Brunch is a polarizing subject. Many chefs hate but grudgingly accept it. Some gourmands, while staring down their stuffy noses, have brushed it off as “the gastronomic version of the walk of shame.” Perhaps like the op-ed writer who penned a piece titled “Brunch Is for Jerks,” you too have bemoaned the so-called brunch-industrial complex and thought to yourself, “It’s over. I’m through with brunch.”
To those jaded, disillusioned and embittered brunchgoers among us, take heart. “Brunch …” (with an ellipsis) — brought to you by the creators of “Lunch.” (with a period) and “Supper!” (with an exclamation point) — is here to rekindle some of your love lost for this popular weekly ritual.
Located in the Fan District, Brunch already attracts quite the crowd, with hourlong waits at peak hours. A lively congregation of #brunchgoals types, mostly in their 20s, predominates.
The artsy and creative — and, at times, boisterous — energy of the space, combined with the median age of the diners, transported me back to my college days, when weekly brunch was as much a meal as a social event — a time for friends to reconnect after a busy week over griddled eggs, meats and batter.
Like the space, the menu also reflects a sort of creativity — and portion sizes — fit for a young college student. Though my outer mid-30-year-old body balked at the notion of putting copious amounts of greasy, meaty and starchy food into my system, my inner 20-year-old spirit delighted in the idea of indulging in the restaurant’s whimsical reinterpretations of classic brunch fare. And indulge I did.
The brunch links ($10) — fat pancake-breaded cigars of peppery pork sausage, soaked with maple syrup — ricocheted off my palate from sweet to savory to spicy. Their flavors reminded me, in the best possible way, of a Sausage McGriddle. The links were served with spicy honey butter, but I much preferred my friend’s ingenious idea of enjoying them with a squirt of Sriracha, the sauce’s heady Asian flavors making each bite just a little more compelling.
The waffle flight ($11) featured a quartet of waffle wedges as faintly crispy outside and eggy inside as a Hong Kong-style egg puff, each with its own persona. My favorite, the blueberry waffle, was showered with milky-sweet white chocolate chips and toasted pistachios, giving it a flavor delightfully close to an ice cream sundae. The peanut-butter-chip waffle, though, with its confectionary drizzle of chocolate syrup, was a bit too candy-sweet for my liking.
Other souped-up classics, such as the breakfast sammy ($8), crab omelette ($14), and chicken and waffles ($20), were similarly memorable. The toasted sourdough that the server recommended for the breakfast sammy came out in thin, well-buttered planks that barely held in place the cheddary eggs and bark-like strips of bacon sandwiched between them. Every mouthful — bready, greasy, cheesy and eggy — had all the makings of an ideal brunch bite.
The crab omelette had a more genteel kind of decadence. A fluffy, pale-yellow blanket of eggs, swaddled around lumped crab, Gruyere and onions and perfumed with sherry, the omelette brought to mind a classic she-crab soup. Adding an unexpected layer of refinement to this dish was a squiggle of citrusy aioli and fresh accents of salty trout roe and bitter microgreens.
Far heavier, but just as satisfying, was the chicken and waffles. Ladled generously atop the tender fried cutlets of chicken and discus-sized waffle was a slurry of sausage-bacon gravy. In addition to the savoriness of the gravy, crisped and salty lardons contributed a nice richness.
For less conventional fare, the “brunch bowls” section of the menu relishes in the art of creatively combining different ingredients, not literally in a bowl but in bowl-like fashion. The poutine ($11) was a well-curated amalgam of smoky and sharply vinegary pulled pork, salty lardons, and sweet potato fries. The entire mixture was topped with a savory gravy and a fried egg whose yolk simply begged to be broken and folded in like a creamy sauce.
The only truly disappointing dish I tried was the pork loin Benedict ($10). The first bite I took, I forgot that pork was a component of this dish. The poached eggs, drenched in Hollandaise, hit their mark. But the pale, dry flaps of pork were so thin and flavorless, they disappeared completely beneath a mountain of other flavors, smothered by sweet-sour collard greens and puckeringly tart tomato jam. An overly doughy English muffin, nearly collapsing under this drift of ingredients, contributed to my disappointment.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Brunch left me somewhat nostalgic for that time in my life when this infamous Sunday meal “for Saturday-night carousers” was synonymous with the weekend. While you might never change your mind completely when it comes to lowercase-“b” brunch, Brunch and its reimagined versions of classic brunch fare should give you reason enough to give this meal a second chance. Your body may not thank you for it, but your spirit will.