Ah, another quarter done in my speech pathology program. It has probably been the most challenging quarters so far, but I came out on the other side ready for another quarter of growth. Plus, Summer has finally arrive in Chicago. While I am more of a fan of winter since I am part White Walker as well as a weirdo,
I do enjoy all of the great activities the city offers when the sun is shining and everyone is out of hibernation mode. Today’s post is a little delayed but better late than never!
While New York is often known for its skyscrapers as well as their 9/11 tower that took away the Sears Tower’s status as the tallest building in America, skyscrapers were invented in Chicago all the way back in 1884/1885. Between then and now, we have gotten enough practice constructing these towering behemoths to include elements of work and play. Enter Cindy’s, a.k.a. the jewel of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.
This establishment did not exist back in 1893 when some of the biggest names in Chicago and world industry such as Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormack, and William Wrigley (the very same as the gum company) came together to create the Chicago Athletic Association. Mr. Wrigley even went on to adopt the association’s logo to be the symbol for a certain Northside baseball team that just broke a 108 year World Series curse.
It became a hub for the richest socialites to get their sweat on as well as some of the biggest athletes from the turn of the early 20th century such as Johnny Weissmuller who went gold five times in Olympic swimming and also was Tarzan. It was a male-only club up until 1975, but by then it was a slowly decaying institution that eventually closed in 2007. Thankfully, a hotel consortium reopened the doors to the new Chicago Athletic Association Hotel where they restored the edifice to its former glory and then some to create a feast for the eyes.
I had never been to this hotel even though I’ve lived here all my life, but as always, my fiancée Janice/her friends managed to find a new brunch place to check out. It was a beautiful day to enjoy the view from Cindy’s where we could look out over Millenium Park and the harbor. It is one of the most popular skyscraper balconies in the city, so I highly recommend you make reservations. However, based on our experience, we were not sure why it is so in demand as a brunch venue aside from its ultramodern design. We were sat at a low bench table with a box for a table.
We looked over the menu to find a variety of drinks and breakfast staples such as pancakes and eggs Benedict but with ridiculous prices even for sharable dishes. 25 bucks for a yogurt parfait? Unless it came served in the holy grail, a bowl of yogurt should never cost that much. The cocktails were not up to snuff either since their old fashion ($16) was oddly sour and my Moody Tongue porter ($25) was strangely tinny tasting. Maybe it was an off day, but the wait staff was also not very attentive since it took a good while to get our server to exchange our drinks for better made ones. Then there was the food. It was the best part of the experience aside from the seating arrangement. Our group ended up sharing a cast iron quiche Lorraine ($34), croque madame ($30), and cast iron chilaquiles ($29). There was a lot of food that eventually was brought out to our table, but the quality still wasn’t worth the exorbitant prices. Plus, the seating arrangement was not ideal for taller patrons like yours truly. I say this because my knees were level with the low box table which meant I had to lean forward and downward to an extreme degree in order to avoid spilling my food. Out of the three dishes we sampled, the chilaquiles were the best followed by the croque madame, and then the quiche. The chilaquile’s mixture of eggs, chorizo, crema, and peppers were a much-needed punch of Latin american flavor and spice for an otherwise mild brunch. The croque madame is a French invention originally named the croque monsieur. The name croque monsieur roughly translates to “Mr. Bite” because it was originally designed to be a cafe sandwich to be quickly eaten in Parisian cafes. The croque madame was a riff on the croque monsieur when a fried egg was placed atop its brioche top slice. The floppy egg was said to resemble an old-fashioned lady’s hat, hence the “Madame” moniker. At Cindy’s, we had many ladies in our presence with how many eggs were residing on our sandwich. The sandwich was extremely rich and buttery with the melted Gruyère cheese and bechamel sauce, and the ham brought a very slight smoky element to the flavor profile.
The frisee salad on the side was less a side salad and more of an ornamental lawn to this monstrous mansion of meat. This would be an idea meal for a powerlifter who needs a ton of protein really quickly after working out at the Athletic club in the hotel. As for the quiche, this Middle Ages classic brought the original recipe back to life with plenty of egg custard, bacon, cheese, and onions. I’m not a big egg fan, so this plate was lower on my list. Janice loves eggs more than I do, and she said it was okay but not great.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend Cindy’s for brunch, but it would be a great place to grab drinks before going out on the town on the Mag Mile, a night-cap at 2 am on Saturdays, or some hair of the dog the following Sunday morning. Now go out there and enjoy summertime in Chicago for all it’s worth!