Yelp names Ovo Frito Café one of 100 best brunch restaurants in U.S.


Cole Reynolds/The Daily Northwestern

Ovo Frito Café serves up breakfast burritos and other Latin-inspired dishes. Their selection of menu items made the restaurant one of Yelp’s 100 best brunches in the United States.

Cole Reynolds, Assistant City Editor

The breakfast burritos and tortas at Ovo Frito Café have drawn Evanston residents through its bright yellow entrance since the restaurant opened six years ago. A recipient of three “Best of Evanston” awards from The Daily, Ovo Frito’s brunch is already recognized as some of Evanston’s best. Now, according to Yelp, the Evanston staple produces some of the best late-morning grub in America.

The review aggregator ranked Ovo Frito as the #42 brunch restaurant in America for Mother’s Day. This selection marks the second time Ovo Frito has made the best brunch list, coming in at #60 in 2021.

“We love what we do,” Ovo Frito co-owner Zinnia Iglesias said. “Our hard work is paying off.”

Yelp considered every U.S. restaurant in its Breakfast & Brunch category, ranking them by the volume and ratings of each establishment’s reviews, Yelp representative Kesha Chau Becerra told The Daily in an email. 

Chau Becerra said Yelp caps selections at 10 per state. Ovo Frito is one of two selections in Illinois, along with Buttermilk in Geneva. 

Iglesias opened Ovo Frito in July 2017 with her husband Roberto Flores. Neither had any experience cooking breakfast foods in a restaurant, but Iglesias said the pair decided it was a niche that needed to be filled in Evanston.

They found their Maple Avenue location on Craigslist, Iglesias said. Flores taught himself how to cook eggs and pancakes while the couple renovated the interior with Ovo Frito’s signature yellow paint and broken egg light fixtures.

“It was scary at the beginning,” Iglesias said. “We had no money.”

However, six months later, the pair could pay off some of their bills and the stress started to scatter, she said. 

Now, the business is a family affair. Iglesias said her children help out in the restaurant and each of the three has a menu item named after them.

She thinks the restaurant’s inviting environment is what causes people to rate Ovo Frito so highly on review platforms like Yelp.

“We want people to feel at home,” Iglesias said. “This is our home.”

Even on a Tuesday morning, soft chatter bounced around the sunkissed-yellow walls of Ovo Frito. As one group of customers celebrated a birthday at the restaurant, broken-egg-shaped light fixtures cast the space in a warm orange glow.

That morning, Iglesias handed Evanston resident Dan Parker his takeout order. “Thank you Dan,” she said without even checking the receipt. Iglesias said she remembers many customers by their orders — vegan tacos or wraps are typical selections for Parker, she said.

Parker said Ovo Fritos’ food is good, but its staff is “outstanding.”

“They deserve the award,” he said. “They know people. They seek out connections with their customers.”

Ovo Frito’s menu is a mélange of cuisines. There are American breakfast staples like pancakes or waffles. But born in Belize, Iglesias said she and her husband wanted to add a Latin American twist to their menu options. So, Ovo Frito also features prominent Latine dishes like tortas and chilaquiles, which Iglesias said is her favorite.

“That’s where all the flavors come from,” she said with a smile.

Those chilaquiles, along with french toast, were especially popular among Yelp reviews, Chau Becerra said.

Medill Prof. Bradley Hamm said the huevos divorciados are his current favorite at Ovo Frito. Hamm would walk to the restaurant with his son on weekends, he said. The practice soon became a tradition. 

“I just think it’s a special place, and it has a wonderful environment,” Hamm said. “You feel very comfortable when you’re there.”

On a few occasions during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamm has distributed Ovo Frito gift cards to those in his classes in hopes that his students become restaurant regulars.

Hamm said he encourages students to frequent various local businesses. But since Ovo Frito isn’t in downtown Evanston, the café has an “off the beaten path” quality, he said.

Ovo Frito’s location is one reason its rise is surprising to Iglesias.

“This is such a small place. We’re not even in downtown Evanston,” she said. “I never thought it would be this successful.”

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Twitter: @charcole27

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