Four spots for a French breakfast
Croissants! Cafe au lait! Crêpes!
The Frenchiness of the Sofitel carries over to its sun-streaked restaurant: The servers have accents. They say bonjour and merci. The men all look a little bit like the French men who appear in romantic daydreams, only maybe a little bit older, and, of course, these guys are not whispering j’adore into your ear. They are whispering: “Try the Nutella pancakes.” Or the housemade croissants. Or the crepes… 20 E Chestnut St (312-324-4063, cafedesarchitectes.com). El: Red to Chicago. Bus: 36, 66, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 151. Breakfast, brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch, dinner. Average main course: $29.
Floriole Cafe & Bakery During her years hawking French pastries at the farmers’ markets, chef Sandra Holl developed a passionate following of superfans. Those fans are no doubt thrilled with this permanent bakery space, as is anybody else who wanders in, since these are, hands down, the best croissants in the city. Superb cakes, dreamy cream puffs, sophisticated (yet also rustic) sandwiches and insane brownies make this bakery a crucial player in Chicago’s culinary scene. Evening hours bring opportunity to enjoy Holl’s creations while sipping on wine and beer. 1220 W Webster Ave (773-883-1313, floriole.com). El: Brown, Purple (rush hrs), Red to Fullerton; Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Armitage. Bus: 73, 74. Mon 8am–2pm; Tue–Fri 7am–5:30pm; Sat 8am–5:30pm; Sun 8am–4pm. Average baked good: $4.
Chalk it up to French stubbornness that despite terms prohibiting the sale of coffee to go with his pastries, Vincent Colombet (who also owns the catering company Cook Au Vin) signed a lease on this Logan Square corner for his first retail bakery. Then, recognize that it’s only the passion of a Frenchman that could yield this quality of baguette (sometimes topped with herbs or fantastic cheese), which is among the freshest in Chicago, along with croissants so perfectly flaky that you’ll gladly buy them the only way he can contractually sell them: without an accompanying cappuccino. 2569 N Milwaukee Ave (773-358-2569, cook-au-vin.com). El: Blue to Logan Square. Bus: 56, 74. Mon noon–7pm; Tue–Sat 8am–7pm; Sun 9am–6pm. Average bread: $3.
Thick wood tables for communal dining stretch down the middle of this room, surrounded by smaller tables for a more intimate experience. In the morning, they’re packed with families and tourists fueling up on pricey cappuccinos and buttery croissants. In the evening, however, you’re likely to have the place to yourself. Which is curious, because we love the simple, French fare: rustic charcuterie plates and crunchy Alsatian tarts resembling thin-crust pizzas. 108 E Superior St (312-573-6749, chicago.peninsula.com). El: Red to Chicago. Bus: 3, 66, 145, 146, 147, 151. Breakfast and lunch (daily), dinner (Mon–Sat). Average main course: $16.