Börk, Börk, Börk...

In a Stickies note in the corner of my desktop, I keep a very important to-do list. But, instead of appointments and deadlines, this list details a collection of experiences I would like to have in my beloved city. There are festivals, parades, public events, and even restaurants that I have yet to try, but feel like I should in order to be a better Chicagoan. This weekend, with the assistance of Lauren, I was able to scratch a new item off my list by having breakfast at Ann Sather, a Chicago dining institution.

Ann Sather is a 63 year-old Swedish restaurant on the city's North Side, owned and operated by a Chicago alderman, who purchased the location from Ann Sather herself, and successfully turned the popular breakfast spot into a local franchise. Its claim to fame is its cinnamon buns, which, despite 24 years of living in the city, and the fact that they are offered at Taste of Chicago, I had never sampled.

For me, cinnamon rolls are serious business. Cinnamon is my favorite spice, but more than that, cinnamon rolls are powerfully linked in my mind with my grandmother. Grandma Betsy, the family baker and role model for my own kitchen aspirations, has always had cinnamon rolls for breakfast when we go visit. She makes them up when nobody is around and she has ample time, then individually freezes them so they would ready if anybody wants one. Just pop one in the microwave, and there is sweet, oozy, yeasty, cinnamon-y goodness at the ready. She might never stick to the same recipe more than once, but 95% of the time, her creations are magical.

Since I'm not quite ready to take a stab at making them myself, I was more than willing to let Ann Sather do the work for me, and I was delighted to find that the restaurant's reputation for excellence was well-founded. Their rolls were pure perfection; I didn't even mind the deluge of icing, and that's saying a lot. Astonishingly, two cinnamon buns constitute one side dish -- a side dish which would constitute a meal unto itself for any normal mortal. Still, I couldn't resist the siren song of sampling traditional Swedish fare for the first time.

After all, how often does life present you with the opportunity to eat Swedish food, outside of Sweden? It is moments like this that make me appreciate all the unique opportunites afforded by living in a major metropolis...

Since my other plans for the day involved eating again in a few hours, Lauren and I decided to split a Swedish Breakfast sampler, which consisted of a Swedish meatball (naturally), a Swedish pancake served with the obligatory lingonberry jam, eggs, and a piece of potato sausage. Our fantastic waitress even went the extra mile by splitting our food onto two plates for us so we wouldn't have to fight over the more choice morsels. Surprisingly, given my profound love of what Anthony Bordain terms "meat in tube form," the potato sausage was not my favorite part of the entree. Although I love potatoes, and I love sausage, I think it is better that they never combine in a single, homogenously textured meat product. The Swedish meatball was much tastier, and it was certainly nothing like this:

I was definitely glad that I finally had the chance to check out Ann Sather, even if we had settled upon the ungodly hour of 9:30 on a weekend to do it. But, I must concede the wisdom of Lauren's plan: as we left at 10:30, a formidable line had formed. It seemed the entirity of it was populated by people reading to each other from Chicago travel guides, trying to convince their travel companions of the import of the Ann Sather experience when they could probably obtain food much more quickly elsewhere. I almost wanted to tell them that after waiting 24 years myself, Ann Sather would be well-worth the wait.


  1. I haven't had one of grandma's cinnamon rolls in YEARS! Thanks for the craving.
    And 9:30 is an ungodly hour?!?! Really?!?!

  2. 9:30 is an ungodly hour on a Saturday. Plus, I had to leave at 8:40 to get there. So basically, I had to wake up at the same time to have breakfast on a Saturday that I would wake up to go to work Monday-Friday. Considering my SERIOUS love of sleeping in, it was a good thing those cinnamon rolls were so tasty!