Sometimes the restaurants we visit regularly become so familiar we forget how special they actually are. I had this realization the other day while getting ready to meet a friend at Birchwood Kitchen in Wicker Park. I’ve enjoyed this place for years yet haven’t given it any blog love! To make up for this oversight I made sure my phone was fully charged and prepared for some serious photo-taking. My friend, who is moving to Austin, TX at the end of the month, just had to endure it :)
2211 W. North Ave (Wicker Park)
Tu-Fri: 9am-9pm; Sat & Sun: 9am-4pm
Very typical/reasonable for hip-ish brunch spots. Breakfast entrees range from $8-11, and lunch plates about a dollar higher. A meal–including tea/coffee/juice, an entree, and starter–will be about $15. I can jive with that.
Bright, airy, but still cozy, Birchwood has been a tumblr-photo dream since 2009 when it opened. Tall windows let swaths of winter sun pour in, fresh flowers grace each table, and delicate dark wood paneling accents vanilla bean ice cream-colored walls. Apologies for the super specific color name, but that’s what it is. The folks enjoying the atmosphere? Mostly pairs of friends catching up, creative professionals on lunch breaks, and Wicker Park moms who managed to ditch their strollers for an hour.
I always opt for breakfast at Birchwood, even though the lunch-ier items are equally enticing. This time was no different, and I ordered my usual: the Market Vegetable Scramble, which pairs seasonal veggies with tangy goat cheese, fresh herbs, and eggs, then scrambles them all to a hot, golden, fluffy perfection. The vegetables on this particular day were butternut squash and spicy arugula, two of my favorite things on the planet. The meal also comes with a crunchy slice of multigrain toast, a dish of creamy butter, and roasted breakfast potatoes. Let’s just say I wasn’t complaining. Other breakfast recommendations include the Avocado Toast, the Croque Vert (Croque Madame minus the ham and plus roasted veggies), and Steel-Cut Oatmeal with carmelized apples. I chose to wash my meal down with Earl Grey tea from Rishi, but Metropolis coffee and fresh juice are also available.
If you’re not the breakfast type, there are options for you at Birchwood. I don’t understand you on a fundamental level, but there are options. I suggest the Spice Roasted Squash with pecorino and hazelnuts on a wheatberry salad or the Grilled Gruyere with mustard roasted kale on sourdough. Mmm. My friend got the Root Vegetable Stew, which came with golden herb dumplings, leeks, and chard, and was very tasty in a rustic sort of way.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. Birchwood Kitchen has this awesome habit of pickling colorful vegetables in house and plating them beautifully for us to devour. And devour we did. I have a hard time going to Birchwood (or anywhere for that matter) and not getting the house pickles as a starter. On this day the selection was turmeric cauliflower, cumin carrots, beets, red onion, and the classic cucumbers. Wonderful. I do miss the pickled fennel, though, which was an inspired creation of the sous-chef Alex Gonzalez, an acquaintance of mine from college.
The Bamboo Factor
The Market Vegetable Scramble is not the only dish that rotates according to the season. The folks at Birchwood try to plan the menu according to what’s fresh, local, and available during that part of the year. Not only do they change specials with the time of year (ex: January was National Soup Month), but also they adjust components of certain dishes, and source a portion of the ingredients from local farms to try to keep things sustainable. I wish Birchwood gave a list of the specific farms for a little more transparency, but I guess I’ll take their word for it.
Overall, four throwing stars. See you again soon, Birchwood.