Uncle Mike's Place offers Filipino breakfast in Ukrainian Village

CHICAGO (WLS) -- You wouldn't expect to find anything remotely Asian in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood, but insiders know the city's most delicious Filipino breakfast is to be found at Uncle Mike's Place on Grand Avenue.

The cozy diner used to just serve American breakfasts all day, but the owner's wife and mother-in-law changed his mind over the years.

They come pretty much all morning long to Uncle Mike's Place - a staple in Ukrainian Village since 1991. From early-rising city workers to Millennials sleeping-in, they come in search of comforting, satisfying - and definitely filling - breakfasts. But it's not pancakes, waffles or sausage they're after; rather, the Filipino breakfast that's put the diner on the map.

"My mother-in-law lived with us for 25 years, she cooked for my wife every day; at one point we incorporated some of that food and we started the Filipino breakfast," said owner Michael Grajewski.

Each order begins with lugau, kind of a chicken stock-fueled rice porridge, not unlike Chinese congee. It's garnished with scallions, fried garlic and fresh lemon. You then choose your protein.

"Either steak - skirt steak - longaniza, tocino...pork shoulder. One's in a casing, natural casing, one is like a sweetened ham, but they're both like a pork shoulder," he said.

If pork isn't your thing, the skirt steak is fantastic. They come with garlicky fried rice, made to-order, topped with eggs, and then a few other Filipino touches, like sasawan: a relish of cilantro, tomato, onions, fish sauce and vinegar - kind of like a Filipino pico de gallo. Then there's champurado - a sweetend rice cup with chocolate or coconut milk and some half and half. The sweet theme runs pretty consistently in the Filipino kitchen. If you didn't want beef or pork, you could also try imported whole milkfish.
"We do a milkfish, a small one, a baby, and then we do a big one," he said.

There are other items on the menu, some of which go back to their founding in '91, but Grajewski says most of the kitchen's time is spent assembling Filipino-inspired dishes these days.

"About 80 percent are Filipino breakfast right now," he said.

Now there are other items on the menu here for breakfast - omelets and pancakes - but honestly, if you come here, you gotta get the Filipino breakfast. It's available every day, from 5 a.m. until 3 in the afternoon.

EXTRA COURSE: Traditional potato pancakes, freshly-grated to-order. It's a holdover from the original Uncle Mike's Place menu that still manages to sell.
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In this week's Extra Course, ABC7 food reporter Steve Dolinsky looked at Uncle Mike's Place's traditional potato pancakes.

1700 W. Grand Ave., Chicago
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