This year, Orchids at Palm Court is limiting its Easter brunch to 900 people. Yes, limiting—the restaurant in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza usually serves around 1,100 hungry diners. And they're already nearly sold out.
It's no secret that brunch is a favorite pastime for many restaurant goers, and, clearly, Easter brunch is just as risen. For Half & Half restaurant chef/owners Mike and Liz Randolph, a busy brunch is standard procedure. A two-hour wait time for brunch is not atypical at the St. Louis restaurant, and Easter is no exception ("You just may see more folks dressed up."). To fit the holiday theme, they switch the popular Clara Cakes pancakes for a carrot cake version and go all out with braised lamb Benedict. But for the Randolphs, an ideal Easter meal is all about spring, which means whichever spring vegetables they can lay their hands on.
We agree with them there, which is why we've crafted a trio of dishes for an at-home brunch that features the season's prime goods—think peas, spring garlic and the market's first rhubarb. Eggs are a must, but individual omelets can take some time and never stay hot, so opt for a mushroom-garlic frittata that reads like spring exploded and landed in a skillet with cream and eggs (see the recipe). Pair it with a can't-be-tamed frisée salad with herby pickled rhubarb and highly appropriate Easter egg radishes (see the recipe). And since it's not brunch without something sweet, say goodbye to Lent and hello to sweet-savory lemon-and-thyme bars (see the recipe).
But while you're playing chef for your family, how are restaurant chefs faring with those who choose to dine out? After waking up at the crack of dawn to leave their families on a holiday, you'd think chefs would feel a special kind of way about Easter brunch. Wrong—they actually really like it. The truth is, most find it's essentially like any other service, just with a few more bonnets and fresh tabletop decorations. If anything, many find it to be a more pleasant service, because people tend to be happy. "It's a great atmosphere and a really convivial day," Café Boulud's executive chef, Aaron Bludorn, says. The New York restaurant even extends brunch service hours for the holiday to accommodate as many people as possible.
Diners also tend to eat quicker (allowing for faster turnover and more customers), which Wesley Shaw, chef at San Francisco's Presidio Social Club, attributes to the spring chickens at the table. "Dressed-up kids get antsy and want to go home and get into comfortable clothes—as well as their Easter candy."
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For some restaurants, like Chicago's La Sirena Clandestina and Sepia, this is one of the only times the doors open before 5 p.m. on a weekend. Sepia chef Andrew Zimmerman relies on heavy extra prep (and the promise of someone cooking dinner for him later) to get through the day, which he feels is "a fun time to showcase a different meal from our kitchen." Executive chef Megan Logan's Café Pinot is also not usually open for brunch, but she puts her all into it. "Brunch is tough, but brunch culture in L.A. is huge, so we do everything we can to make it memorable," Logan says.
But don't feel bad for the chefs—they unanimously feel like they are with their families. "There's a closeness in the kitchen, and it's cool to do an intense holiday service with your 'restaurant family,'" Bludorn says. Cardel Reid from The Signature Room in Chicago agrees: "We try to make it more like a special family meal, because our staff really is one big family." For Shaw, this means plenty of Easter candy flowing for the staff and a special staff meal.
They also intentionally overprepare, not just for superb readiness, but so they can enjoy the leftovers together. Take a page from their book and do your prep ahead of time, like pickling the rhubarb and making the vinaigrette for the salad. Then you can focus on more important things—like taking first prize in the annual Easter egg hunt.
Find Café Boulud here, or in our DINE app.
Find Presidio Social Club here, or in our DINE app.
Find La Sirena Clandestina here, or in our DINE app.
Find Sepia here, or in our DINE app.
Find The Signature Room here, or in our DINE app.
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