Client meetings are like wifi outages - they can happen anytime, including at breakfast. Unlike your internet going down, you can usually plan ahead for them. But when you have a morning meeting planned, you can’t just take them to any restaurant. You need a place that’s quiet enough for a conversation, hopefully takes reservations, and has food options that will appeal to just about everyone. Here are 12 corporate-card-worthy breakfast spots that meet all these criteria.
Beatrix works well for a variety of situations - for instance, breakfast with a client who probably owns a Peloton bike. And both the Fulton Market and River North locations are good choices for a sit-down, kind-of-healthy breakfast. You’ll find options like oatmeal and yogurt granola bowls, plus more substantial dishes like quinoa cakes with poached eggs. And in case the meeting doesn’t go well, you can stop by the pastry counter on your way out to pick up something to stress eat later.
This place is hidden on the second floor of the Chicago Athletic Association hotel, across from Millenium Park. And the dark, windowless restaurant is ideal if you want to have a secretive meal and not worry that anyone can see you. The space feels a little like a turn-of-the-century lodge, or maybe the location for an Eyes Wide Shut situation. The breakfast menu is pretty standard (with dishes like baked eggs) but the food is good. Plus afterward, you can go visit The Bean.
You might be surprised to learn that Chicago Cut - an expensive steakhouse in River North - also serves breakfast. It’s at the bottom of an office building, and full of successful-looking people in power suits. So it can feel a little like being at a corporate zoo, but the food is excellent, and the dining room has an impressive view of the Chicago River. Plan a hostile takeover while eating the surf-and turf-benedict, or steak and eggs.
If you need a place more conducive to pitching your idea of candles made from banana peels instead of corporate takeovers, consider going to Lula Cafe in Logan Square. This place pretty much feels like the restaurant incarnation of a farmers market. That also means the menu changes often, but there are some staples, like a smoked trout omelet, a breakfast burrito, and tofu and vegetable scramble. And unlike your new business venture, whatever you get will be good.
The West Loop doesn’t have the same corporate drone-filled atmosphere as River North and the Loop, and there are not as many people having business meals. But that doesn’t mean they don’t happen, and Cira is a great option if you want someplace sort-of-upscale in the neighborhood. The food is Mediterranean inspired, with dishes like shakshuka and yogurt with whipped tahini. The large space has plenty of big comfortable booths, which everyone knows is the right place to discuss Important Business.
This French cafe at the bottom of the Peninsula hotel is a little busier and noisier than most of the spots on this list. But it’s a good idea if your business meal is with clients who are also secretly tourists - the kind who after meeting you over quiche lorraine, head straight to the Hancock Observatory and then the Lego store.
The Allis is the restaurant attached to Soho House, so it’s a great place to have a breakfast with a freelancer who’s more creative, and (if they’re a member) probably making more money than you. The large comfortable space reminds us of a giant living room - which should help your contractor friend feel right at home. Order dishes like avocado toast or chia pudding, and see if they’ll invite you afterward to go hang at the pool.
You need someplace to take a client who has very little imagination and/or a vintage scotch collection. That’s when Steadfast comes in handy. It’s an upscale restaurant in the Kimpton Hotel and has the kind of mid-century feel that’s slightly formal. Everything they serve is nicely plated and the classic breakfast dishes - like waffles and eggs benedict - are really good.
We really like going to this Italian spot for any kind of meal that we want to feel professional, but still be a little laid back. Nico’s breakfast menu is short, but has some standouts, like the soft scrambled eggs with ciabatta and prosciutto, or the eggs in purgatory. And while there’s a good chance you’ll be able to walk in and get a table, make a reservation if you don’t want to sit side-by-side at the long chef’s counter, like kids in the back of a station wagon.
This Gold Coast spot has fantastic food and a well-rounded menu that will work for just about anyone. You can order anything from ricotta pancakes to cheddar omelets to gooey coffee cake, and count on all of it being impressive. And although Somerset is decorated a little like a yacht and located in a neighborhood full of luxury bag-dogs, it’s actually a pretty low-key place to start your workday.
Thanks to the cement tabletops, clear plastic chairs, and brick walls, Jam in Logan Square already feels more like a tech company’s conference room than somewhere you’d go for breakfast. But this upscale spot has beautifully-plated food that’s also really good. The menu changes, but there are a few staples including hot chicken and waffles, and thick french toast with pink peppercorns. Consider tossing the hot chicken back and forth in lieu of an “idea ball”.
OK, so Lou Mitchell’s is one spot on this guide that doesn’t take reservations. But if you need to have an early morning meeting with an out-of-town client who probably watches Chicago Tours on PBS, take them here. This classic diner has been around for over 90 years, and its location between the Loop and Greektown also makes it convenient for people who work downtown (and Geoffrey Baer).