Bunches o’ Brunches: The Hampton Social in River North
Welcome to Bunches o’ Brunches, a semi-weekly series featuring superior brunch and breakfast booze from new restaurants and menus throughout Chicago.
You don’t really know a man until you’ve walked in his shoes. But eating at his restaurant is enough.
I’ve never met restaurateur Brad Parker but I imagine him an adult, reformed, successful Chuck Bass. He wears Ralph Lauren, summers in the Hamptons, and subscribes to Town and Country magazine. His restaurant, The Hampton Social, is neatly tucked into one of the most civilized corners of River North, surrounded by plenty of street parking and high-rise condos. Couples pass, hands locked, pulled along by dogs, sometimes children.
Inside, the color palette confesses preppy pride in shades of white and blue, with light accents of gold. On a sunny day, golden rays flood the dining room through large windows and spread a layer of cordiality over white wooden chairs and tables. With the windows open, it all feels like one large patio. Nautical details begin at the entrance, a slightly elevated lounge area that doubles as a stage for acoustic sets. Feathery hammocks hang from the ceiling as flames dance in the center of a fire pit table.
Yes, it’s beautiful inside but is the food any good?
Brunch at The Hampton Social
The menu here isn’t just a nod to Long Island, it is exclusively dedicated to east coast cuisine. Great pains are taken to insure fresh, meaty seafood defines dishes like their tuna tartare, lobster rolls, and crab cakes — which are more crab than cake. That’s a good thing.
We began brunch with drank, as usual: I ordered the Coastal Bloody Mary; a Ballast Point mix with Kettle One Vodka, garnished with cheddar, sausage, pepper, and lime. For Bloody aficionados unfamiliar with Ballast Point, you’ll be happy to know the California brewer uses only ripe tomatoes, peppers and spices in their mix. It tastes fresh and pairs well with the smoothness of Kettle One. My husband ordered the Grassy Knoll which reminded him of the agua fresca de pepino (a Mexican cucumber lime drink) his mom used to make. Refreshing. Perfect for the patio like feel of the restaurant.
I recommend two appetizers, the Tuna Tartare and Crab Cakes, which represent the menu well. The Tuna Tartar is perfect in its simplicity, made with avocado, and the freshest tuna the buyer could find. Fresh wantons serve as chips for this spicy fish salsa.
The Crab Cakes, as said, are made with more crab than most. With each forkful, the cake crumbles as large chunks of crab spill out of the patty and onto the plate. I could’ve just eaten these, along with my Bloody Mary, and left plenty full.
But I continued on. I’m no quitter.
Two of THS’s best main brunch entrees, casual in design but serious about seafood, are the lobster roll and the lobster BLT. The perfect lobster roll is all about two things, the sweet taste of fresh lobster, and the buttery lob-roll-specific bun. Not just any bun will do and of course the restaurant hits the nail on the head here with their Hampton Roll. Order it Manhattan-style (buttery) or Maine-style (creamy).
The L.B.L.T. stands out with poached lobster, avocado mayo, and bacon. Bacon. All on multi-grain bread. I found this one, while delicious, difficult to handle — literally. If you don’t usually eat your sandwiches with a knife and fork, I suggest you start if ordering this doozy.
Please, please, PLEASE try the Key Lime Cheesecake. That’s all I can say. Please. Just do it.
- Drink: Coastal Bloody Mary
- Start: Crab Cakes
- Brunch: Hampton Roll
- End: Key Lime Cheesecake
Semi-recently, the basement of The Hampton Social was converted into a live music speakeasy. It’s called the The Bassment. Get it?
The Hampton Social
353 W. Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654
Disclosure: As is common with restaurant reviews, meals were provided by The Hampton Social. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, Kari Herrera, and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of The Hampton Social.