Recently, on a weekend of particularly brutal snowfall, we sat down to brunch at Ada St. in Chicago’s Noble Square neighborhood.

A Bloody Mary is standard at this mid-morning meal (we were eating “brunch” around 1PM, the scope of this traditionally mid-morning meal clearly expanding to encompass most of the day before dinner).

I ordered an Ada St. Deluxe, vodka infused with mirepoix (usually chopped celery, onion and carrot), jalapeno and garlic. It was, to say the least, much tastier and less heavy than Bloody Marys made with Mr.T’s or other commercial vodka additives.

What was most striking about this beverage, though, was the almost intimidating quantity of garnishes set upon it: olive, manchego cheese, shrimp and prosciutto.

As Carolyn commented while she sipped, “It’s really enough food to be considered a light lunch” and for an upcharge of $3 over the regular Bloody Mary, a good value. This is, incidentally, the first time I’ve seen an upcharge for garnishes – perfectly understandable, but new to me. Some may remember when people rose up in protest (briefly) when Girl and the Goat started charging for bread…but it was superb bread, and so the public uproar quickly subsided.

Still, garnishes are getting crazy.

If you’ve been to Three Dots & a Dash, the new Tiki bar in River North, you’ll see some crazy stuff stuffed into a cocktail glass. The extravagant use of little umbrellas and fruit speared on sticks is kind of a Tiki tradition, but it does make one wonder if there’s a point beyond simple kitsch that drives such excessive garniture.

At Ada St., we were pleased that all the garnishes (except, perhaps, the olive) actually complemented the drink: the fattiness of the manchego cheese and prosciutto were nicely balanced by the beverage, and the shrimp (which usually gets a powerful horseradish blast from cocktail sauce) was enhanced by the spiciness of the liquid.

It occurred to me that this would also be an excellent hangover antidote, containing lots of salt and (for a drink) fat and protein, all of which I believe are depleted by overindulgence.

I’d be remiss not to point out that Ada St. also serves some fine, unpretentious and delicious food, including the most perfectly done Scotch egg we’d ever had (deliciously viscous liquid in the center; a mix of corned beef around the edges) and chilaquiles, a mix of poached egg, beans, cheese and tortilla chips, a savory skillet of warming flavors and textures, well suited to a cold day.

But if you’re not in the mood for all that, or if you have a hangover, consider the Ada St. Deluxe.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...