There’s no good way to introduce this, but we were feeling adventurous. We wanted to step outside our comfort zone to experience a brunch situation that we have heard much about, in both legend and hazy memory. We decided to jump on the 151 for door-to-door transit service and head to the southern edge of Lakeview and for the fabled brunch buffet at Duffy’s Tavern & Grille.
Setting the Scene
We walked in the door of Duffy’s at 10:03am on this beautiful and warm July day, thanks to the trusty CTA bus tracker (we had to hustle a bit to make it out the door on time), and were greeted by the very friendly bouncer Cortez. We had ample options of where to sit, but we chose the back room bar, as it was well air-conditioned and close to the buffet. Our bartender, Kyle, was also a joy. As we were the only customers there for about 30-45 minutes, we kept each other entertained with collegial conversation.
Amenities and Accessibility
Several bus lines operate nearby, although there is currently significant construction, which may prove to be an obstacle to some diners. The bar entrance, as well as the back room, are accessible via ramps, however the actual buffet is set on a stage, with no ramps. For those with mobility considerations, it may be wise to have a friend on hand. The bathrooms are big, bright, and much quieter than the bar proper, with several stalls, including a handicap stall.
Food and Drink
The brunch buffet deal, according to Duffy’s Facebook page, is as follows: $30 for a food buffet, mimosas, bloody mary’s, most draft beers, well drinks, and wine from 10am to 3pm. This is usually the deal only on Sundays, but this summer, from May 6 to August 26, the deal is also valid on Saturdays. How can they keep it that cheap, you ask? The food must be basic, right? These were the questions on our minds as we walked into the dark confines.
The hardest part is writing about the food. Because it’s a buffet, there was not just one dish to focus on. Potatoes, eggs, meats, pancakes, waffles, french toast, pastries, and fruit (complete with a freaking chocolate fountain), all of this is fairly standard brunch buffet offerings. There were two salads, already fully dressed, which did them no favors. It seems odd to have salad without dressing on the side – it will only get soggier as the day goes on. Bleh.
The veggie scramble was intensely flavorful, way better than the eggs. The fruit was exceptionally ripe and fresh, thanks to summer. Strawberries are always better in the summer months, and these were no exception.
However! Even amidst the overflowing options, we made it our mission to transcend from this mundane existence to seafood nirvana, scuttling along one leg at a time. As we know, the journey is the experience. The legs were served on ice, with drawn butter.
The crab was rich and flavorful, with incredible chunks of meat. Even the smallest bites were resplendent with flavor. The butter almost wasn’t needed. We filled and emptied two overflowing plates of crustacean delights. We also had a few of the jumbo-sized shrimp, which were cooked perfectly and had a delightfully poppy texture. We were only missing cocktail sauce to truly enjoy these critters, a head-scratching omission.
One of the regulars, who typically buys only Coronas, and eats his fill while dancing to the music. He contributed to the relaxed and fun atmosphere that we were feeling.
Speaking of music, starting at around 12, DJ Rick starts spinning amazing tunes. He mans the turntables Friday nights and Sundays during the day, so you can dance off all of those crab legs.
So many TVs. So many sports. Which is good if you have a mouthful of crab and can’t make conversation.
Crab. All. Of. The. Crab.
While we know we’ll have to go back for another experience, what you get for the money you pay makes Duffy’s a fantastic deal. The quality of the food, excepting the seafood, is middling, but serves as a great belly buffer for their bottomless drink deals. With such things in mind, we give Duffy’s a chest-bump and a 7.5 out of 10. We see what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well. It might not be our first choice, but when it comes to oceanic delights, they will be our go-to.
Pro Tips – Optimize Your Experience
- Arrive early. It’s a buffet y’all. While standard health codes apply, the early bird gets the best worms. Or crab legs. You know. The crab legs and shrimp are limited, so make the most of them if you have an insatiable seafood jones. Which we did.
- For large groups, (parties, birthdays, bachelorette parties, etc.) this might be your best option. Everyone pays the same amount, but they get to choose their feast, their drink, and their pace. Plus, there’s no waiting for separate entrées and you skip the preposterous headache of splitting a check.
- Choose your drinks wisely, because the bar offers a lot of options. Find your pony and stick with it for the entire race. We encourage responsible brunching. Hot plates, not hot messes.
- Gird your loins for a Saturday night party atmosphere on a Sunday morning. Shot specials start with the DJ and they seemed to roll every 30-45 minutes. This is a brunch for the bold. Big girl brunching panties: ENGAGE.
- If you’re of a culinary persuasion, ask for a to-go box for your crab shells. There is so much flavor and happiness, that they deserve a second life as a seafood stock.
- This is a Michigan bar, so check college football schedules before heading here.
- We visited on a slower day, thanks to the beautiful weather, but there were still tables with reservation signs. If you’re not going to sit at the bar, make a reservation to insure your spot.