Location – 6 E Chestnut St, on the corner of Chestnut and State
In one word – Bustle
Food – Having moved huge masses of people in and out of its doors over the years, Tempo is a Gold Coast/Chicago institution and a well-oiled brunch machine. It’s a good place to take big groups and out-of-town visitors, and while my high school girlfriends were visiting me this weekend Tempo did not disappoint.
Here’s how the production line works. First, you wait for a table. Reservations aren’t accepted for Saturday or Sunday, so unfortunately this prerequisite is part of the Tempo weekend brunch experience. Get there early (before 9:30) or late (after 12) and depending on the size of your party you’re more likely to be looking at a wait that’s 15-20 minutes or less.
Once you’re seated you’ll be faced with a more pleasant challenge: choosing what to order. Their menu is huge and has something for everyone. Try one of their legendary 3 egg omelets served with a thick slice of white or wheat toast, home-made marmalade and crispy, country-fried potatoes ($8-$14). A Tempo omelet is truly a thing of beauty. It is basically an open-faced frittata the size of a Frisbee (I dare you to finish an entire one on your own). Whether you order it with egg-whites-only or not, it is as light and fluffy as a Sarah Palin interview answer, and there’s a huge variety of ingredients to choose from. Between the eight of us, our group sampled the Artemis (artichoke, tomatoes and Swiss), the Veggie (spinach, zucchini, and broccoli), and the State Street (broccoli, ham, mushroom, tomato). If you ever try either the Jamaican omelet (banana, walnut, honey) or the Michigan omelet (apple, cheddar), let me know how it is–I’ve always wanted to try them but can never stray from my usual orders. Our group also tried the Banana-nut Buckwheat Waffle ($12), topped with a heap of banana slices, walnut confetti, and thick maple syrup, and the Eggs Benedict ($12), which had a smooth, tangy hollandaise that had it’s way with everyone (cholesterol schmolesterol). No matter what you order there’s a good chance that even after you stuff yourself, there will still be so much food left over that you’ll leave feeling slightly inadequate.
Drink – Order a smoothie ($4)—we tried the Casablanca, a combo of cantaloupe, strawberry, and fresh orange juice—or you can get just a freshly squeezed glass of juice ($4)—I recommend carrot-apple. Pop, coffee, and specialty coffee drinks are available, but coffee hounds be forewarned—there are no free refills.
Service – The staff here are seasoned pros and they do not mess around. The service is usually impersonal, but very efficient. You’re expected to order quickly, but you can expect your food to arrive just as quickly. Plan ahead, because if you’re going during Sat/Sun brunch rush-hour you will not be seated until your entire party has arrived. They only accept cash, so leave your credit or debit cards at home.
Scene – There’s not much to the decor; Tempo is basically a clean, bright, busy diner. If it’s nice out, try to stick out the wait so you can sit in their great outdoor patio area—you’ll be rewarded with some top-notch people watching. Their clientele runs the gamut—you’ll see tourists, locals, students, families, big groups, couples, Chicago’s finest and more.
Dress – There is no dress code. Tempo is open 24/7 so depending on what time you go, you could wear PJs to sweats to yoga-wear to jeans.
Cost – About $13-$15 per person before tip.
If you like, try… Ann Sathers, Yolk
Written by hungry yuppie