Brunch is one of America’s guiltiest pleasures. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, people spend their time piling into restaurants and waiting in line to indulge in over-the-top cocktails and overly filling entrées. With an abundance of booze and a variety of eclectic dishes, brunch can be the staple that holds our Sunday mornings together or the boozy party that makes our Saturdays worth it.
Considering the fact that brunch is a largely American fad, it may come as a surprise to learn that the concept was actually invented in England. British writer Guy Beringer thought of the idea in 1895 when he propositioned it in his essay "Brunch: A Plea." Tired of the post-church dinners filled with heavy meats and filling pies, Beringer believed that brunch, a breakfast-inspired meal between breakfast and lunch, seemed like the best alternative. He gave no specific menu requirements, except that brunch should be "cheerful, sociable, and inciting" with "everything good, plenty of it, variety, and selection." And that is definitely what brunch has evolved out to be.
After Beringer thought up the idea, brunch found its way over to the United States around the time of World War I, when traveling celebrities and wealthy citizens began to spend their layovers in Chicago enjoying a late morning meal. However, the concept of Sunday brunch only became popular amongst all classes during World War II, when church visits declined and people started to enjoy the perks of sleeping in. With new habits came a new social scene, and brunch as we know it was born.
Once the trend started, it transformed from being just a meal into an event. Restaurants caught on and chefs made separate brunch menus or set up extravagant buffets to accommodate peoples’ indulgent, lazy Sunday needs. But considering brunch was a meal born from two major culinary parents (namely, breakfast and lunch), the ideal menu was impossible to sketch out. It was hard to tell how much of breakfast or lunch really made up brunch, so the menu was split down the middle with a mix of items ranging from pancakes to cheeseburgers.
So now here we are in 2013, and brunch is still one of those eclectic meals with a menu composed of items from all ends of the spectrum, not to mention an array of morning cocktails such as the Bloody Mary, mimosa, or screwdriver. But as the brunch trend skyrockets, so does the competition. Restaurants of course have their go-to eggs Benedict, omelettes, pancakes, or French toast, but some chefs are going above and beyond to fulfill their diners’ wildest brunch dreams by making their dishes just downright outrageous.
We looked for brunch dishes at time honored stalwarts as well as up and comers in 15 cities across the country to find the biggest, baddest, craziest brunch dishes around, and came up with 20 winners. Each dish on this list is part of the restaurant's brunch menu, with the exception of Baltimore’s Blue Moon Café’s French toast, which can be ordered upon request, and the oysters Benedict from Brennan’s, the famous New Orleans restaurant known for "inventing" the meal that ironically does not have its own menu. Additionally, the brunch dog from Frank 'n' Dawgs is not part of a brunch menu, but considering the hot dog shop only has one menu and the dish met all of our criteria, it was able to earn a spot on the top 20. To be selected, each dish had to be a unique version of a traditional brunch dish, or a completely new brunch invention unto itself.
Our list spans far and wide, with dishes like white chocolate macadamia pancakes from Kailua, Hawaii, fried chicken eggs Benedict from Atlanta, waffle corndogs from Phoenix, and pig’s head poutine from Philadelphia, just to name a few. The top dishes are all decadent menu items and could be seen as some of the best inventions known to mankind, or, they could make your stomach churn.
So here’s to an outrageous brunch!
Skyler Bouchard is a junior writer at the Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter at @skylerbouchard.