As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block has ceased publication. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. 

TODAY

Sunday, February 17

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


Airbags

Waiting more than an hour for a seat at brunch on a Saturday morning when your stomach is rumbling and your body's need for caffeine is causing uncontrollable tremors is one thing; finding yourself at the mercy of smug host while in this situation is quite another. Care for a dollop of attitude on top of your pancakes? Well, then I most certainly will direct you to Room 12.

To be fair, I should admit that I have only been once to this daytime eatery (from the same owners as Wicker Park's The Bongo Room) located in the burgeoning South Loop. Frankly, once was one too many times for me. However, as I usually prefer making a few visits to a place before writing disparaging comments, I will try to limit my complaining about my bad experience with the staff and instead concentrate on describing the food and atmosphere.

I've already mentioned the long wait -- quite typical of trendy brunch spots on weekend mornings -- but what frustrated me the most about Room 12 was the buildup of anticipation during this hour and then the disappointment that ensued at the restaurant's inability to live up to the self-ascribed hype.

As a prime example of what I'm talking about, I was anxious to see the dining room, which lies to the left of the waiting area, obscured from view. The clink of breakfast dishes and the cheerful chatter of diners had me fantasizing about a stylish, inventive space, but no matter how much I craned my neck, I couldn't see around the corner. Once I was (finally) led into the dining area, however, I couldn't help but be disappointed: The room was loud, cramped and sparsely decorated, resembling the inside of a CB2 store. The wooden bench I was sitting on was not my idea of comfort, especially after my hour standing outside.

Despite its uninspired interior, the menu (which is essentially the same as at The Bongo Room) looked promising -- a long list of appetizing items featuring atypical, yet mouth-watering, ingredients. With items like strawberry-rhubarb brioche French toast and crab cake eggs benedict, I had a tough time making a decision.

However, once the food arrived, the chocolate tower French toast proved to be the only menu item that really lived up to its description. This was four slabs of thick, chocolatey bread stuffed with sweet maple mascarpone and covered with a delicious banana creme brulee sauce. As if this weren't decadent enough, now picture melted bittersweet chocolate and white chocolate shavings on top -- it was definitely one of the most creative and best-tasting breakfast choices I've sampled in a long, long time.

Unfortunately, the rest of the menu was sort of a tease; the descriptions touted heavenly ingredients and unique pairings, yet the reality of these dishes failed to live up to our great expectations. The banana and strawberry sundae cream hotcakes were definitely a sight to behold -- a heaping portion of huge pancakes ladled with a bright pink yogurt sauce and sprinkled with fresh strawberry and banana pieces -- however, the taste left something to be desired. The pancakes were heavy (finishing even one was a formidable task), and the sauce had the strong aspartame taste of low fat yogurt that overpowered any sort of sweetness in the pancakes or the fruit.

The shrimp and bean burrito was also disappointing. I had high hopes for what the menu described as a spinach tortilla stuffed full with layers of white bean puree, fresh rock shrimp, guacamole and scrambled eggs. In reality, the whole mess of ingredients was indistinguishable in taste from each other; I ended up pouring an entire ramekin of salsa on the burrito to give it some sort of flavor.

The biggest letdown of the day, however, were the mint Oreo hotcakes. The name alone made my stomach growl; alas, the pancakes (again, too heavy) had only a dusting of Oreo powder and a wet, minty cream sauce on top -- not at all the enticing dish I had so eagerly craved. The dish was edible, but at $8.25 (and bearing the moniker of my favorite childhood treat) I expected something more impressive.

For all of my complaining, the one thing that I do appreciate at Room 12 is the half orders: for half the price you can get a half-sized portion of most items on the menu. The chocolate tower French toast is amazing, but to finish an entire order would be an enormous digestive undertaking. The half-order option allows you to sample a bunch of options without ending the meal with a stomach ache. I definitely think this is a policy that many brunch places should institute.

Overall, the food and atmosphere at Room 12 isn't at all bad; it just doesn't provide the high quality experience that the inventive menu and throngs of patrons would suggest. On the bright side, the menu has a lot of potential, provided the kitchen simplifies things a bit and comes up with some better executed menu items.

And as for the aforementioned smug host, he can have his $8 pancakes and eat them, too; I won't be returning any time soon.

Room 12 is located at 1152 S. Wabash. The menu items are priced from $8.25-$11.95.

GB store
 

About the Author(s)

Kim Conte loves to write and eat, and dreams that one day someone will pay her a lot to do both.

If you feel the need to get in touch with her directly, do so at .

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15