February 9, 2016

The Rise of Brunch

Brunch has become an increasingly important offering at many restaurants.

Brunch has become an increasingly important offering at many restaurants.

There is no question that weekend brunch has undergone a major transition at restaurants across the country. As the New York Times noted, the morning shift was once largely the responsibility of cooks just beginning their careers. Now, however, some of the best chefs in the U.S. are devising fantastic brunches that draw huge, eager crowds.

Restaurant owners and chefs have discovered that there is a significant payoff to putting their finest work into brunch. Early customers generally spend less than they would for dinner in the evening, but restaurants are able to attract more people while turning over tables faster. Consequently, those pursuing culinary online programs should explore the elements that go into a successful brunch and consider their own approaches to this increasingly vital mealtime.

The tempting dishes
As restaurants have embraced the possibilities of brunch, the menu options have developed greater variety. Some chefs put gourmet spins on the old brunch standbys like French toast and eggs Benedict, while others have radically expanded upon the kinds of dishes available before lunch hours.

“Chefs put gourmet spins on old brunch standbys.”

At Olea in San Francisco, your omelet comes with a kabocha squash puree, mozzarella cheese and roasted pumpkin seeds, plus mixed greens. New York City’s Momofuku Ssam Bar substitutes duck for the traditional fried chicken paired with waffles, topping the dish with maple syrup, apple and mascarpone. Pinewood Social in Nashville serves a pot roast hash featuring tri-tip beef cooked sous-vide for a full day and then topped with fried fingerling potatoes, sauteed peppers and onions, an egg fried in clarified butter and a veal reduction sauce.

Serious Eats listed some of the best brunch spots in Chicago, highlighting the kinds of inventive meals that have made the city a hotspot for foodies every Sunday morning. Those who visit the communal tables at Avec can enjoy dishes like a breakfast paella with eggs, shrimp, morcilla (or blood) sausage, artichokes and an almond aioli. Meanwhile, The Bristol serves braised pork chilaquiles with fried egg, cilantro, lime and queso fresco or a hangover breakfast of noodles and aromatic vegetables in a pork broth.

Many popular brunch spots offer their own spins on the classic bloody mary.Brunch restaurants offer many different versions of the classic bloody mary.

The quintessential brunch beverage
Many brunch spots have stepped up their game when it comes to drinks as well. Eater pointed out that while some customers still prefer a mimosa, a bloody mary has become the dominant alcoholic beverage for those drinking in the morning. This cocktail of tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire and hot sauce makes for a hearty start to the day, and the often complex garnishes give each establishment’s variation some added character.

Consequently, many restaurants serving brunch have developed distinctive takes on the bloody mary. For instance, Boulder farm-to-table tapas restaurant Cafe Aion serves a house-infused chili vodka with fresh horseradish and a bacon garnish. For the truly dedicated bloody mary fan, Anvil Pub in Dallas offers a monthly chance to enjoy a $20 version that comes with a rotating array of “garnishes” like crawfish, a bacon and cheddar slider, shrimp, artisanal cheese, beef jerky, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, green beans, okra, a pickle, onions, tomatoes and olives.

The wait
Not everyone has jumped on the bandwagon for weekend brunch. Bon Appetit editor Andrew Knowlton summed up many people’s objections to going out for the meal.

“Don’t get me wrong, I dig eggs Benedict, smoked salmon and bagels, and bloody marys when they are properly prepared,” Knowlton wrote. “But too often brunch is the ultimate test of patience: the waits are too long, the children are too loud, the servers spiteful, and the home fries are always (and I mean always) undercooked.”

Indeed, even the most ardent appreciators of brunch can sometimes be dismayed by how long it takes to sit down at popular spots. Time Out Chicago went so far as to chart wait times at various establishments over the course of a morning. The writers found that arriving extra early pays off, whereas showing up at noon never works out.

While it seems brunch is here to stay, it’s important for restaurant staff to keep these concerns in mind as they serve customers. There’s not much you can do about noisy children, but culinary professionals and servers will reap the benefits from these weekend morning meals if they stay friendly, efficiently turn over tables and consistently prepare delicious, comforting food at a speedy clip.