Getting Your Brunch On

Having lived in New York City for almost seven years now, brunch has become a weekly staple in my life. Before moving here for college in 2005, I never really understood the concept of the word “brunch.” In my younger years, it was more of a fun combination word (breakfast + lunch).

But then I discovered some things: I could eat a full plate of delicious breakfast food (and not just a quick bowl of cereal or a bagel before class/work during the week) alongside a lovely cocktail long before Happy Hour and not feel guilty whatsoever. I could do so after sleeping in until one o’clock in the afternoon (I hate when delis and fast food restaurants stop serving breakfast at eleven o’clock in the morning. What is that about anyway? For the record, I am not a morning person). All while catching up with anyone and everyone after decompressing from the work week.

When I talk to my family members in Florida about “brunch,” their reaction is often an intrigued “ohhhh,” with a raised eyebrow or side smile. It’s like they assume I’m trying to be fancy. That’s just not the case. People assume a lot of things about brunch—it’s expensive, pretentious, and difficult to coordinate. Those things can be true, but they don’t have to be! Every brunch is different depending on the restaurant, cuisine, group of diners, and the intentions of the individuals involved.

A couple things to keep in mind when planning a brunch date:

Beware the Food Coma: Sometimes I’m in the mood for a truly hearty and filling brunch. After a long week of eating on-the-go and stuffing my face with takeout, I like to sit and eat something that will fill me up and make me want to pass out in my bed afterwards. A few months ago, I had the Jerk Bacon and Eggs at Red Rooster in Harlem. The bacon and eggs are served in a skillet on top of beans with a side of grits. It was seriously delicious, but I went into a food coma as soon as I got home. This should not be your go to option if you have grand plans for an afternoon activity or an evening at the gym. Okay, maybe eating those grits, too, was overdoing it. Sometimes, though, you just need a day of food and rest. Let me tell you—after that four-hour post-brunch nap—I felt much better.

If you’re in NYC, my picks for “fill-you-up” brunches are great at Balthazar, Alice’s Tea Cup, and Kitchenette.

The Joys of the Boozy Brunch: My friends and I will often get together on a weekend to enjoy an excuse to start drinking well before five o’ clock. But, to really take advantage of this concept, one must find a restaurant with “unlimited” brunch cocktails, like mimosas, Bloody Marys, Arnold Palmers, bellinis, Irish coffees, and more. Generally speaking, your party has a 2-3 hours to drink up as many of those cocktails as you want.

I have grown to love a good Bloody Mary (especially when it’s spicy), and I had my very first one at the Sunburnt Calf on the Upper Westside. We ended up drinking for several hours before we had to leave (brunch ended at four o’ clock). Because the servers keep refilling your glass, be careful that you don’t lose track of just how many drinks you have consumed. I find this usually leads to either passing out by six o’ clock in the evening or getting an early start on that night’s “going out.” Either way, in my experience, it leads to a satisfying day… and night.

If you are in NYC, this and this are both lists of great spots for a boozy brunch. My favs are the Sunburnt Calf, Calle Ocho, and Yerba Beuna. They all offer the wonderful “unlimited brunch cocktails” option. Intermezzo is another “unlimited brunch cocktail” establishment that sometimes has a drag show later in the afternoons for those who like to keep the party going.

The “Prix Fixe” and The More Adventurous: Some restaurants have a “prix fixe” brunch menu that includes one or two brunch cocktails, coffee or juice, and an entrée. It’s the best of all things brunch in one tidy package. Others might try to wow you with their unique menu items or food combinations. These can be fun places to try but warn your guest in advance just in case they have picky pallets. In terms of a more adventurous brunch, in NYC, I recommend Talde. I’m still thinking about their brunch menu many months later. (Key Appetizer: Pretzel Pork and Chive Dumplings. I mean, who can resist?)

Don’t Forget about Price: Some of those upscale, four to five “dollar sign” restaurants can charge a pretty penny for brunch. Going to a bar-type establishment, or a “hole in the wall,” can give you a great meal and end with a modest bill. This varies greatly depending on the establishment. But you can do yourself a favor and plan ahead. Find out if a brunch place is for you by reading reviews on Yelp, or taking a pre-look at the restaurant’s menu online. This will also help you predict which kind of brunch you are in for.

No matter how you do it, brunch can be exactly what you need for whatever mood or occasion it happens to be.

Comment and let us know what your favorite type of brunch is! Do you have any great brunch spots in your area?

Photo by Anastasia Heuer

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