A common phrase in English is “the breakfast of champions” which is often used to describe a specific foodstuff or collection of drink and food that will transform someone into a winner. However, a tougher title to achieve is “champion of breakfasts”, especially in a big and competitive market like Chicago. Now, I’ve had my fair share of flapjacks, scramblers, and skillets, and it’s really just the tip of the bacon-wrapped iceburg. Not all diners are created equal though. Kanela is one of those special franchises that has slowly, but surely, taken over the Chicago breakfast scene.
“κανέλα” or Kanela means “cinnamon” in Greek, and this Greek American establishment of the same name is a temple to this once rare ingredient. I love my spices and seasoning, but I think that cinnamon is my favorite. Whether it’s in rolls, doughnuts, or French toast, I can’t get enough of the powdery and savory spice. So, when I heard that we would be paying a visit to it for a morning meal, I was over the moon. It had a modest exterior that belied its popularity as people were milling outside waiting for a table. Thankfully, there is free parking nearby and on the street if you’re looking to take a large group to enjoy all of the great breakfast options we soon thereafter started sampling. The place was absolutely poppin’ on a Sunday morning, go figure, but we got a table for two in no time. We started the meal off with drinks. Janice got a Bloody Mary that was extra spicy and made with Absolut Peppar vodka to give it that peppy kick to wake you up and/or chase the mad dog of a hangover from last night away. As for me, I went the healthier route with the PB & J smoothie ($6) which consisted of peanut butter, blueberry, strawberry, and organic agave nectar which is a slightly healthier alternative to regular sugar but much better than artificial sweeteners. Fun fact: the agave is the same plant that tequila is derived from as well, but don’t expect any sort of alcoholic punch with this natural sugar substitute. Surprisingly, this large glass of cooling ambrosia isn’t as sweet as you would imagine. It managed to capture the soul of the elementary lunch school staple with a splash of peanut butter mixing with the sweet fruits and syrup but in a much more understated manner. Once we had our beverages in hand, we started the food fest by sharing an order of monkey bread ($4). It came out and looked simply sinfully delicious. I often wondered why people call it “monkey bread” since it doesn’t look like something a monkey would eat or shaped like some sort of simian. After a bit of research, the origin of the sweet treat’s name is shrouded in mystery, but one theory postulates that its cracked and bumpy surface bears a certain resemblance to the bark of the monkey puzzle tree that grows in South America. With one bite of this appetizer, we went ape. Each piece we pulled apart from the bread was more flavorful than the one that preceded it. The cinnamon dusted on top combined with the honey drizzled on top made it taste like a mixture between a dulce de leche roll I had in Costa Rica and a classic cinnamon roll. Plus, it was slightly warm that pushed this dessert to the next level. For our entrees, Janice got the duck confit hash ($12) while I ordered the spicy feta omelet ($11). First, I have to mention that if you are any type of Greek restaurant or even just a restaurant owned by a Greek, you will get giant portions for your money. Kanela holds to this axiom. The duck confit hash looked mouth-wateringly good especially with the orange truffle vinaigrette that really piqued my interest and taste buds. Thankfully the duck wasn’t too greasy either which can often be a pitfall when ordering the fowl for a meal. As for my spicy feta omelet, I really loved the fresno pepper garnish that served as a flashpoint of the meal. Its bright red skin immediately drew my attention at the newborn baby-sized omelet that was lying in front of me. The ends weren’t that packed with any sort of filling, just fluffy eggs. However, I soon got to the business end of things as I was greeted with a thick pocket of tyrokafteri cheese, red onion, and tomatoes. My advice for anyone wanting to get this is that it’s not terribly spicy, and make sure that you love feta cheese because there’s half of Greece’s supply in just this one omelet. So if you aren’t as big of a cheesehead as me, then consider yourself warned. It’s not for the faint hearted. The onions made a minimal impression on my palate, and the tomatoes were negligible. The potatoes on the side were not too greasy or too dry, and they worked well when mixed with the omelets or just on their own.