Brunch originated as a post-church dining experience. But lately, the meal may have replaced the worship.
Consider the similarities: Churchgoers and brunchgoers get dressed up in their Sunday best (fancy hats and Lululemon yoga pants, respectively), listen to a sermon (though it might just be about last night’s bad date, for the latter) and drink from a ritual cup (consecrated wine for some, mimosas for others).
Whether it’s a “Sunday Funday” bottomless drinkfest or just a chance to catch up with friends over eggs, restaurants are cashing in on the proliferation of brunchers. The midday meal has become an essential part of the weekend, especially in Washington, where new eateries open every week and restaurants are stepping up their brunch offerings.
“There’s a lot more wealth in the city, and because of that, I think brunch became a lot more popular,” said Saied Azali, the owner of Perry’s and Mintwood Place, two popular brunch spots in Adams Morgan. “People are more foodie. They want to try different food, and they don’t want to spend as much money” on just one meal.
Even though new condo buildings have brought young people with plenty of disposable income downtown, Azali says he thinks these new foodies are more willing to make brunch, not dinner, a weekly occurrence because it tends to be cheaper and less of a time commitment, allowing them to try more restaurants.
In 1991, Azali started the brunch at Perry’s, a $24.95 buffet with a drag performance, to draw customers in during what was a slow time at the restaurant. That’s no longer a concern, as diners regularly line up an hour before the restaurant’s 10 a.m. Sunday opening to claim a seat for the show (Saturday’s brunch does not feature drag). The drag-brunch clientele is usually large groups of women. But at Mintwood Place, which features a subdued, PG-rated brunch, weekend morning business has been on a steady incline, Azali says, especially drawing in groups of couples with kids.
Over on 14th Street NW, where a recent restaurant boom has resulted in more than 60 eateries in a 13-block stretch (with more opening soon), the neighborhood has become one of the most popular weekend brunch promenades.
“It’s definitely the most competitive street in Washington, D.C.,” said Ivan Iricanin, the director of operations for the Richard Sandoval restaurant group, which includes Masa 14, El Centro D.F., Ambar and Zengo. “I can say that our brunch [at Masa] has not been affected. With more people coming into the area, our area becomes a destination.”
Restaurant brunches are more than just destinations, they’re communal experiences. In busy Washington, sometimes the weekend mornings are the only time groups of friends can manage to get together.
And, when brunch comes after a long night of partying, the meal has even more in common with church: The confessing of sins. Penance? That wicked hangover. But a few bloody marys offer salvation.
Read more: Brunch isn’t a no-brainer for restaurants