Jaw-dropping fall colors have already popped up on ordinary city streets, and I have happily busted out my boot collection. As autumn makes a comeback, wimpy salads definitely do not cut it, because another favorite fall pastime is heading out for real deal comfort food with my family. There are plenty of options for homey meals away from home in Chicagoland, and I have you covered for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Breakfast: Walker Bros. The Original Pancake House
Where: 153 Green Bay Road, Wilmette
Tons of stained glass give the restaurant a cozy feel that complements the classic comfort food. The portions are typically large, so sharing and tasting as many of the stellar options is part of the fun here. The oven-baked omelets are huge and hearty. I am not sure that I have ever had better omelets anywhere. My hands down favorite is the Classic Spinach with Cheese, and its mushroom sauce adds an extra layer of goodness for chilly days. The thick cut bacon and buttery hash browns get the family bartering going.
My toddler Isaiah is officially obsessed with apples. He literally wakes up in the morning happily saying apple, apple, apple. If your kiddos are apple lovers too, they will go crazy for the Apple Cinnamon Pancake. The name does not do this incredible treat justice, because it is a massive apple extravaganza that the whole family can dig into. The food here basically rocks, and people know it because there is often a line literally out the door here on weekends around the breakfast hours. It does usually move fast, especially for smaller groups. If you have a big group, I would suggest coming at an off time. Breakfast for a weekday dinner, perhaps?
Lunch: Café Selmarie
Where: 4729 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago
Café Selmarie has a lighter and more open feel than Walker Bros., but do not fear, there is still plenty of comfort food on the menu. The chicken pot pie is one of my favorite dishes. Chef Ricky Sakoda opts for a deconstructed style, because it allows for the all-butter puff pastry to really shine. From make-your-mouth-water mac and cheese to steamy soups like tomato bisque, Café Selmarie has plenty of options to keep you warm on a chilly day.
Sakoda has some tricks up his sleeve for fall, so look out for squash, apples and pumpkins making special appearances, as well as braised dishes. Leave room in your belly for dessert, as the whole front portion of the restaurant is a bustling bakery. The sweet treats can go fast, so if you see something on the way in, you can let your server know to set it aside for dessert. I may or may not have called ahead one or ten times to make sure the Raspberry Chocolate Tart would be waiting for me. I don’t mess around when it comes to dessert.
Dinner: L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge
Where: 7110 N. Lincoln Avenue, Lincolnwood
L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge is ideal for fall nights. Even the restaurant name makes me feel cozy. I mean, pine lodge? Come on. The look lives up to the name as there are lots of hunting cabin touches and classic photos everywhere. My family and I have celebrated many a birthday and graduation there over the years, and we just helped my dad ring in his 72nd birthday there this week. The prices might seem a bit steep for a family dinner, but honestly, the food is so good that it is worth every penny. The ribs are a standout item, and I have to hand it to this place they somehow manage to make a salad feel like comfort food too. With bacon, bleu cheese and pasta tossed in addictive mustard vinaigrette, I find it hard to stop eating the L. Woods Chopped salad.
They turn veggie sides into comfort food, too! Green beans with almonds, corn with a slight char, and creamed spinach … mmm … creamed spinach paraded across our table. Bonus: It is so loud there, that no one batted an eyelash when Isaiah did some good ol’ toddler yelping. A stroll in nearby Proesel Park could be a good fit for a pre- or post-meal wiggle break if you decide to head over with your kiddos as well.