Eight Awesome Brunch Dishes to Order Around Town
At better restaurants around the country, chefs are no longer looking at brunch as a necessary evil. That monotonous procession of French toast, fruit salad, and eggs benny—a trite cousin of the hotel continental breakfast— has been replaced with ingredients and techniques once reserved for the more austere grounds of dinner service. It’s been a sublime coup for weekend diners who can now find wagyu beef, a surfeit of smoked seafood, and a veritable cornucopia of flaky pastries to accompany all those eggy standbys. Here are some of our favorite new sweet, savory, and downright hedonistic ways to revel in a lazy weekend afternoon.
1. Lulu’s Allston: White Trash Hash
With dishes like IPA cheese soup and Hair of the Dog pancakes made with Narragansett pilsner, bacon drippings, and a bloody mary butter, it’s obvious chef Sarah Wade has a way with hangover cures. But since introducing brunch service back in July, Wade’s most successful morning-after tonic has been her rich hash made with poached eggs, hollandaise, a crispy bed of tater tots, and short ribs that have been braised for five hours. “This dish first came about at another restaurant I was working at. I took an existing dish and came up with the idea of subbing out the potato hash for tots, which then evolved into adding pulled pork, poached eggs, and hollandaise. I said to our bartender, ‘You know what this is, this is a white trash hash’ and it stuck. It was so wildly popular, I had to put it on Lulu’s menu.”
Saturdays and Sundays, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 421 Cambridge St., Allston; 617-787-1117 or lulusallston.com.
2. Puritan & Company: Pastries
“When we first talked about doing brunch about a year ago, we knew we wanted to have one of our communal tables in the dining room be dedicated to fresh baked pastries and small dim sum-like plates,” says Puritan & Company chef-owner Will Gilson. “The ‘provisions’ idea never really took off, but the pastries became the star and staple of the whole program.” Every Sunday, pastry chef Erica Wells fills the length of that communal table with trays of doughnuts, muffins, and house-rolled croissants. The offerings change often, but enticing staples include a orange-cinnamon monkey bread, a dulce de leche danish with toasted coconut, and Gilson’s favorite, a cashew sticky bun. “The sticky buns are huge,” Gilson says. “We actually had to buy special pans to fit them. Everyone uses pecans in sticky buns, but I love cashews. I love them more than most of my personal possessions.”
Sundays from 10:30 a.m. – 2p.m., 1166 Cambridge St., Cambridge; 617-615-6195 or puritancambridge.com.
3. Ribelle: Truffle Egg Toast
How is it that Ribelle’s brunch is one of the easiest seats to land on the weekend? With items like cold-smoked oysters; bolognese with duck fat biscuits; and pastry chef Jack Novick-Finder’s giant sticky buns with apple butter and burnt cinnamon filling, the lines should be snaking through Washington Square. Yet, at almost any hour, you can walk into Tim Maslow’s exquisite Brookline restaurant, sans-reservation, and secure a table. Believe me, I’m not complaining. Especially with dishes such as Maslow’s upscale Toad in a Hole, made with house-baked semolina bread, charred shishito peppers, Valle d’Aosta fontina, fresh Feather Ridge Farm eggs, and black truffle honey from local forager, Ben the Mushroom Man. “This is very similar to something I’d always eat late night at Inoteca on the Lower East Side,” Maslow says. “I’ve been a little surprised by the dish’s popularity, but then again,who doesn’t love eggs and cheese? I love eggs and cheese.”
Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.- 2:30 p.m., 1665 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-232-2322 or ribellebkline.com.
4. Merrill & Co.: Beet-Cured Salmon Bagel
If you’ve explored the breadth of Jason Cheek’s raw bar offerings or his selection whole, oven-roasted fish at Merrill & Co., you know how seriously the chef takes his seafood. That’s why, when Merrill introduced brunch a month ago, Cheek looked at the quality of his salmon and sought to improve upon traditional bagels and lox. Cheek cures his salmon, not only with salt and sugar, but coriander, fresh herbs, and finely ground raw beets. After the lox achieves a deep crimson hue, he then piles it atop an Iggy’s everything bagel along with pickled red onions, capers, baby arugula, and cream cheese studded with fresh dill, tarragon, chervil, and parsley. “Both gravlax and lox tend to be a little overpowering considering how delicate of a fish salmon is,” Cheek says. “I’m a fan of having a bagel with salmon and cream cheese—when I go out for brunch it’s the first thing that I order. But I wanted to make it even more enticing for our guests, by making something that’s a little more sweet and delicate.”
Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., One Appleton St., Boston; 617-728-0728 or merrillandcoboston.com.
5. Fairsted Kitchen: Open-Faced Sandwich
Chef Jason Albus says the primary focus of his brunch menu at Fairsted Kitchen has always been “to stay true to the neighborhood.” “There’s a great Jewish immigrant history in Brookline and Washington Square reflected in dishes like our smoked fish, shakshouka—an Israeli spiced and poached egg dish in tomato sauce—and house-cured corned beef,” Albus says. In addition to Jewish comfort food, Albus bolsters his menu with hearty items like stuffed French toast, crepes filled with black truffles and béchamel, and an open-faced egg sandwich nestled on a Clear Flour baguette. Currently, Albus is dressing his fried egg breakfast sandwich with Darling Downs Wagyu beef and roquefort from Formaggio Kitchen. “The runny yolk mixes with the roquefort and creates a sauce for the Wagyu, which is just incredible,” Albus says.
Sundays 10 a.m.- 3 p.m., 1704 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-396-8752 or fairstedkitchen.com.
6. Deep Ellum: Country Fried Steak
Although Deep Ellum co-owner Max Toste denies that his Allston restaurant is “Southern,” there are certainly nods to its Dallas namesake all over the menu: a breakfast burrito, a gussied-up kolache, and chicken fried steak with white gravy. “My business partner is from Texas, so he obviously grew up with chicken fried steak, but coming from California I wasn’t introduced to it until I started traveling as a musician,” Toste says. “I immediately fell in love with it and would always order it when I was playing in the south.” Deep Ellum has subtly tweaked their recipe over the past five years, subbing out skirt steak for a more traditional cube steak from Kinnealey meats, perfecting a double batter technique, and creating a house-made breakfast sausage to enhance the white gravy. Each platter is served with crispy home fries, Texas Toast, and “a couple runny fried eggs on top, if you know what you’re doing,” Toste says.
Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 477 Cambridge St., Boston; 617-787-2337 or deepellum-boston.com.
7. Kirkland Tap & Trotter: Hot Dog Hash
“In my mind, for brunch, you have to have a hash,” says Kirkland Tap & Trotter chef Tony Maws. “At Craigie [on Main] we make a corned beef hash with corned tongue and cheeks. It’s fantastic! So we were trying to figure out how to give Kirkland’s version its own unique personality.” Maws turned to an unlikely candidate to complement his plateful of potatoes, parsnips, and poached eggs: the humble hot dog. “In our culture the hot dog is associated with certain settings, and I love that, but why not put it in?” Maws says. The term “hot dog” is actually a grave disservice to Maws’ gourmet frankfurter. The recipe, which he spent years perfecting, is made from all-natural pork shoulder, grass-fed beef chuck and shoulder, and a secret blend of spices. It’s a haute sausage that is a far cry from the tubes of mystery meat consumed at most ballparks. “We’re very keen on hot dogs at my restaurants, especially when paired with good eggs and a paprika-driven hollandaise,” Maws says.
Sundays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., 425 Washington St., Somerville; 857-259-6585 or kirklandtapandtrotter.com.
8. Harvest: Patty Melt
The diner staple known as the patty melt (not quite burger, yet hardly a grilled cheese) is undergoing a bit of a renaissance lately. Harvest executive chef Mary Dumont saw the power of its allure firsthand when she recently attempted to take it off her Cambridge brunch menu. “Last year, I introduced the patty melt and when I tried to take it off, people were like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ They were so disappointed, I had to bring it back,” Dumont says. Made from Painted Hills all-natural, grass-fed ground beef and pork, Harvest’s griddled patty is then topped with Cabot clothbound cheddar, sautéed onions, and pickled mustard seeds. Each serving is complemented by a generous portion of steak fries and a jar of smoked gouda mornay sauce for dipping. “That gouda mornay is one of my favorite things on our bar menu,” Dumont says. “That along with a patty melt will cure whatever woes you on Sunday morning.”
Sundays from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 44 Brattle St., Cambridge; 617-868-2255 or harvestcambridge.com.