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Music is the perfect side dish to Sunday brunch


For the Sun-Times

Sunday Brunch with a side of country, jazz or blues? It’s a Southern tradition that has made its way north to the Windy City and feels right at home — especially in the blistery cold.

“It all ties together, comfort food and music that touches your soul. They’re both good for the soul,” said Ed Warm, music manager at Bub City, which features live country acts to complement its “downhome” Sunday brunch. “It’s acoustic, but we’ll do full-band acoustic. We’ve had five- and six-piece bands here, but it’s all unplugged. So you can still talk to your brunch mates.”

The live music Sunday brunch at Bub City, spotlighting emerging artists from Nashville and local favorites, has been so popular, the restaurant is planning on expanding it to Saturday and Sunday next summer. “It’s been great. We actually noticed we do better business when we have live music than when the Bears are playing — well, the Bears playing didn’t help either,” Warm joked.

Looking to dance off your French toast — or in this case, Huckleberry Bread Pudding French Toast? Head to the South Side. The Promontory in Hyde Park is kicking off its “Brass Band Brunch” on Jan. 25, with the Lowdown Brass Band, a New Orleans-inspired 10-piece brass band.

“One of my favorite experiences was doing the Commander’s Palace brunch down in New Orleans, it was one of those great experiences,” said Bruce Finkelman, owner of The Promontory, a restaurant and music venue. “We’ve been looking to bring together food and music and create a celebratory brunch experience.”

Here are five Chicago restaurants that have elevated brunch to an art form.

The Beef Brisket Benedict at Bub City  | COURTESY OF BUB CITY

The Beef Brisket Benedict at Bub City. | Courtesy photo

Bub City, 435 N. Clark, (312) 610-4200; bubcitychicago.com

Live Music Brunch: Country acts perform on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Why go? Live country bands playing a range of artists from Kris Kristofferson to Merle Haggard to Dolly Parton. “You’re always hearing ‘Wagon Wheel’ — you can’t escape it in a honky tonk,” said Warm, who books the bands for the restaurant. Like the music, the menu has country flair. “I love the Smoked Brisket Benedict, Fried Chicken Biscuit Sandwich, the Jalapeno and Hot Link Hash Browns,” said Chef Doug Psaltis. “It’s a health-conscious crowd!” Brunch entrees range from $5 for hash browns to $16 for beef brisket.

House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, (312) 923-2000; houseofblues.com/chicago

Live Music Brunch: On Sundays, all-you-can-eat gospel brunches are served at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 ($25 for children 6 to 12 years, under 5 years, free).

Why go? The venue’s world-famous gospel brunch is known for its heart-pumping music and soulful cuisine — think chicken and waffles, jambalaya, smoked brisket and macaroni and cheese. But the music, that’s what makes this real entertainment. “The gospel will make it hard for you to sit still in your seat,” said Jade Ingardona, spokeswoman at HOB. Artists have included Gregg & Friends, William Smith Jr. and the Renewed Voices and Travis Douglas and Determined.

The Huckleberry French Toast at The Promontory in Chicago. | COURTESY OF THE PROMONTORY

The Huckleberry French Toast at The Promontory in Chicago. | Courtesy photo

The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue West, (312) 801-2100; promontorychicago.com

Live Music Brunch: The Brass Band Brunch, starring the Lowdown Brass Band, debuts on Jan. 25, from 11:30 to 2 p.m. The band will perform one Sunday a month and tickets are $50.

Why go? If the sound of trumpets, trombones and saxophones get your appetite going, get ready to feast — then boogie down. The Southern-laced brunch menu, created by Chef Matthew Sliwinski, features Eggs Sardou, with braised artichoke, creamed spinach, creole hollandaise and cheese grits, and Huckleberry Bread Pudding French Toast with vanilla mascarpone and honey crumble. “The band is full of energy and a lot of fun to watch,” said owner Finkelman. “It will give people a chance to eat some great brunch and dance it away.”

The Rabbit & Waffles at River Roast. | COURTESY OF RIVER ROAST

The Rabbit & Waffles at River Roast. | Courtesy photo

River Roast, 315 N. LaSalle, (312) 822-0100; riverroastchicago.com

Live Music Brunch: The “Blues and Brews Brunch” is every Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Acts vary by day, and January’s lineup includes Mike Wheeler and Toronzo Cannon.

Why go? Love the Blues and a rich, stick-to-your-bones brunch? So does Chef John Hogan. “I went to the Blues regions of America for some of the flavor profiles—the Carolinas, Memphis, New Orleans, the Mississippi Delta, Texas,” Hogan said. “Blues is an American art form just like food.” Some of the chef’s favorite dishes include the Biscuits and Gravy, $10, Red Wine Poached Egg and Peas, $12, and Rabbit and Waffles, $12.

Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport, (773) 525-2508; schubas.com

Live Music Brunch: The Acoustic Brunch, featuring different live acts each week, is on Sunday from noon to 2 p.m.

Why go? The Acoustic Brunch is in its fourth year at Schubas Tavern, with Peggy Browning, of the Old Town School of Folk Music, curating the acts. “It’s very family-friendly. It’s not overly loud. Rather than a regular brunch, there’s a little twist. You can watch music while you have your coffee, bloody Mary or eggs,” said Mike Schuba, owner of the 25-year-old Schubas Tavern. Schuba said Browning does a great job bringing in a diverse array of artists. “There’s some country, bluegrass, more jazzy-type acts,” he said. “We switch things up.” Signature brunch items include the Fried Chicken and Biscuits with Sausage Gravy, $11, and Tex-Mex dishes like the Chilaquiles, $9.75, scrambled eggs with corn tortillas, salsa and Chihuahua cheese.

Kristin Larson is a local freelance writer.