Best of the Brunch
Brunch might be the only good reason to put on real pants on a weekend morning, but when's the last time you had your mind blown by any dish served with a side of bottomless mimosas? As the old adage goes, breakfast is as breakfast does, and veggie scrambles, while filling, are just about all this late-morning ritual has to offer. Right? Wrong.
The country is full of original dishes that will have you craving brunch all week and turn even the most stubborn brunch hater into a Bloody Mary-sipping devotee. You might even have to swap those real pants for the stretchy kind to make room.
Here are America's most original—and delectable—brunch dishes.
Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé at Commander's Palace
New Orleans, LA
It doesn't get much more NOLA than this airy love letter to Creole culture from the city's long-revered Commander's Palace. The restaurant's signature a.m. treat arrives warm—a luscious, vanilla- and nutmeg-scented dome, sprinkled with plump raisins and erupting out of the dainty ceramic cup as if greeting the morning sun. A small hole is then poked into its crest to allow for a lava flow of even warmer whiskey cream sauce to seep into its every downy crevice. It's no wonder they call this delicacy the "queen of Creole desserts."
Burmese Red Pork Stew & Chocolate Potato Doughnuts at Tasty n Sons
To call any breakfast spot an institution in a city as brunch obsessed as Portland is quite a claim, but Tasty n Sons, with lines that stretch around the block every day of the week, lives up to its grandiose reputation. The first dish of note—it's near impossible to pick just one—is the Burmese red pork stew, a simple yet rich blend of tender pork shoulder and belly swimming in their own braising liquid, short-grain rice and two eggs—one is pickled and stirred into the mix while the other, fried sunny, sits on top. The second standout, sugar-dusted chocolate potato doughnut balls served in a pool of crème anglaise, can serve as the ultimate pregame or post-feast palate cleanser (or both).
Fried Bologna Benedict at Scratch
Unless you've never set foot in the American South, there's nothing too surprising about deep-fried bologna (except that it's awesome, of course). But take a hunk of crusty bread; crown it with a hefty slice of fried bologna, homemade chowchow and two pillowy poached eggs; and then smother the whole thing in a tangy mustard hollandaise sauce, and now we're talking. Scratch's menu changes seasonally, so keep an eye out for this one, but rest assured: The rest of the menu is awesome, too.
Breakfast Ramen & Kung Pao Chicken Wings and Waffles at Talde
Though almost every item listed on this Brooklyn hot spot's inimitable brunch menu could be considered original, we're giving out two gold medals here. First off, the kung pao chicken wings and waffles. There's something about sinking your teeth into a fiery fried drumstick, sticky with sauce and dotted with crunchy peanuts, you just can't replicate. Add a few perfectly crisped waffles and douse the whole thing in coconut brown butter syrup, and you've got yourself one memorable meal. Sharing the spotlight is the hangover-squashing breakfast ramen, in which an archipelago of honey-glazed bacon, noodles and a six-minute egg float in a soothing, buttered toast-infused broth. Give in to temptation and just order both.
Homemade Pop-Tarts at Foreign Cinema
San Francisco, CA
Foreign Cinema brought upscale, chef-driven dining to the Mission almost a decade before the Silicon Valley set began pulling up in their BMW i8 Hybrids looking for white tablecloths and molecular gastronomy. That same pioneering spirit keeps this long-standing brunch haven in the running for world's best homemade Pop-Tart. Baked to a gorgeous golden brown, these flaky, buttery creations are simply massive, about the size of a Broadway playbill and twice as thick. What's more, they're bursting with fillings like apple pear, quince, Cara Cara orange, strawberry fig and huckleberry, showing off California's enviable access to top-quality produce no matter the season.
Zanahoria at La Condesa
It's not always easy to track down a refreshing vegetable dish in a town ruled by tacos, doughnuts and BBQ brisket. But after a few days of nonstop chorizo and beer, this bright tangle of roast carrots, house-made carrot-top chimichurri, pickled currants and toasted quinoa, dressed with an invigorating cardamom-white mountain yogurt, will literally give you life. We know, we know—salad? For brunch? But, hey, think about it this way: With all those healthy veggies in your system, you can definitely justify that second (OK, third) margarita. Note: This one's a permanent fixture on the lunch and dinner menus, but is sometimes offered as a special on the weekends (though we totally condone playing hooky on a Tuesday).
Dutch Baby Pancakes at Milktooth
Unbeknownst to many coastal city slickers, Indy is actually one of the country's best-kept secrets when it comes to fantastic food towns, and Milktooth takes breakfast to an entirely new level. Case and point? The Dutch baby pancake. The sunny, flawlessly designed family-run joint puts out a new sweet or savory version of this photogenic flatbread whenever inspiration strikes, motivated by seasonal toppings like crabapple curd, fennel, peppery mustard greens, tart rhubarb, asparagus and just about anything else you can imagine. Whether you prefer yours loaded with melty Swiss cheese and salty ham or overflowing with peach amaro jam, dried blueberries and crème fraiche, this pancake can do no wrong.
Qatayef at Tabard Inn
Brunch at Tabard Inn is something of a rite of passage in D.C. Sleepy-eyed folks from all over the country flock here each weekend just to say they've tasted the 95-year-old hotel and restaurant's legendary doughnuts and, of course, its most unique option: qatayef. This traditional Syrian-style breakfast dish consists of two melt-in-your-mouth pancakes, stuffed turnover-style with either velvety ricotta and orange zest or sweet honey and toasted walnuts, then covered in a fragrant layer of rosewater syrup.
Fried Rabbit & Waffles at River Roast
Never tasted rabbit? Well, if you happen to be brunching in Chicago, there's no time like the present to settle in with a piping-hot skillet full of succulent cottontail, cloaked in a superbly seasoned batter, fried crisp, laid upon a bed of Belgian waffles and drizzled with an artisanal maple syrup that strikes an impeccable balance between sweet and woodsy. Chicken, it's time for you to fly the coop.
The Forager Breakfast Sandwich with House-Made Chowchow at High Street on Market
Not all breakfast sandwiches are created equal. The culinary geniuses behind this Philly mainstay have managed to break the mold with the Forager, an over-the-top mound of braised kale, seared king oyster mushrooms, nutty Swiss cheese and a silky fried egg, painted with a thick slab of black trumpet mayo, all cradled inside a poppy seed-encrusted kaiser roll (baked in-house, of course). It comes with a side of house-fermented eggplant and okra chowchow, a Southern-style pickle relish with a pronounced spicy kick to balance out all that richness. Tearing through this masterpiece feels like tromping through a lush forest after a hard rain, your senses enveloped in a verdant bouquet of textures, flavors and aromas. Trust us.
Pimento Cheese Omelet at Sun in My Belly
Pimento cheese is basically a religion down south. And Sun in My Belly's pimento cheese omelet, a gooey mess of the tangy spread folded into a fluffy, canary-yellow egg cloud lined with honey-glazed bacon, is as close to God as any brunch-fearing soul can get. The sharply designed neighborhood café's second-most original award goes to the French toast (also pictured below): Thick slices of syrup-laden heaven served in the shape of a split-top hot dog bun and jammed full of either sweet (honeyed ricotta, seasonal fruit) or savory (spinach and Parm with a mushroom béchamel cream and a sunny egg) goodness. Consider us saved.
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