McHenry County’s restaurant-goers are adamant when it comes to breakfast.
Their hometown spots have the best of everything.
Homemade biscuits and gravy. Ham off the bone. Hashbrowns. You name it. There’s a place around here that will make your stomach growl just thinking about breakfast.
We put a call out on social media asking for readers to name their favorite breakfast places in McHenry County. We were inundated with hundreds of responses.
“Psst. . . Tony’s Cafe in Crystal Lake. Excellent food. Excellent service. Mouth watering right now,” wrote one reader.
“The ‘Little Chef’ Is Best, Hands Down!” contradicted another. “Great breakfast, friendly staff, friendly patrons, excellent old photos and a very homey feeling atmosphere. And Most Important FANTASTIC ICED TEA!”
So many fans of so many places, it was difficult to narrow down a top five. So we’ll name five, and throw in a few more for those looking to explore.
1332 N. Riverside Drive, McHenry
Average breakfast price: $5.50
“Best biscuits and gravy in the world!” praised a reader about Little Chef.
It hasn’t changed much since Shirley Klapperich first took it over 47 years ago. Now retired, her daughter, Terry, has owned Little Chef for the past four years.
She and her five younger brothers practically grew up in the restaurant. Terry was 11 years old, her brothers were 10, 8, 4 and soon-to-be-born when Shirley bought the restaurant.
“I can’t imagine it not being in the family,” Terry said.
She’s redone the bathrooms, the floor a bit and revamped the bar stools.
“Other than that, it looks the same, honest to God,” she said. “We have a bunch of old pictures that have been here forever.”
Terry did recently add the technology for customers to pay with debit and credit cards, but it was a tough decision.
“I was the last of the Mohicans to go with that,” Terry said.
Small and proud of it, the Little Chef suits its size. Regulars enjoy dining at the counter.
“If you want to come by yourself, it’s comfortable,” Terry said. “People end up meeting each other at the counter.”
Along with the biscuits and gravy, Little Chef is known for its ham off the bone and eggs and Eggs Benedict. And the homemade soups at lunch are popular.
Patrons can stop by boat, with the restaurant backing up to a pier on the Fox River.
As one reader put it, “I give Little Chef in Mchenry ‘5 biscuits.’ ”
414 S. Route 31, McHenry (locations also
in Fox River Grove and Roselle)
Average breakfast price: $7.99 to $8.99
Meals aren’t typical here, boast fans of the Brunch Cafe.
That’s exactly what the restaurant is going for when it comes to serving its customers.
“I think what they go for is ... our uniqueness,” Manager Patrick Ofarrell said. “We offer daily specials you can’t get anywhere else.”
Some regulars, including a group of teachers who come in about twice a month, have meals waiting for them, he said.
Customers regularly check the restaurant’s website for the surprise specials that aren’t on the menu.
“We’re always trying to offer something new and fresh,” he said. “They really like that. There’s definitely a good variety.”
In McHenry for about two and a half years, the restaurant also delivers to area businesses.
“We really key in on making sure the guests are comfortable, that the food comes out fast and fresh,” Ofarrell said. “I think people are a little surprised as to how quickly breakfast can come.”
90 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake
Average breakfast price: $7 to $8
Cafe Olympic has pleased its regulars for the past 15 years in historic downtown Crystal Lake. The building was first turned into an eatery more than 100 years ago in 1912.
“It’s probably the oldest place around,” owner Chris Angelos said.
Homemade soups, sausage gravy, omelets. “Everything is homemade,” he emphasizes.
That’s the way patrons like it.
“Best food, service and atmosphere,” wrote one reader.
Windhill Pancake Parlor
3307 W. Elm St., McHenry
Average breakfast price: $8
Since 1976, Windhill Pancake Parlor has pretty much been owner Jennifer Guasta’s home.
“I want people to be happy in my home, and come to my home and enjoy it,” she said.
At Windhill, they decorate like crazy on holidays, putting in 133 hours each for Halloween and Christmas. More than 200 plates, cups and saucers cover the walls.
And the decor, including the famous train that brings meals to those sitting at the counter, is unforgettable.
“It’s like you’re sitting in your grandmother’s kitchen,” Guasta said.
Windhill has 12 types of pancakes on a menu that is seven pages long offering American, Italian and Spanish food.
“Hands down the best and a good time!” wrote a reader.
468 W. Virginia St., Crystal Lake
Average breakfast price: $5.45 to $6.95
A reader described it best: “Andy’s, no doubt about it. A place where everyone knows your name. Andy’s in Crystal Lake has always had the best breakfast, hands down.”
Breakfast is served all day at Andy’s, which celebrates its 32nd year as a family-owned and operated favorite.
Ham off the bone, crepes, hashbrowns, waffles, skillets, biscuits and gravy, omeletes.
“We have all homemade food here, good prices,” Part-Owner Angie Angelos said. “We have the same customers that come every day and have been for many years. It’s just a great place.”
Other area restaurants had numerous fans as well, with readers chiming in with praise:
Around the Clock, 5011 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake (www.aroundtheclockrestaurant.com) A staple for more than 35 years, you’ll know it by its marquee sign out front. When asked to name a top spot for breakfast, it’s a no-brainer, according to many. Or as one reader wrote, “Duh, it’s Around the Clock.” “Always has and always will be,” wrote another.
Benedicts La Strata, 40 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake (www.benedictseggs.com) “The best. I’m not an oatmeal liker [by] any means, but theirs is the best.”
Dino’s Restaurant, 103 S. State St., Marengo
“They have the greatest ham on the bone meal, and the hashbrowns are perfect.”
Kim and Patty’s Cafe, 731 Ridgeview Drive, McHenry (www.kimandpattyscafe.com)
“Absolutely the best...hands down! And you gotta try their cream of chicken and rice soup. It’s to die for!”
Reese’s Restaurant, 205 S. Main St., Aglonquin
“Always crowded due to homemade cooking, the best in this town.”
Busy Bee, 7140 Barnard Mill Road, Wonder Lake
Cubby Hole, 10713 N. Main St., Richmond
“Nice little cozy hole in the wall can’t be beat, but get there early cuz they get packed.”
Burnt Toast Restaurant, 2520 Bunker Hill Drive, Algonquin
Marengo Cafe, 110 S. State St., Marengo