Cellars Bar and Grill (Formerly Broadway Cellars)

With a longtime friend of Jodie’s in town for the weekend, we had a tough decision ahead of us on how best to spoil her with Chicago’s many tempting culinary delights. We settled on a place we’ve read about and got multiple recommendations to try – formerly know as Broadway Cellars, the newly minted Cellars Bar and Grill. To the 3-6 it was, and up to our old haunt, Edgewater.

Setting the Scene

As we departed, the hot, humid, and cloudy day gave us pause for a moment as to if we wanted to venture out of the glorious comfort of our air conditioned cave. However, we decided there was no better time to have a new brunch adventure – with a friend in town, we could add another Cellars “virgin” to our review and we wouldn’t have undo influence on her thoughts and opinions. We are, after all, very persuasive.

We arrived around 1pm, greeted at the door by Barb, and welcomed at the bar by Chuck. There were brave souls out on the steamy patio, but we opted for the chilly delights of the bar indoors.

Amenities and Accessibility

Cellars is located near public transit, and has an easy-access door, patio, and a beautifully appointed restroom with a spacious handicap stall. It is worth a trip any time. We’ll leave you with a preview of its majesty.

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And yes, the men’s room is just as glorious. We checked.

Food and Drink

The brunch deal at Cellars, as stated on their menu at the time of our visit, is:

Nearly Bottomless* Mimosas and Bloody Marys**
One 6 / Bottomless 10***
Mix and Match Bloodys and Mimosas 15
In our research of dining locations, this description fueled our intent to experience the brunch here even more. It so closely aligns with our own brunch manifesto that we had moral and personal obligation to experience their offerings. We hope that we avoided the “excessive and obnoxious” part and were just entertaining, while enjoying the expansive and creative menu.
Becky and Jodie opted for the traditional drink delights, and Phoebe ordered the Bloody Mary. The mimosas were premixed in a 1:1 ratio (more juice than we prefer) with a sparkling wine we’ve never encountered before. We asked about different juices, and Chuck informed us that juices other than OJ are an additional $2, but it appeared from our neighbors’ selection to be a better pour ratio. However, Chuck was very accommodating, and on our next pitcher, adjusted the mix to be less juicy. The tantalizing Bloody Mary was made using a robust and spicy house mix. It was poured in a 3-1 vodka to mix ratio, which objectively makes the Bloody the better of the two deals.
The menu had an extensive array of tempting choices, all of them appealing. We faced difficult decisions, which will definitely require a second visit. Possibly a third. A fourth, if we’re feeling particularly feisty, which is our default setting. Expect updates on this experience.
Jodie decided on the “healthy” choice, the Personal Trainer with potatoes. The white egg omelette was fluffy and light, the tart sun-dried tomatoes were playfully balanced by the decadent goat cheese. It was just enough of a good thing, with enough surprises in each bite that Jodie was able to finish it all. Sadly, the spinach was lost the cacophony of other flavors. Perhaps another vegetable with a more robust texture (broccoli or asparagus, something with body) would hold up better against the other strong flavors. Thankfully, the rosemary potatoes were the perfect combination of crispy and creamy, perfectly seasoned with herbs and a touch of salt. She will opt for these over the salad, every time, fitness be damned. Jodie will be fitness whole entrée in her face.
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Phoebe ordered the Salmon Benny, which comes with a cucumber salad, and opted for potatoes on the side. Her report is as follows:
The Yay:
  •  The portions of salmon were substantial, the caper hollandaise was a great and innovative(ish) way to incorporate a salty highlight.
  • The cucumber and tomato salad was well-balanced: not too acidic and not overly dressed or soggy, with a crisp texture.
  • The eggs: cooked perfectly, with a golden runny yolk and a tender, decadent white.
The Meh:
  • The latkes need to be crisper, and a smidgen less sweet. That being said, the full bite of salmon, egg, and latke is well balanced on all fronts, except for the lack of contrasting texture.

Becky had a very difficult time deciding between several dishes on the menu, so solicited the advice of our friendly bartender, Chuck. After some pondering of her dilemma, he suggested to go with the quiche of the day – broccoli, mushrooms, and cheddar – which is accompanied by a side salad with choice of dressing. Since the quiche of the day is rarely repeated, and the other dishes could be tried on return trips, Becky went with the quiche.

The quiche it was, and it was delightful! It was not only a gigantic slice of the pie, but also about two inches in height – wonderfully light and fluffy – those eggs were whipped into submission. The crust almost melted into the egg, with a crispy and buttery edge on the top. The ingredients were simple, but so flavorful and compelling. A spectacular selection.

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The side salad came with choice of dressing, and Becky went for the gorgonzola to add a tart and pungent contrast to the veggies. The salad was huge, rivaling the side salad at Reservoir last week, and the veggies were multitudinous – carrots, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and tender leafy greens. The dressing was creamy and tangy without being overpowering. Overall, this is close to a perfect and light brunch option for a hot summer day – filling and satisfying without heaviness.

BONUS TREATS

Their menu descriptions and wit behind it. As lovers of sass and rapier wit, we heartily approve.

In addition to a traditional happy hour and daily specials, there is a “Happiest Hour” that runs from 8:30pm to 10pm Tuesday through Saturday and features a rotating collection of food and drink specials. With tastings, rotating local taps, beer and wine dinners, they truly have a host of options to enjoy.

The stunning décor. It’s somewhere between an Italian bistro, a diner, and a sports bar. Jodie could barely hold up conversation because of all the shiny, pretty things. This is an enthusiastic endorsement.

Mimosa Rating

Our initial impressions of Cellars’ brunch is a robust 8 out of 10. The food is the focus and, probably due to individual and sloppy excess, the booze knows its place as a secondary draw. Ten years in Edgewater, regardless of gentrification, will tell. The food to booze value ratio skews on the side of a thoughtful food experience, which we noticed and appreciated. Cellars has opted for food quality over booze quantity and it shows. While out of our usual brunching radius, Cellars will have a second (maaaaybe third?) visit to truly experience and appreciate what they have to offer.

Pro Tips – Optimize Your Experience

  • Hydrate well, and go to the bathroom. One if you must, both if you can. See above.
  • We didn’t sit at a table, so have no basis for comparison, but we were well taken care of by Chuck at the bar. We did note the food runners and servers moving with particular quickness out to the patio and dining room. While this might not change our seating preference, it seems worth noting for larger parties.
  • The Edgewater Farmers’ Market is open on Saturdays from 8am to 1pm right across the street. Local farmers, artisans, and performers offer a host of wares from June through October. Don’t forget your tote!
  • Take a stroll through the historic surrounding neighborhoods. There are so many beautiful houses and buildings, so walk off those mimosas and get some culture!

As this was our first visit, and involved a trip outside of our immediate neighborhood, we’re at a loss for extensive pro tips. We do anticipate returning to Cellars, and will update our findings accordingly!

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