“You must try this new place Marmalade“, said my friend Mike as we drove past it one night, “.. but only if you want to eat the best pancakes EVER”. His beautiful new wife shook her head emphatically in agreement, and raved on about their delicious hotcakes and brioche french toast.
So we did.
We slept in one Sunday morning and were afraid to try our usual breakfast haunts. By 9 a.m. most places are packed to the gills and immediate seating for 2.25 (2 adults, 1 starving toddler) is laughably impossible. “I want to try Marmalade“, I said, “and if all fails we can order Commuter sandwiches from Angel Food Bakery to-go”.
Marmalade, located on the southeast corner of Montrose Avenue and Damen Avenue, had everything going for it when we : 1) found street parking (metered) easily, 2) were amiably greeted and immediately seated, 3) were clearly in a kid friendly restaurant since a kid’s menu, crayons and toys were promptly provided and 4) the host, hostess and serving staff were all kinds of bending over backwards to ensure we had an unforgettable experience (they even brought our son his very first taste of chocolate milk).
Chilaquiles are one of my favorite breakfast meals but I have yet to find a place that makes them better than Uncommon Ground on Devon Avenue (currently my all time favorite breakfast joint on the North side). Much to my chagrin, Marmalade offers a vegan version — no thank you but kudos for being inclusive. The Pumpkin French Toast on the menu caught my eye until I read the description: “Two slices of our house-baked pumpkin loaf with pumpkin cream and crema de leche, topped with dried cranberries and toasted pecans.” “Wait a minute……..”, crept into my brain as my tonsils started feeling choked by the pumpkin cream and the crema de leche (spanish for cream! which is savory in some Latin American countries). The Artichoke Omeletta sounded a little promising, but I was scared off by the “topped with house pesto” imagining a lake of pesto drowning my omeletta — too early in the day for that mess. I finally settled for the Mayan Omeletta since it is made with ingredients close to my heart (yum! chorizo!). My husband ordered The Lady Marmalade Homemade apricot marmalade, maple cream, and lemon coulis on our house-baked brioche french toast, a chef signature dish. We ordered plain hotcakes for my son.
My head dropped in disappointment when our food arrived. The good news, because I want to remain positive, is that we found the additional seating that is sorely needed at Over Easy Cafe. These two chefs are related, one and the same, or went to the same culinary school (Over Easy reviewed here). The hotcakes and the french toast were liberally covered with powdered sugar (a-la-IHOP, ugh!). The Lady Marmalade was drenched in 3 different sauces — highly unnecessary. My Mayan Omeletta was a paper thin, dry layer of egg surrounding a mound of chucked together Latin ingredients, topped with sauce and sour cream and God knows what. I have to imagine they cover this in cooking 101 … food enters through the eyes. Don’t assault my senses! The spiced taters and plantains were the bets part of this order.
Add 2 coffees and 1 orange juice to that order and you have got yourself a $40 breakfast. Not worth it, in my humble opinion. I am not saying the food tasted bad .. I have had worst, but I don’t feel the need to go back.
TIP# 1- If you are looking for incredible baked brioche french toast served with orange vanilla bean syrup (on the side, thank you very much!), head on over to Angel Food Bakery for Sunday brunch! Hands down the most incredible french toast on the North side.