For many of us, there’s no meal more sacred than brunch. Not only is it a celebration of the leisurely weekend afternoon, it’s a time to get together with friends, shake off the events of the night before, and consume far more calories (in both food and alcohol form) than should be socially acceptable. But it is, and it’s wonderful. In honor of the only meal that successfully combines two meals, we present the 30 best brunches in America.
For many restaurants, brunch is both an obligation and an afterthought. Eggs are half-heartedly poached, drowned in lukewarm hollandaise, and served with a side of apathy by a crew of hung over line cooks to swarms of equally hung over diners. Brunch isn’t the moneymaker that dinner is, so it’s no surprise that it often doesn’t receive the same culinary care and attention. Then there are the brunch haters, privileged elites whose criticism of this weekend ritual lies somewhere between snobbery and keen perception. Where does that leave the rest of us? Too often with a host of mediocre French toast and overcooked eggs, ever on the hunt for a decent meal to carry us through a soothing, mimosa-infused transition from Saturday night’s party into Monday.
Brunch deserves more respect, and why shouldn’t it? When else is it acceptable to sleep until noon and still join the ranks of socially adjusted, mature adults? At what other occasion is it not only welcome, but encouraged to have a couple cocktails in the middle of the day? But aside from the beauty of a lazy weekend brunch, we’re now in a glorious time where brunch means much more than eggs Benedict. Chefs across the country are exercising their creative talent on their brunch menus, and diners are finally better off for it.
In celebration of the chefs who are going above and beyond, we’ve compiled a ranking of America’s 30 Best Brunches. For our rankings, we looked for brunch menus that fit one or more of the following three criteria: Menus that go beyond the by-now trite stalwarts of pancakes and eggs Benedict, brunches that offer a unique and novel experience along with excellent food, and brunches where the quality of food is just as good as what the restaurant serves at dinner. Say goodbye to cold hash browns and yet another spin on the holy trinity of eggs-bread-hollandaise, and say hello to innovative dishes that showcase the best the restaurant has to offer. You wouldn’t lower your standards for dinner — now you never have to settle again for brunch.
30) Simpatica, Portland, Ore.
Trivia question: what restaurant commands the longest wait time for a reservation in Portland? That would be Simpatica, a full-service catering company that’s only open for four-course dinners Friday and Saturday evenings and for Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., reservations required. Committed to working with local farms and purveyors and showcasing the best of the Pacific Northwest, you can expect to find items like fried chicken and waffles with kumquat syrup, a frittata with greenmarket vegetables, brisket hash with sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts, and a bavette steak with crushed potatoes, sautéed kale, chili butter, saba, and a sunny side-up egg on the ever-changing menu.
29) Toro, Boston
Ken Oringer is one of Boston's leading chefs, and while a Barcelona-style tapas restaurant might not be the most obvious place you'd look for a great brunch, along with chef Jamie Bissonnette he's done just that. Items like tortilla Española and huevos con salchichón (eggs with maple sage sausage) perfectly lend themselves to brunch, but it's the dishes like roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad and lamb shoulder marmalade; smoked eggplant with onions, peppers, and tomatoes; Jamon Serrano-wrapped dates; and, of course, churros con chocolate that will have you rethinking the definition of brunch.