The Chicago dining world was a little shaken when word got out that Ina Pinkley, known for decades as the city’s Breakfast Queen, would be closing her namesake restaurant, Ina’s, at the end of the year. She told her loyal customers and newsletter readers:
“Life is like baking a cake. It’s raw for a long time. It’s perfectly baked for a short time, and it’s overbaked forever. I feel like we’re closing at the right time, before we’re ‘overbaked.'”
Like few musicians and film actors retire from showbiz before they’ve exhausted by the public eye, Ina seeks to retire from the Chicago culinary sphere before she overstays her welcome. But, after tasting her signature Heavenly Hots pancakes this past weekend, I can assure you that Ina’s stamp on Chicago breakfast culture will never go away.
What we ate: We overheard what looked and sounded like a regular complimenting Ina’s Heavenly Hots on his way out, so my fiance opted for those. They were, attested by both of us, some of the best pancakes we’d ever had. They were hearty, the perfect level of sweetness, and accompanied by a compote of raspberries, peaches and blueberries.
I opted for one of a special that our server asserted was the best on the menu: huevos rancheros. Normally I resist nontraditional breakfast items for brunch, but our server’s vigor couldn’t be ignored. And boy, was he right. The avocado was lusciously fresh, and the black beans and other integral ingredients perfectly proportioned. I may be converted to a Mexican breakfast lover.
What we drank: The staff, including Ina herself, was apologetic to us for having to wait a mere 15 minutes for a table. Hailing from Logan Square, the neighborhood with amazing restaurants that don’t take reservations, we assumed Ina’s didn’t either. But guess what? They do! (But only over the phone.)
So during our miniature wait time, we were treated to our choice of complimentary drinks at the bar. He chose a Bloody Mary; I had a very rich and delectable cocoa latte served in a glass mug. Their bottomless coffee was great too, from your own personal pitcher on your table.