A new breakfast and brunch spot that fuses Filipino and Chinese flavors with plenty of CBD is now open in Lakeview from the owners of beloved Randolph Street Chinese restaurant Dragonfly Mandarin. Wake ‘N Bacon serves dishes like an Adobo Philly Dip sandwich and halo halo, plus creative cocktails. Its owners, the wife-and-husband team of Sarah and Gabriel Ayala, first announced the project in July 2019 but encountered numerous construction delays.
The Ayalas hope to set themselves apart from other local brunch spots with a menu that weaves influences from their cultural backgrounds. Sarah Ayala is Chinese and Taiwanese, and grew up in the Philippines; Gabriel Ayala is Salvadoran and Argentine. In practice, those threads come together in dishes including an Adobo Philly Dip (Filipino-style adobo chicken Philly sandwich, adobo au jus), Halo Halo Chia Chia (chia pudding, fruit, green coconut jelly, Fruity Pebbles), and an Ube Flap Jack Stack (ube pancakes, bacon, sunny-side up eggs, cheddar, potatoes, pickled peppers, spiced maple syrup).
Dragonfly specialized in Mandarin food before giving way in 2014 to Bar Siena along Randolph Restaurant Row. It was a sleek space with a clubby vibe that lasted 13 years, and gave the West Loop a bonafide Chinese restaurant. A few restaurants, including Stephanie Izard’s Duck Duck Goat, have tried to fill that niche in recent years.
The same is true of the drinks list, which was originally designed to feature enormous over-the-top cocktails but has since been redesigned to be takeout-friendly. The Fernando (Fernet Branca, La Colombe cold brew) is a nod to Gabriel Ayala’s roots in Argentina, the largest consumer of fernet in the world. Other cocktail options include the Liquid Sunshine (Ketel One Peach & Orange Blossom, orange juice, calamansi sour mix, peach syrup) and the Banano (Casa Magdalena Rum, calamansi sour mix, Giffard Banane du Bresil, Carapano Botanic Bitter, cranberry juice).
CBD, or cannabidiol, was just beginning to crop up on menus in Chicago bars, restaurants, and bakeries when Wake ‘N Bacon was announced last year. The couple decided to give customers the option to add it to any dish or drink, but viewed it as icing on the cake rather than a main feature. In a happy accident, they later realized Wake ‘N Bacon’s address — 420 W. Belmont Avenue — contained a marijuana reference. When construction stalled, Gabriel Ayala used the time to dig into the nuances of cooking with CBD while still maintaining its reported properties, which turned out to be relatively complicated. The Ayalas are working with local CBD manufacturer and supplier Half Day.
When Wake ‘N Bacon debuted last month, Chicagoans were still allowed to dine indoors. All that changed the day before Halloween, after the city’s indoor dining ban went into effect. Customers only had a few weeks to take in the restaurant’s bright, high-ceiling dining room outfitted with a hanging garden of green ferns and pink, purple, and white flowers and a touch-screen photo booth that looks like a mirror.
Despite the sudden change, the couple were prepared to shift toward carryout and business: Sarah Ayala says she spent a lot of time figuring out a system that allows customers to send texts to a landline to expedite ordering. They’ve also compiled a retail and grocery selection with some of their preferred products like Spam, Chaokoh coconut milk, and Mae Ploy sweet-chili sauce.
Despite the cocktails and cannabis-derived products, restaurant represents the couple’s evolution from downtown club owners to parents of young children who want to be around after school and dinner time. The pair have an 8- and 3-year-old, and recently adopted a newborn: “We have a family now, little ones at home,” Gabriel Ayala says. “We felt a brunch spot would make time for family time and not just take up everything.”