mores Donut Holes & Monkey Bread is a major first-world problem, I’ll tell you this, right now: if you come to the Cotton Duck for anything, let it be these melt-in-your-mouth, revolutionary donut holes.
First of all, the serving comes with 4 so if you’re splitting and your dining companion is nice, that means you get to eat two of these monsters. My mouth is watering right now as I remember how god da*# good these are. A warm, pillowy donut hole is stuffed with luscious dark chocolate, sitting atop graham cracker crumbles covered in a torched, melting marshmallow. Boom. Mic drop. I’m done. They’re amazing. I want one right now.
Browsing the brunch “mains”, I was slightly intimidated. While the burger-obsessed side of my brain pushed for the Dry Aged Burger with Smoked Gouda, Onion Jam & Black Garlic aioli, I knew we were going to DMK the next night, so I probably (despite wanting to) shouldn’t eat two burgers in a row. Duck Confit Hash, Skillet with Beef Tongue, Smoked Fish & Grits….these weren’t your normal brunch offerings. Were they probably delicious given the showstopper S’mores? Yes. Was I feeling adventurous? Not so much. However, the Sourdough Waffle with Wild Rice, Hazelnuts, Sausage & Maple Mascarpone kept screaming “order me, order me!” as I tried to decide if going with the Egg White Frittata was a safer option. When our waiter arrived, I threw caution to the wind and got crazy.
I’m not sure what I expected this waffle to taste like, but it was pretty damn close to perfection. The homemade waffle was crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside with only a slight tang from the sourdough. Topped with roasted sweet potatoes, crunchy wild rice, hazelnuts and crumbled sausage, every bite was bursting with flavor. My only dismay (and not one to prevent me from ordering this next time for brunch) was that they could’ve lightened up on the maple mascarpone. Next time, I’ll probably get it on the side. When I reached the middle of the waffle, it was slightly soggy because of the sauce, but again, not the end of the world. Hands down, this was one of the most inventive waffle dishes I’ve ever had. Can’t waaaaaait to try it again.
One of my favorite things about The Cotton Duck was this adorable sign on the exterior. While they tell you to eat however you like, I’m confident in the fact that these dishes are meant to be eaten with your eyes first. Beautiful + delicious works of art are how I’d describe my meal at The Cotton Duck. We most certainly enjoyed and we will definitely come back often. If you’re in the Wicker Park neighborhood (and why wouldn’t you be? ;)), I highly recommend checking this joint out for Sunday brunch. So now, the question remains: who wants to join me in checking out their dinner menu? They’re BYOB!
The Cotton Duck is open Tuesday-Thursday, 5-9p, Fri-Saturday, 5-10p & Sunday 10a-2p.