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Alfresco breakfast: Where to eat breakfast and brunch outdoors in Chicago

Chicago Tribune
Breakfast outdoors? Try 3 alfresco spots recommended by Ina Pinkney.

I remember, clearly and fondly, every year when the outdoor cafe at my restaurant, Ina's, secured the permits, built the fencing, set up the tables and chairs, and was ready for service. On the first day summer decided to stay, I always had the honor of being the first "guest" for breakfast.

There is something sweet about a morning meal outside since many sidewalk cafes, rooftops and patios in the city are reserved for lunch, cocktails or dinner. When I find places that make me feel as though I'm on a mini vacation, they join my list of favorites.

Tre Kronor

Let me begin with the garden. It's lush and tranquil and beautiful, filled with fully grown trees that remind me Tre Kronor has been open since 1992. In that time, we've all matured.

Can you go to a Scandinavian restaurant and not order the omelet with smoked Norwegian salmon, fresh dill and cream cheese? It's an excellent choice, especially with a side of falukou vitkorv, mild veal sausage that reminded me of the Veal Chive we used to serve.

I expected, and got, perfect Swedish pancakes. The surprise dish was the hash and eggs. I expected a corned beef hash with potatoes and sauteed onions to be salty, but it was perfectly balanced.

With a latte and a classic Swedish cinnamon roll, I wanted to stay all day.

What's missing? Absolutely nothing.

Of note: Weekends are really, really busy. Treat yourself to a weekday visit.

Find it: 3258 W. Foster Ave., 773-267-9888, http://www.trekronorrestaurant.com

Hours: Monday to Saturday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunrise Cafe

There are some places that just feel like a hug when you enter. The owners are there, the staff is busy, the booths and tables are filled with people eating and the smell of breakfast food permeates the air.

Sunrise Cafe is one of those places. No wonder this welcoming spot has been here since 2004. Sitting out back, on the covered patio by the fountain, it's easy to forget that you're on busy Chicago Avenue.

The Italiano scramble called to me instantly, with a combination of Italian sausage, sauteed red peppers, spinach and mozzarella that lived up to my expectations. And I love a place that delivers hash browns really well done when asked.

Since Sunrise serves the breakfast and lunch menu all day, I tried the gourmet grilled cheese sandwich too. Bread with brie, Swiss, cheddar and ham is breakfast, right?

What's missing? The sign in the window says the restaurant serves Intelligentsia Coffee, but the blend they're using just isn't full bodied enough to stand up to the flavors of the food.

Of note: Breakfast and lunch served all day.

Find it: 2012 W. Chicago Ave., 773-276-8290, http://www.sunrisecafechicago.com

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

Esencia Urban Kitchen

About three years ago, driving by the corner of Broadway and West Roscoe Street, I noticed a sign announcing an urban kitchen. I stopped in once to get coffee and was taken with the clean, bright space.

The colorful umbrellas and flowers on the side patio made me stop recently to eat. And I'm so glad I did.

I was joined by Michael Fiddler, the executive chef at the Trump International Hotel & Tower, who is a wonderful friend and dining companion. And with two of us, I could order more!

The kitchen's signature sandwich of fried eggs, house pesto, bacon, manchego cheese and arugula on sourdough bread was so good I insisted Michael try mine before he cut into his huevos rancheros, which looked and tasted great.

He took a bite and put into words something I hope we have all experienced: "This is perfect, right away. No second or third bite necessary to see if it gets better." He was so right.

We shared the lemon ricotta pancakes, served with bananas and berry sauce, but couldn't do them justice since we'd gobbled up every bit of our dishes. Lattes and a muffin sealed the meal into a perfect memory.

What's missing? Absolutely nothing.

Of note: Lots of street parking during the week.

Find it: 3351 N. Broadway, 773-472-8553, http://www.esenciachicago.com

Hours: Sunday, Monday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; closed Tuesday; Wednesday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pinkney is a freelance writer.

thebreakfastqueen@gmail.com

Twitter @breakfastqueen1

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