The Wild Brunch

Sunday brunch is, for me, the breakfast of the week – particularly in its “most important meal” status.  Brunch, ideally, should include sitting down with your friends, recounting the previous night’s exploits, perhaps lamenting your pounding hangover headache, and (hopefully) feeling better on the way out than the way in.  But it’s not just a curative, or a summation of your weekend activities – the ideal brunch is a destination meal to be looked forward to throughout the weekend and perhaps even the week before.

From a budget standpoint, brunch replaces both breakfast and lunch, and thus one should be able to afford to splurge a bit.  Most of the restaurants discussed below have entrees in the $10 range or less, assuming you don’t go hog-wild and order a Bloody Mary (Gravy’s are cheapest at $3, if you decide you need one, and very tasty).  Remember: you may feel like a slug for sleeping late, but at least you’ll have money to spend on a decent meal.

Living in Boerum Hill, I and my roommate find ourselves going to Gravy a lot.  It’s a relatively new southern-flavored diner located at the corner of Smith and Pacific Streets.  Early reviews concentrated on the inconsistency of the food and service; I think they have the kinks worked out much better now (a new hostess seems to have helped greatly, and I’d imagine there was some kitchen staff turnover as well).  For $7.50 (up from $6 at opening day), you can gorge yourself on soft, buttery biscuits with sausage gravy, or chicken fried steak (pounded flank steak fried like a chicken), both topped with eggs in a style of your choosing.  Also available, and on the ‘lighter’ side, are the large omelettes, pancakes (with real maple syrup), and a $5 special basic breakfast with eggs and sausage, etc.  Cheese grits are available, but of questionable budgetary value, at $3.

In my Park Slope days, a staple of my brunch diet (particularly in the spring, where the open garage door at front provides wonderful ventilation) was Beso, at 5th Ave. and Union St.  Beso serves a Latin-styled brunch, with a “regular special” huevos rancheros that is very good, as well as a Latin Eggs Benedict that includes chorizo in place of the ham and a chipotle hollandaise sauce.  The yucca hash also is deliciously crunchy.  A bit more expensive than the other choices on this list, though, and they don’t take reservations, so get there early or late, or be prepared to wait a LONG time.  If you must, belly on up to the bar for a slosh of watermelon or strawberry juice while you wait, but keep in mind that it’s ridiculously expensive, and be aware that the Bloody Marys (again with the ubiquitous chipotle) are forgettable.

A light and simple brunch option, if one is in the East Village, is Supper, located next to Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches on E. 2nd St. at Ave. A.  Supper’s portions are unlikely to leave you feeling gorged and lethargic; their sage omelette is small and sided with spinach greens ($7), and, on my recent visit, their French toast came with fruit, including some very fresh raspberries ($8).  I hear you can get a toasted baguette with Nutella, too, if you’re into that sort of thing.  If it’s a nice day, after the meal, walk down to Economy Candy (Rivington between Essex and Ludlow) and get an Abba Zabba.

In my mind, the empress of brunches is Superfine, on Front St. and Jay St. in DUMBO, Brooklyn.  Not only is their food delicious and reasonably priced, and the staff very friendly, but they most often have live music (of a country or bluegrass flavor, mostly), and a free pool table to occupy you while you wait.  They profess to use the most socially acceptable organic ingredients in their cooking, if this matters to you; what matters to me is that it tastes fantastic.  Be sure and call ahead, even if just by half an hour, for best results.

My favorite dish at Superfine is the breakfast burrito, which seems expensive at $9.50 until you realize that you might not have to eat dinner after consuming it.  It’s genuinely huge, stuffed with eggs and sausage, and coated with cheese.  Watch a friend with a lesser appetite order this and peter out halfway though, then swoop in for the kill (carefully, though – the plate is hot!).  The chile verde sauce that comes with it is a bit spicy, so best to stick with the ever-present special banana-nut pancakes (sometimes walnut, sometimes pecan) if you’re not a spice person.  This is no great sacrifice, though – if there is a pancake god, he would be very impressed with how tender, sweet and delicious these are.  I think the banana is more important for the moisture and texture it provides, rather than the flavor, which to me says a lot about the skill of the chef.  The pancakes come with perfunctory fruit and a small serving of vanilla yogurt; we like to start with an order of the fresh, moist blueberry banana bread, too, but as there is good bread and good olive oil served free to every table, we could be accused of extravagance.  The coffee is tastier than average, too.

Don’t forget to account for the passing of the hat for the band, and try not to be too stingy, because the restaurant matches the contributions made by the diners.  And, hell, you didn’t pay for the pool, right?

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