Another beautiful Chicago summer day, and we decided to venture to an old favorite of ours that we have not visited in a while, Southport & Irving.
Setting the Scene
Jodie was feeling the Sambuca Sadness, so we didn’t arrive until around 1:30pm. Partying with teachers claims yet another sad, sad victim. It was a beautiful summer day, however, with bikers, joggers, and people-watching in spades.
We entered through what we thought was the main entrance, but on further investigation into the restaurant as a whole, it seemed to be just the entrance to the bar area specifically. In the bar, there was one table and a few patrons who appeared to be regulars from the scintillating conversations that we overheard. It was an empty, yet inviting vibe, with a few TVs showing ESPN and light, instrumental music playing. As we ventured to find the restrooms and check out the dining room, we realized that there was a side entrance directly into the dining room with a host stand and beautiful chalkboard artwork. The dining room also housed SIP’s retail wine sales and a couple of gorgeous wine shelving units.
Amenities and Accessibility
To enter through the bar area, there is a step up, but the side entrance into the restaurant provides a ramp in (the whole place is accessible via both entrances). The floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining room also open up to the modest yet fetching patio on the side of the restaurant.
Food and Drink
From 9am to 3pm Saturdays and Sundays, and 10am to 3pm on Fridays, brunch at SIP brings you $15 “Nearly bottomless” mimosas with the purchase of a brunch entrée. This means you have a two hour limit with three refills of champagne per hour, according to the menu. The food is in the range of standard brunch fare, but elevated with thoughtfulness and intention. There are breakfast and lunch options to choose from, with a wide array of choices.
Becky decided on the Breakfast Sandwich: an egg over easy, 2-year cheddar, smoked paprika aioli, served on a brioche bun, with a choice of bacon, black peppercorn mortadella, mushroom, or house sausage on the sandwich. As with many of the brunch entrées, it is accompanied by breakfast potatoes. She went with her obvious choice of mushroom.
The sandwich itself was a delight – the egg was perfectly sunny side up, the mushrooms extremely flavorful and full of earthy mushroom essence. The cheddar was thick-cut and sharp – really made the sandwich – and the brioche bun was soft and fluffy – not too dense to distract from the other ingredients. The paprika aioli offered a nice compliment and spice but was not slathered on, which was a nice surprise. Becky enjoyed everything about this sandwich, but would add onion in the future to provide contrasting bite to the mushrooms and cheddar.
The potatoes, which were described in such an alluring way, were just okay. They were red potatoes cut in wedges and boiled, then fried and tossed in seasoning mix with onions and peppers. Sounds great, right? They were cooked well, but were lacking the seasoning punch that was described and that she hoped for. Upon trying one of Jodie’s potatoes, Becky got a taste of what they were meant to be. It seemed like hers just didn’t get that seasoning kick at the end.
Jodie ordered a lunch-style treat: the tandoori chicken sandwich, which sounded especially delectable. The sandwich had tandoori chicken, complimented by the snappy tartness of pickled cauliflower, a thick and creamy Greek yogurt sumac-mint sauce, and nearly an entire salad of arugula, cucumber, red onion, and tomato (fully dressed to the nines) on top. Whew. In addition to these fresh and bold flavors, Jodie had the potatoes. As Becky described, they were creamy and crunchy, perfectly seasoned. And yes, Jodie knows how to share. While the flavors were everything that she had hoped for when she was ordering, no brunch has yet been perfect.
The bun was a disappointment. Maybe she’s had one too many soft, fluffy, buttery pitas, but the vapid floofiness of the bun was a flat note amidst the other textures and flavors. In addition, there was no need for the heap of greens on this sandwich. A tandoori chicken-filled pita and a full salad on the side would have been sufficient, and would have given the very tasty salad a chance to shine on its own. The potatoes would have been a bonus, but not necessary to round out this otherwise satisfying meal.
Our bartender, Holly. As a self-proclaimed honorary lesbian, she treated us with candor and respect, and kept our mimosa flutes full of bubbles.
Wycliff champagne, with the most perfect booze to juice ratio yet. Brava, Holly.
The lively conversation from the regulars at the other end of the bar. Jodie-rated A+++ for entertainment value.
Captivating decor. It’s worth a slow walk throughout the restaurant to fully appreciate what they’ve done. The Picasso prints are definitely worth careful consideration for full enjoyment. Take a moment to soak in the truly thoughtful, artful atmosphere.
One of the multiple single-seat restrooms had a basket of tampons. Maybe we should have put that first. Also, we would humbly suggest a take-a-tamp-leave-a-tamp policy for any establishment that provides amenities to its period-having patrons. That shit ain’t cheap, but it should always be there when you need it.
This was a tough one. The atmosphere, the artwork, the food, the drinks…even with the small changes we would make to accommodate our personal brunching preferences, Southport and Irving has earned a fist-bumping 8 out of 10. We understand that we have very different expectations than some, and that we are more willing to engage with the staff than others might, so the reception at the bar might seem chilly at first. We see ourselves as future regulars of any establishment, and it takes a lot to dissuade us from returning. The staff and management made us feel as though we were actually regulars, in spite of our last visit being almost 2 years ago. Given the turnover in the hospitality business, we were truly grateful that we felt remembered and appreciated.
Pro Tips – Optimize Your Experience
- With its proximity to Wrigley Field, it is advisable to check on games and events to time your visit accordingly.
- Parking is at a premium, but public transit and Divvy bikes and bike lanes are in abundance. And if you’re brunching, you shouldn’t be driving anyways. Please refer to our Brunch Manifesto for details.
- If you are a party of four or less, dine in the bar area for optimal service and a stellar experience.
- If you have guests in town, or just want a staycation, SIP has a two-bedroom flat (sleeps five or more if you have an air mattress and a CPAP) available on Expedia and Air BNB. Again, the summer months in Chicago are fraught with tourist activity, so choose your stay wisely if you’re looking to save some scratch.