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Despite Kinks, Nana Off To Noble Start

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Sep 11, 2009 6:00PM

Odds were solid that the bustle of a restaurant kitchen would be music to the ears of Christian and Omar. Their father Jose owns and operates Bridgeport mainstay Tacos Erendira and makes one of our favorite al pastor tacos in the city. Mother Maria is the sugar behind the spice of North Center's Café 28 as its longtime pastry chef. Now the sons enter the cutthroat world of restaurants with a concept that's downright bold in a neighborhood whose idea of brunch is eating a Polish sausage and fries from Maxwell Street Depot and drinking a Mickey's Big mouth on the hood of your car.

The brothers Solis are touting Nana as an organic breakfast and lunch spot in Bridgeport, nestled in the very same building in which they grew up. This is great news for neighborhood residents who've had their fill of diner fare and had to trek to all other points. The word of mouth from Bridgeporters alone has been enough to give Nana weekend waits for tables rivaling a similar concept-turned-hot spot, Ukrainian Village's Jam. They're also getting a helping hand from restaurant namesake Maria Solis — "Nana" translates to "grandma" in Spanish — who can be found on premise most days greeting customers as hostess.

Their commitment to organic food is commendable. The Solises are using the standards of the USDA National Organic Program as their guidelines, which is a good start. Juices are fresh-squeezed in-house, potato chips and fries are hand made in the kitchen and Nana brews copious amounts of Metropolis Coffee (What? No love for Bridgeport Coffee Company?). The menu, largely crafted by the brothers and carried out by Executive Chef Jeremy Bonczyk (late of C.J.'s Eatery and NXXT in Humboldt Park) seems tailored to cater to both health/organic nuts and fans of heart-popping diner fare. A homestyle skillet came with loads of melted Monterey Jack cheese, potatoes and breakfast sausage. The "Nanadict" is a sloppy-in-a-good-way, inspired take on Eggs Benedict with poached eggs, chorizo and poblano sauce topping a bed of cheese-stuffed pupusas. The overall look and feel of the dishes is not going to compare to the elegance of Jam. But then, Nana isn't trying to be Jam.

With the good comes some bad and Nana's are basic Restaurant 101 no-nos. On a couple visits their computer system used to expedite orders to the kitchen was down, resulting in a 75-minute wait for food. They could have cut that time in half had someone decided to expedite orders to the kitchen on hand-written checks. Given that 12 feet of floor separated the kitchen from the servers, that was inexcusable, even for first-time restaurateurs. We're more inclined to chalk those experiences up to rookie jitters, because there's a lot to like about Nana. Their bright dining area and open kitchen does for breakfast spots what Nightwood does for dinner. It's simply one of the most beautiful rooms we've eaten in all year. Here's hoping the food, and especially the service, can match.

Nana: 3267 S. Halsted, 312-929-2486