Close-to-campus breakfasts

Dorm rooms and studio apartments aren’t the most cooking-friendly spaces, and you can only eat so many Pop-Tarts and granola bars before they start to taste like cardboard. Still, it’s important to fuel up before a long day of classes, especially with midterms just around the corner. So we’ve scoured some of Chicago’s top schools to find the best breakfast spots within walking distance.

DePaul University
Salt & Pepper Diner‘s location, just a half-mile hike from campus, makes this classic eatery a favorite of hungry Blue Demons. The restaurant’s exterior looks like something you might see on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” and it warrants just as much fame. With an entire menu of comfort foods like biscuits and gravy, veggie omelets and as-big-as-your-face breakfast burritos, Salt and Pepper will keep you good and full until your last class of the day rolls around.

You might want to hit the gym before the short walk over to Icosium Kafe. The restaurant offers both sweet and savory crepes, but the sugary stuff (think bananas and Nutella) is a little too hard to resist here—especially when each indulgent order comes out with a scoop of ice cream. Pair your sweet selection with a steamy pot of Turkish coffee, sweetened to your liking.

Photo by Stacy Warden

Photo by Stacy Warden

You could buy an entire bundle of bagels for the cost of just one of Chicago Bagel Authority‘s—but does your cheap find come stacked with sausage, scrambled egg and American cheese? The Egg McMahon is just one of the signature bagels you’ll find gracing the breakfast menu here. Sam’s sunrise is a safe bet for vegetarians, with nothing more than egg and cheese on a plain bagel, and those with a sweet-tooth will love the cream cheese-slathered cinnamon raisin bagel with bananas and sugar.

Loyola University
Susie’s Noon Hour Grill just might be the only place in town where you’ll find authentic bi-bim-bap and a Denver omelet on the same menu. Skip the common stuff and try Susie’s Korean pancakes or the bulgogi and kimchee omelet. In addition to the Denver, Susie’s got a slew of other familiar breakfast items like eggs with hash browns and toast, corn beef hash and ham-and-cheese omelets.

If Susie’s doesn’t strike your fancy, head a couple blocks north to the green-friendly Heartland Cafe. This spot serves up a whole menu of veggie-friendly and organic fare like steel cut oats, hot grits with maple syrup, buckwheat pancakes and the Heartland panhandler with eggs (or tofu), potatoes, mushrooms and green onions. Hearty breakfast fare aside, this is a great spot for anyone studying politics, as there is always an activist or 10 in the crowd.

Linguistics students will have a blast at Dagel and Beli Shop. The tongue-twisting titles don’t stop with the restaurant’s name, either. Just take a look at the menu and you’ll find items like the Clerky Tub on a soppy peed bagel with toasted burkey and rakin’, charp sheddar, lomato and tomaine rettuce. There are plenty of offerings in the Feats and Mish category as well, and you’ll find customer favorites under the menu’s Lost Wanted Mist.

UIC
Clocking in at a mile and a half from campus, the Breakfast Club is a bit of a hike. But that just means you won’t feel as guilty after finishing one of the restaurant’s giant omelets. Better yet, go for a stack of its Belgian waffles, sprinkled with powdered sugar or try the popular whole-wheat version.

Meli Cafe and Juice Bar is a safe bet for fitness freaks. With an entire section of its menu devoted to “healthy habits,” it’s easy to avoid that freshman 15. Options include egg white scramblers, fruit parfaits and baked oatmeal with banana, raisins and brown sugar with a whole slew of healthful smoothies and juices to boot. Meli Cafe isn’t strictly for the health-conscious, though. The restaurant cooks up plenty of indulgent morning staples like omelets, benedicts, skillets, waffles, pancakes and French toast.

The spuds at Hashbrowns are far from your ordinary starchy morning staples. The restaurant uses sweet potatoes in its Southern-inspired signature item. But that’s not the only interesting breakfast spin at this spot. Another favorite is the egg nachos with beans, melted Chihuahua cheese, sour cream and guacamole or Hashbrowns’ signature Maxwell Street omelet with polish sausage, onions and cheese.

Columbia College
Just five blocks from campus, you’ll find the Bongo Room‘s South Loop location. This clean, contemporary corner spot specializes in sweet hotcakes and equally decadent French toast. While you’re debating among the lemon ricotta pancakes, raspberry Oreo flapjacks and pineapple rhubarb French toast, fuel up on a bottomless cup of Intelligentsia coffee.

When the line is too long at Bongo Room, take a walk around the corner to Eleven City Diner (and cross your fingers for immediate seating). If breakfast isn’t your thing, you might change your mind when you see the Tom Waits 2 a.m. special with two eggs, two flapjacks, two bacon, two sausage, potatoes and toast. Or try the diner’s signature challah French toast with strawberries, banana and toasted coconut.

Much like its name, Yolk‘s concept is straight to the point; crack an egg and call it breakfast. But with over 30 egg-inspired dishes, it’s a little more complex than that. If you’re having too difficult a time choosing between the restaurant’s frittatas, omelets and skillets, get the best of everything by creating your own scrambler from a list of meats, veggies and cheeses.

— Stacy Warden

Stacy Warden is a CBB contributor and writer for the Chicago Sun-Times City Guide, Centerstage, and for The Examiner. This piece was first published on Centerstage on Sept. 15, 2008.

You can view more of Stacy’s work at Edibility.

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