Restaurant critics tend to dislike brunch, and there are valid reasons why some of them opt out of the weekend ritual: The B team is typically cooking the eggs, and in many cases, brunch is seen as a good way for chefs to clean out the cooler and use up leftovers at the end of the week.
Some of my industry peers see brunch as an intrusion. After a busy week of table-hopping, the thought of leaving home for a meal that’s not really breakfast and not really lunch — and often laced with booze — is, well, nap-inducing.
I beg to differ with the haters out there. On a personal note, brunch is a chance to catch up with friends at a leisurely pace. Brunch provides nice punctuation between reading the papers and a Sunday night date with HBO. Here in Washington, many brunch opportunities embrace a world of flavors, underlining the city’s status as a world capital.
Some inspiration, nap optional:
No matter what kind of night preceded your arrival at Bearnaise on Capitol Hill, the Chef’s Hangover Cure does its best to make you feel whole again. Diced potato, sauteed leek, bacon and mustard create a base for pressed pieces of pig’s foot, a funky hash completed with a curtain of bearnaise sauce and a trembling egg that adds more richness to the rib-sticking mass once it’s poked with a fork.
Not into offal? Consider the Montreal Special, which gets its name from an imported sesame-sprinkled bagel, which is smaller and sweeter and has a larger hole than its New York counterpart. Filling out the plate are Norwegian smoked salmon and colorful accents of chopped egg, onion and capers. The kitchen also makes a respectable vegetarian omelet, stuffed on my visit with spinach and Gruyere and flanked with a proper green salad made interesting with haricots verts.
Whipped up by former “Top Chef” performer Spike Mendelsohn, the loud, two-story bistro channels Paris with black-and-white tile floors and faux-weathered mirrors. Bottomless $16 mimosas and bloody marys, on the other hand, keep customers grounded in the States.
315 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 202-450-4800. www.bearnaiserestaurant.com. Brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Brunch dishes $10 to $24.
The concept of brunch sounds anathema to late-night-loving Spain, but Boqueria downtown gives diners nearly 20 bite-size reasons to get out of bed in time to sample the restaurant’s unlimited tapas, drinks and sweets for $39. (Available, reads the fine print, only if ordered by the entire table.)
The food — tasty lamb meatballs in tomato sauce, traditional omelet with potatoes and onions, steamed mussels perked up with salsa verde — flies out of the kitchens, one of which is on display behind glass near the entrance. Sure, you can get a mimosa, but wouldn’t you rather go with the flow here and sip a sangria? The wine-based drinks come in a trio of flavors: red, white and rosé, each distinctive and delicious. Slender, sugar-dusted churros dipped in hot chocolate will also make you happy to have exchanged your pajamas for jeans. (Buttermilk pancakes and eggs Benedict open up the deal for diners who might hold more conservative brunch views.)
The tapa I always get seconds of is one of the simplest: grilled bread with a swipe of crushed tomato and garlic, dropped off with thin slices of nutty-tasting manchego cheese and serrano ham — every bite a Spanish picnic.
1837 M St. NW. 202-558-9545. www.boqueriadc.com. Prix fixe brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (a la carte until 4 p.m.) Saturday and Sunday. A la carte brunch dishes $7 to $19.
Croissants with uni butter, anyone? Novelty reigns at Daikaya, the second-story “house of the big cooking pot” near Verizon Center. Lighted like a Vegas casino, so a patron has no idea what time it is, the Japanese-inspired tavern covers its front window with a rusting steel screen depicting the Japanese symbol for the sea. Thick ropes separate some of the roomy booths.
At Daikaya, chicken and waffles translates to golden nuggets of syrup-sweetened chicken blasted with wasabi butter and served with a fish-shaped pastry filled with red bean paste. The sleeper of the bunch is a skillet of Filipino pork hash called sisig. The combination is somewhat oily, a little sour (with lime), a tad livery — curiously good. The dishes are the size of appetizers; two or three plates work for this grazer.
A welcome touch: Daikaya offers some of its nighttime specialties on the flip side of its brunch menu. That’s my cue to continue crowding the table with, among other attractions, skewers of lightly charred chicken thighs and eggplant draped in a sauce of ground lamb and sesame seeds.
705 Sixth St. NW. 202-589-1600. www.daikaya.com. Brunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Brunch dishes $7 to $12.
Five bucks for a mimosa? Bend my rubber arm. But even if Ghibellina served the liquid eye-opener for double the price, I’d still show up to the rustic Italian restaurant, one of dozens of dining rooms on 14th Street NW, to break my fast.
Ghibellina’s brunch choices are very much to my taste, tilting savory rather than sweet. Fluffy farro with roasted beets, hazelnuts and a splash of sherry vinegar lets a diner feel both virtuous and satisfied — at least until a pair of risotto cakes topped with a couple of fried eggs show up. The cakes, punctuated with crisp prosciutto, get a vivid red backdrop of tomato sauce sharpened with coriander seeds. Shrimp and grits in an Italian restaurant? Sure, the porridge is creamy with white polenta.
Someone ought to ask for a pizza, maybe the finocchiona with a licorice lilt: shaved fennel, fennel salami, fennel seeds, tomato and pecorino cheese. The toppings are strewn on a crust with nice char and yeasty character; as with all the pizzas from the restaurant’s wood-fired oven, this one shows up with kitchen shears. Slice it yourself, in other words.
1610 14th St. NW. 202-803-2389. www.ghibellina.com. Brunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Brunch dishes $7 to $85 (for a 45-ounce porterhouse steak for two).
Koreans don’t “do” brunch, but if they did, the spread at Mandu in Mount Vernon Square is what the restaurant’s chef, Yesoon Lee, imagines the occasion should be: abundant pleasure for $15. Showcased in the center of a long white plate are crisp green pancakes, tinted with chopped chives and grated zucchini, and fluffy yellow omelets in the shape of triangles. Faintly sweet, their layers find earthy mushrooms and soft onions.
Filling out the rest of the canvas: respectable vegetable sushi; hash browns with carrots for color; and a choice of marinated meat or lightly sauteed tofu over a bed of vegetables. A scoop of something cool concludes the festivities; pineapple-basil sorbet might be the most refreshing of all.
453 K St. NW. 202-289-6899. www.mandudc.com. Brunch 11 a.m.to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Korean brunch plate, $15.
For stories, features such as Date Lab, Gene Weingarten and more, visit WP Magazine.
Follow the Magazine on Twitter.
Like us on Facebook.
E-mail us at email@example.com.