15 August 2010

Yolk. A review and a love story.

I was visiting Chicago recently and my impossibly hip Dad suggested a breakfast place in the midst of the touristy, downtown South Loop. We were also headed to the Field Museum, a place I hadn’t visited since my last field trip in grammar school. These are the kinds of things you don’t do when you live here, but when you’re back visiting with your spouse from another part of the country, and your parents have moved out to the ‘burbs and ride the Metra back in to town, playing tourist for the day seems like the only polite thing to do. I was skeptical that his would be a suitable replacement for slinking around my favorite dives in Rogers Park while visiting friends, but I suspend disbelief as dear old Dad led us into the centrally located, brightly lit Yolk.

I should not have been skeptical. And it seems that the rest of Chicago is with me on this one. Open since 2006, Yolk serves up classics with a fresh, modern twist, combining comforting hangover food with a hip, youthful setting and healthy ingredients. And if you like to enjoy your updated diner food in a posh, modern setting, then Yolk wins some more bonus points for atmosphere. Clientele ranged from heavily pierced and tattooed hipsters (on Michigan Avenue?! What were they doing here?!) to business stiffs, to senior citizens and fully stocked nuclear families.

Coffee comes rapidly and is as rich and smoky as what you’ll find in any coffee house in Chicago. The eggs Benedict has been voted the best in town, but I prefer the eggs Florentine. It utilizes the same poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, but swaps the bacon for freshly sautéed spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Both plates come with a generous helping of mixed fruit (in May, it was honeydew, watermelon, grapes, and pineapple) and their diced, fried red potatoes. The veggie skillet is a pile of fresh sautéed vegetables (squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, and spinach over red potatoes) with two eggs of your choice. And while they do really emphasize eggs (poached and soft boiled both executed beautifully, scrambled not too dry), their pancakes are also worth a try. The simple buttermilk pancakes were incredibly light and satisfying, and although it’s the multigrain pancakes that actually say they come with fruit, the folks at Yolk are very flexible about mixing and matching options. The fruit for that day was fresh, unsweetened strawberries, which the kitchen was happy to include with the buttermilk ‘cakes.

Breakfast is exceptionally fresh and modern at Yolk, and they bring this same aesthetic to their lunch items: wraps, salads, sandwiches and burgers also get the update treatment from their traditional selves. Fresh avocado seems to play heavily in what might be considered California-style sandwiches, in particular. Salads are diverse, inventive, and satisfying enough to really be worth ordering.

Finally, if you’ve just got too much to do in the morning to sit and linger over your sexy breakfast, you can still take in the hip, modern setting and enjoy some homemade pastries with your mug of coffee—just saunter up to the front counter and Yolk becomes your neighborhood coffee house.

Service was friendly, prompt, and knowledgeable. They have a South Loop location at 1120 South Michigan Ave, centrally located near the Art Institute and the museum mall. Their north side location is at 747 North Wells. 6a-3p M-F; 7a-3p on the weekends.