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A guide to the best brunch spots in Washington

Clockwise from top left: The waffles, Basque-style pork hash, smoked salmon eggs Benedict and autumn vegetable succotash at Mintwood Place in Adams Morgan. (Dayna Smith/For the Washington Post)

In such a go-go-go city as Washington, brunch represents more than a meal: It's a cue that the week is over and it's finally time to unwind. It feels inherently festive. And there's day-drinking. So, whether you want dim sum, a pile of pancakes, cheap mimosas or an Indian buffet, these spots are the perfect way to jump-start your morning — or afternoon.

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The crowd-pleaser: Mintwood Place

Mintwood Place is the brunch you can feel comfortable recommending to anybody, for any occasion. It'll satisfy your fussy parents but also provide a good setting for your post-yoga girls' get-together, even when one of you is paleo and another is vegetarian and a third really, really wants a burger. With its curved bistro chairs and pressed-tin ceiling, the Adams Morgan mainstay offers a menu of Gallic comfort food: a cast-iron skillet of pork hash in tomato sauce ($19), a thin-crusted smoked salmon flammekueche ($18) — a tart topped as if it were an everything bagel — and on a cold winter's day when you're more in the mood for lunch, there's even French onion soup ($12). More traditional brunchers will find their eggs Benedict and Belgian waffles, too. — Maura Judkis

1813 Columbia Rd. NW. 202-234-6732.

The top dim sum: Hollywood East Cafe

The dim sum carts that roll through this dining room on the weekends contain some delicacies not found on the regular weekday menu. Prime among them is a fried, chewy confection shaped to resemble a fat carrot. Your first bite of this faux vegetable reveals its secret: a cache of gooey custard, all hot, sweet and rich. The treat caps what is, without a doubt, the region's best dim sum experience, a procession of carts filled with pork buns, noodle crepes, shrimp dumplings and much more. Just make sure to arrive early if you don't like waiting on your parade. — Tim Carman

11160 Veirs Mill Rd., Wheaton. 240-290-9988. Dim sum, $3.25-$4.25 each.

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The unlimited menu: Kapnos Taverna

If "unlimited brunch" sounds to you like a flow of rubbery scrambled eggs and stale waffles, Kapnos Taverna will change your mind. For $35, you get the run of the entire menu, save the raw bar, and what a menu it is. Eggs more than a half-dozen ways — get the merguez gravy with fried egg on a biscuit, as well as the shakshouka — and Greek twists such as baklava French toast and spit-roasted chicken with waffles will make any morning bright. So will the 25-cent mimosas (normally $9). Dishes are smaller than the a la carte versions, which means you can sample more. — Becky Krystal

4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-243-4400. A slightly different menu is available at 7777 Baltimore Ave., College Park; similar offerings at Kapnos, 2201 14th St. NW, and Kapnos Kouzina, 4900 Hampden Lane, Bethesda.

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The classics with a twist: Kyirisan

Kyirisan chef-owner Tim Ma has earned a Bib Gourmand award in D.C.'s Michelin Guide, meaning Michelin inspectors were won over by his great food at more affordable prices. His slightly posh but comfortable Shaw dining room is also down-to-earth enough to offer an appealing brunch. Sure, you can have classics such as an omelet stuffed with mushrooms and cheddar, but the stack of fluffy pancakes gets a hit of innovation, available in rotating flavors that range from carrot cake to cinnamon roll. Other dishes showcase Ma's creative flair and Asian heritage, including a scallion waffle with chicken, as well as congee (rice porridge). Don't miss the sweets by pastry chef Mollie Bird, especially the vanilla custard bao and doughnut holes. — Becky Krystal

1924 Eighth St. NW. 202-525-2383. Mains, $11. Sides and sweets, $5.

The date spot: Iron Gate

Iron Gate is the perfect brunch-date destination, no matter the weather. In the winter, snuggle up to your sweetie next to the fireplace in the cozy dining room. When the temperature rises, step outside to the garden patio lined with wisteria. The Mediterranean-leaning menu encourages sharing: Split the feta and roasted chile dip ($11), served with a bright assortment of vegetable crudités, then go full-on brunch: A pair of olive-oil-fried eggs ($12) comes with the crispiest potatoes, and a corned turkey hash pairs sweet potatoes with bearnaise. Pro tip: Don't forget to note your preferred seating area in your reservation. — Emily Codik

1734 N St. NW. 202-524-5202.

The refined affair : Et Voila!

This French-Belgian bistro in the Palisades makes for an intimate and quiet brunch, where the clang of Bellini glasses is soft enough not to overwhelm any conversation. Try the stuffed waffle chicken ($12) topped with fried chicken, or the off-menu stuffed waffle salmon, with soup, such as the French onion ($9.95) with bubbled Gruyère cheese or a satisfyingly creamy potato-and-leek variety. A pot of mussels mariniere is simmered in a white wine and garlic stew with onions, celery and tarragon, and served with crispy Belgian fries ($22). The chocolate mousse or Floating Island, a torched, fluffy meringue in custard cream topped with fresh raspberries, finish things off on a sweet note. — Winyan Soo Hoo

5120 MacArthur Blvd. NW. 202-237-2300.

The luxurious getaway: Trummer's on Main

It takes a long drive down a winding country road to reach Trummer's on Main, located about 30 miles outside metropolitan Washington. The trek is worth it for a quick, luxurious getaway, to where English countryside meets Southern hospitality in a charming, sun-drenched dining space housed in a historic inn. Order the lobster and grits ($18) — each hearty bite comes with generous chunks of lobster meat, Tasso ham and dense, slow-cooked corn grits — and the beef tenderloin and eggs ($28), the restaurant's elevated version of steak and eggs, served with truffle hollandaise eggs. Don't feel like a hot coffee? The frothy espresso martini makes for a cooling pick-me-up. — Winyan Soo Hoo

7134 Main St., Clifton, Va. 703-266-1623.

The Indian buffet: Bombay Club

Walking into brunch at the Bombay Club is like taking a time machine to D.C. in the era before fast-casual: a pianist tinkling away on a white baby grand; unobtrusive waiters in white shirts and black bow ties; a plush patterned carpet underfoot; and white tablecloths. The downtown restaurant's all-you-can-eat brunch ($24) on Sundays covers unlimited trips to the buffet, where silver chafing bowls are filled with Indian dishes not found on the regular menu: Think a spicy paneer jalfrezi with tender house-made cheese; a rich dal tadka; and a carrot and bean googath fired up with mustard seeds and curry leaves. (Make sure you save room for the rice kheer and its cardamom-spiked tapioca pearls.) Add $11 to the bill, and a waiter will keep your glass topped up with sparkling wine. — Fritz Hahn

815 Connecticut Ave. NW.

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The seafood feast: Hank's Oyster Bar

All four branches of Jamie Leeds's upscale seafood shack offer brunch, although there are slight differences among the menus. The Hangtown Fry — a frittata with fried oysters and bacon or pork belly — is a constant ($16), as is the panko-coated crab cake paired with poached eggs and a tangy hollandaise sauce ($17). Ingredients in the three-egg omelet rotate; a recent version included house-smoked salmon ($13-$14). Each outpost has its quirks, but the newest, at the Wharf, has one perk: a large patio overlooking the waterfront. For those planning a long brunch, the Hank's on the Hill and Dupont Circle locations offer a bottomless option, with unlimited bloody marys, mimosas or plain sparkling wine. — Fritz Hahn

1624 Q St. NW; 633 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 701 Wharf St. SW; 1026 King St., Alexandria.

The Italian treat: Alta Strada

If you keep company with people who "don't like brunch," take them to Alta Strada, chef Michael Schlow's Italian restaurant in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood. Yes, the tidy menu includes basics — bottomless mimosas ($22) take top billing, while scrambled eggs and French toast (both $11.95) closely follow. But even skeptics will enjoy the everything-spice-bagel pizza ($15.95), sporting a crust covered in sesame, caraway and poppy seeds and topped with salmon, tomatoes, red onion, capers and dollops of mascarpone. Other options include spaghetti carbonara ($11.95) and eggs Benedict with duck ragout ($14.95). Best of all, on a recent visit, noise levels — the bane of the brunch hater's existence — remained astonishingly low, spilled drink at the DIY bloody mary bar ($9) notwithstanding. — Kara Elder

465 K St. NW. 202-629-4662.

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