Friday, December 9, 2016

Hutch American Cafe or Majoring in Brunch Studies

The Slow and Savory Review

"I'm just about to call an Uber, see you in a jiffy!" Brandy's friend Bernais Bamboo texted her. Brandy was already sitting on the train, headed for River North. It was the first snow of the year and she had decided that she needed to be nestled in a cozy restaurant, sipping a drink in order to enjoy it properly, and she had invited her plucky acquaintance to accompany her. "Why is my first instinct to go outside during a snow storm?" Brandy questioned herself. "Everyone else in Chicago seems to have the opposite reaction. Odd, that."

Brandy had decided to visit the city's newest brunch themed restaurant, Hutch American Cafe, an extension of the popular Lakeview spot that started life as one of Brandy's very first brunch favorites. Entirely brunch-centric restaurants have been problematic for Brandy in the past, as they seem to put so much concentration of creating large, all inclusive menus, that uniqueness and seasonality tend to get pushed aside. "The most successful brunch menus I've seen have always been rather small, flexible, and creative without being unapproachable," says Brandy, "Trying to please too many people all at once can sometimes compromise the experience as a whole. I'd rather see a restaurant's personality shine through with some unexpected options rather than be overloaded with old standbys."

"Uber app not working, so going to drive myself. Be there ASAP!" texted Bernais just as Brandy arrived at Hutch. Seeing that the place was already buzzing, she decided to head inside and snag a table rather than stand out in the snow. True to its homey, Americana theme, the inside of Hutch was warm and eclectic, with various nicknacks hanging from the walls and ceilings, exposed brick walls, and a hodgepodge of metal and wooden furniture. Though a little cramped and a little loud, Brandy found the atmosphere actually quite cozy, so much so that she couldn't help but make friends with the tables beside her (the menus even encouraged conversation with strangers).

"Car won't start! Not sure what to do now... Will update soon," said Bernais's text. "Well, I'll just go ahead and order some snacks in the meantime," said Brandy, who by this point was already simultaneously sipping on a cup of coffee and a fresh glass of Blueberry Peach Orange juice. She picked the Tot-chos, a portmanteau dish made of tater tots covered in nacho-like toppings, such as truffle cheese, pico de gallo, avocado, and a fried egg. The tots had a lovely crisp to them at first, but broke down rather quickly under weight of the cheese, veggies, and yolk. Brandy was a bit disappointed in the cheese, which really didn't taste like much of anything, let alone truffle oil, but the pico and the sliced avocado helped to keep things interesting. She actually wished she'd opted to add in chorizo for a bit of heat, but settled for sprinkling in some hot sauce.

"No idea what is happening. No taxis anywhere and every bus is twenty minutes away!" Bernais texted, followed by a frowny face emoji. "Well, I'll just have to order an entree for her," Brandy reasoned, so she picked the Big Biscuit and Fried Chicken. The menu certainly wasn't joking around when is said that the biscuit was big, as the baked good took up the majority of the plate. It had been cut in half with the aforementioned fried chicken being sandwiched in the middle, then topped with two sunny side up eggs, slathered in white gravy, and sprinkled with crumbled bacon. Though tasty, Brandy found that the biscuit pretty much dominated everything else, even the chicken, which was tender, but not very crunchy. The eggs on top were a little under-cooked for Brandy's liking, with some of the whites still translucent and runny, but the bacon made for a nice bit of flavor to break up the dense, crumbly biscuit. "I know its called the Big Biscuit, but perhaps a little less of it would be better," Brandy supposed, "They could call it the Moderately Large Biscuit. Well, doesn't quite have the same ring to it, I suppose."

Brandy ordered for herself the Pulled Bacon sandwich out of sheer curiosity. "What on earth is pulled bacon?" she wondered aloud. As it turned out, the meat was thick cut pork belly with the same texture as pulled pork, but not quite the same tenderness. Brandy actually found the meat a little tough to eat, especially since the bun was incredibly soft and the fried egg on top only complicated the whole hand held nature of the sandwich. In the end, she found it easiest to tackle this beast with a fork and a knife, which made it much more enjoyable and a whole lot less messy. The flavor of the pulled bacon was actually quite nice, and the little bit of heat from the sriracha aioli really added a lot to the experience.

Still hearing nothing from Bernais, Brandy rounded out her meal with some Nutella Dough Poppers. These lovely little pockets were a pleasant surprise, being flaky and chewy and not doughnut-like at all, which was what she had expected. She was delighted that they weren't overly indulgent either, but perfectly sweetened, crispy, and great with a hot cup of coffee. "I'm almost glad Bernais wasn't able to make it today," Brandy admitted to herself, "Because if she had, I would have had to share these little gems."

The service at Hutch had been lovely and friendly, and even though there was a notice on the menu asking patrons to limit themselves to 90 minutes per table, she never felt rushed. The food could have used a little finesse to become something truly unique and special, but it gave Brandy enough of a taste of things to come that she was excited to see what else might be in store. "I'm here, I'm here!" Bernais exclaimed, running up to Brandy outside the restaurant. "I'm sorry, my dear, but I've just finished," said Brandy, "But don't worry. I've got your entree and some Tot-chos right here in my bag for you. Let's get you home. You've had a rough morning."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine at the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

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