'Breakfast queen' Ina Pinkney covering the breakfast beat

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Once known for her fabulous breakfasts at her namesake restaurant, Ina Pinkney is back in business. Sort of.

Pinkney closed her West Loop restaurant, Ina's, years ago, but now she's covering the breakfast beat for the Chicago Tribune.

Her monthly column is giving her, and some noteworthy breakfast joints, a chance to reaffirm their place among Chicago's dining scene.
The "breakfast queen" moves a little slower these days, but her palate and her opinions are as sharp as ever.

Pinkney has more than three decades of experience - most of it serving breakfast - which makes her the Tribune's secret breakfast weapon.

"Breakfast is a different vibe. It's a different food, it's a different menu. I want it to be simple, I want it to be clear; I want you to be able to sit down and read your paper, do your work, have a meeting and then go off to have your day," said Pinkney.

She's not interested in brunch, and she looks at everything - including the bathrooms - not just what's on the plate. Recently, she checked out The Gundis, a Kurdish restaurant in the Lakeview neighborhood.

"I look for everything, from the way I'm greeted when I walk in the door. The feeling that I get when I sit down. How attentive are people, do they smile in the morning? Not everybody is a morning person," she said.

We order a few things: delicious cheese straws, a Kurdish breakfast for two, with spreads, jams and cheeses, and homemade bread.

"Not quite Turkish food, and not quite Syrian," she explained.

The sesame spread combined with the berry jam is a winner, but so is pretty much everything here: pistachio-studded yogurt and scrambled eggs embedded with sujuk - a beef sausage. She says she'll only write about the good stuff.

"I will never write about a place that isn't good enough for you to go. It's not fair," said Pinkney.

She is particularly fond of the staff here.

"You can feel the care and the love. They want you to have Kurdish food," she said.

A few miles away is her next stop in West Town -- Six06, an all-day Greek cafe, where coffee is king.

"They wanted to have a place where you could sit all day and drink one of these beautiful coffees and sit like they do in Athens, all day long," said Pinkney.

A baked avocado with an egg is a great start.

"Sometimes people bake the egg right in it, other times they just bake the avocado and add the poached egg like they did just now," she said.

The French toast leans sweet, and Pinkney says she gave the kitchen feedback after her first visit. They now serve the caramel and the cocoa-chocolate sauce on the side.

"See what I mean about the bread, it's creamy inside? How many times you go and you have French toast and it's dry inside because they didn't soak it long enough? This one is really well soaked," she explained.

Finally, a perfectly-executed omelet done in the French style.

"They put the ingredients on top the same ingredients that are inside, so you always know what you're eating," said Pinkney.

Read Ina Pinkney's column in the Tribune's dining section on the last Thursday of every month.

In the Extra Course video, Steve and Ina talk about rice pudding -- one of her favorite sweets from The Gundis.
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In Steve's Extra Course video, he and Ina talk about one of her favorite sweets from The Gundis: rice pudding.

The Gundis
2909 N. Clark St., Chicago
(773) 904-8120

1641 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago
(312) 929-4911
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