As the weather gets lovelier and people start partying more and wearing less, I instantly think of two things: Patios and breakfast. So today I’m revisiting one of my first favorite places to eat in Chicago in the hopes that you’ll visit and fall in love like I did: Cornerstone Café.
Positioned on the corner of Western and Elston at the cusp of Logan Square and Avondale, Cornerstone Café is a classic Mom-and-Pop owned eatery. Everything you want from such a place exists inside of this quaint little joint. Huge plates of heavy food and sides of pancakes (topped with the biggest scoop of butter ever) are a give-in, but it’s the small extras that make it really special. The booths and tables provide excellent people watching for those waiting for the #49 bus going north or walking to Target. Because of the triangular layout of the place, there’s an oddly-shaped bar in the middle where you can enjoy Lavazza coffee while getting to know the always-present owners and charming waitresses. Ah yes, they carry Cholula. Instant win.
But while this diner-cum-café offers all kinds of dishes from breakfast to sandwiches, there’s one specific dish that they’re known for, and my own mouth is watering just thinking about it. Corned beef hash with eggs and pancakes. Perhaps it’s due to my upbringing in the South, but I’m a firm believer that cooking a good corned beef hash is an art. Think about it: You have to put together the right amount of potatoes so not to have too much filler, enough corned beef to give every bite that salty, meaty taste, and then you have to cook all of it well. It’s tough, but Cornerstone Café follows what I consider the golden rule of a good dish, and that’s simple ingredients = better.
Cornerstone chooses to make theirs with chipped Vienna beef (never seen this anywhere else) which sit on a bed of well-seasoned potatoes then topped with a blanket of scrambled eggs and sit in a skillet-shaped dish. Trust me when I say that your entire view of corned beef hash will be forever changed from the first bite. Every good omnivore in Chicago already knows how great Vienna beef is, so that isn’t a surprise. However, once these thin strips of fatty corned beef meet the grill something beautiful happens; they brown a little, so some of the slices are crispy for a millimeter before going back to tender again. That short stack of pancakes I mentioned sits alongside and can be topped with various fruits for a small fee. Go crazy and top your corned beef hash with Cholula or ketchup. It’s good. Don’t be pretentious.
If you’re a pescetarian but still want a deliciously fatty breakfast, order their smoked salmon omelette. Big chunks of smoked salmon are mixed with scallions and eggs, while what seems like about half-a-stick of cream cheese waits for you inside. Did I mention that the corned beef hash costs $8.25 and the smoked salmon omelette costs $10.95? This place is awesome. Enjoy.