Kelly the Culinarian: Running to Brunch at La Stanza

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Running to Brunch at La Stanza

It's that time of year where I start to think about summer, already. It's because most morning start with dragging myself out of bed in the pre-dawn hours to complete some 45-60 minutes of training as I dream of athletic glory I won't see for months. I've just started training for the Circular Logic Marathon this year, and it's been all on a treadmill. It sucks and it's great at the same time. I don't get outside, obviously, but it's climate controlled and I can catch up on TV and movies. And, I can log eight miles and be showered and ready for brunch in no time. Winning ...

I got invited to a media preview of La Stanza's brunch menu, which was damn delicious. This place is located in the back of Labriola off of Michigan Avenue, so it has a bit of a speakeasy vibe. The live jazz music and classic Italian decor only augments it. I tasted almost all the highlights on the menu, but what sets this place apart is a do it yourself donut bar featuring plain Stan's donuts which you can adorn with all your favorite fixins'. And adorn I did. Is there such a thing as too much topping?

When we arrived, we were greeted with mimosas and a taste of their toast selection. The restaurant offers a number of breads with jams and sauces as pairings to get your appetite going. The pretzel bread with beer mustard was delicious, but the ricotta butter and fig spread also left me wanting more.

In this particular preview, we dined family style so we could all sample the sweet and savory sides of the menu. I generally trend sweet for breakfast - I love ordering pancakes at restaurants because I'm not so great at making them at home. I was surprised that my favorite items on the menu were more savory. The chicken and biscuit combo was a standout from the rest of the offerings. The fried chicken was tender and well-seasoned, which paired nicely with the fluffy homemade biscuits and sweet balsamic vinegar reduction.

I also loved the breakfast pizza (I'm a sucker for runny egg yolks) as well as the potato salad that accompanied the homemade bacon platter. It was so different from what I expected. The fresh seasoning made this otherwise heavy and filling dish quite bright.

Also, the bagel and lox was top-notch. The salmon was plentiful, and the cream cheese freshly whipped. They were served up with whole-grain bagels, which were a nice contrast to the creaminess of the rest of the offering. The shrimp and polenta was also a great addition to the menu. The shrimp was crispy on the outside without being over cooked, and the polenta went well with the yolk from the poached egg.

This is a super cute place to meet a friend or celebrate the holidays over mimosas and eggs. I'm looking forward to taking out of towners here for brunch before shopping!

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