If your only reason for attending weekend brunch is to satisfy taste buds, your other senses are being sorely neglected. The sights, smells, sounds and feelings that surround us at the table can greatly enhance a meal and affect our appetite. “The best brunches set an excellent atmosphere to conclude the week,” says Marc Powers, the talent buyer at The Howard Theatre, where every Sunday afternoon a gospel choir accompanies a soul food buffet. “Listening to the choir while tasting the bacon and smelling the syrup helps the meal meld together.” The following brunches cater heavily to your senses to make the meal especially tasty.
The Howard Theatre, Sundays, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
The mellifluous vocals of choir members from around the country provide the soundtrack for the Howard’s Sunday gospel brunch. The Southern-style buffet ($35 in advance, $45 at the door) prepared by chef Brian Thornton captures the spirit of African-American culinary traditions with offerings such as biscuits and country gravy, catfish fingers and collard greens. “Gospel and soul food go hand in hand,” Powers says. It’s general seating, so arrive early to grab one of the 600 seats. Bottomless mimosas ($15), Bellinis and bloody marys ($8) will get you dancing if there’s only standing room left. 620 T St. NW; 202-803-2899, thehowardtheatre.com. (Shaw-Howard U)
GBD, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Nearly 600 doughnuts are made fresh every weekend for brunch at GBD, the fried chicken and doughnut joint from chefs Tiffany MacIsaac (above) and Kyle Bailey. Their partnership with Annapolis-based Ceremony Coffee means the fumes of fresh-brewed beans mix with the smell of fried dough for a heavenly aroma that lingers throughout the day. “Just thinking about the way brunch smells makes my stomach grumble,” MacIsaac says. A popular choice is the sweet yeast doughnut with a bourbon-maple glaze and bits of bacon. Heartier entrees include chicken and waffles ($12) and a croissant sandwich with egg, veggies, ham and cheese ($11). 1323 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-524-5210, gbdchickendoughnuts.com. (Dupont Circle)
BlackSalt, Sundays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
BlackSalt’s brunch menu piques desires with libido revvers such as oysters on the half shell ($2.25-$2.75 each) and house-cured salmon gravlax with brioche croutons and creme fraiche ($16). “Our food is luxurious because it’s not very common and we source it from all over,” executive chef Mike Huff says. “It should make you feel happy.” To further enhance your buzz, Huff recommends pairing seafood with a creamy beer like Anchor Steam or the ultimate feel-good fizz, Champagne. If you crave a more aggressive libation, try the Congress Avenue cocktail made with vodka, absinthe and lemon ($12). 4883 MacArthur Blvd.; 202-342-9101, blacksaltrestaurant.com.
Piola, Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Freshness is key at Piola, where your taste buds meet your pizza within 30 seconds of it leaving the oven. The U Street location features the only all-you-can-eat brunch available from the international chain: For $15.96 (or $7.95 for kids), eat as many 7-inch pies off the brunch menu as you can handle. Options like the Capricciosa (tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, artichoke and mushrooms) and the Cancun (tomato sauce, mozzarella, onions, smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers) will send your tongue on a culinary roller coaster. 2208 14th St. NW; 202-986-8729, piola.it. (U Street)
Shaw’s Tavern, Saturdays, 3-5 p.m.
Every Saturday, as many as five stand-up comedians from the D.C. area take center stage at Shaw’s Tavern for the Wake and Bacon comedy show. In addition to jokes, guests are served items like red velvet pancakes topped with a cream cheese mousse and blueberries ($12) or an “eggvocado” starter: a farm egg cooked to order, half of an avocado and pico de gallo ($9). “It’s a different thing for people to do at brunch,” general manager Rob Hine says. “And the bottomless mimosas don’t hurt.” You may want to keep a napkin handy to wipe up your laugh-induced spittle. 520 Florida Ave. NW; 202-518-4092, shawstavern.com. (Shaw-Howard U)