by Rich Rubin
While I’m not a huge breakfast eater, I do love me a great brunch. I’m not quite sure what it is: maybe it’s the combination of breakfast and lunch dishes I find so intriguing. Perhaps it’s the “special occasion” nature of the meal, held only on Sundays (with, increasingly, the addition of Saturdays to the lineup). It could be the interesting crossover selection indicated by the word “brunch” that allows each diner to go in his/her own direction. Whatever it is, it’s a beloved tradition that, while starting to catch on across the globe, is still pretty much an American tradition. Here are some of my favorite brunch spots, both for ambience and food. While all but one serve dinner as well, you can’t go wrong at a late-morning or early-afternoon weekend celebration of culinary creativity.
DW BISTRO (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Las Vegas has so much to offer in so many different neighborhoods that whenever possible I try to get off The Strip for variety. In the Summerlin area, a little off the beaten track, lies a real winner: DW Bistro. With its contemporary black-and-white look, and appealing menu with hints of Jamaica and New Mexico, it’s quickly become a brunch hotspot (literally, given some of the spicy dishes!). Gaze out at the view past the city to distant mountains and prepare to enjoy your bottomless mimosas. Then the delights start arriving. Tuna tartare combines the kick of jalapeño/tomatillo salsa with the mellowness of avocados and a touch of yuzu foam. The amazing pastry basket holds croissants (plain and chocolate), scones, and other delights. From here, you can go spicy or soothing (or both all in one dish). Chicken flautas come with lime crema, pico de gallo, and avocado/tomatillo salsa, while the creamy coconut curry sauce of the Jamaican curry bowl still manages to pack a wallop. Get your omelet with tomatoes/goat cheese, roasted vegetables, or (we’re back to the Jamaica/New Mexico fusion here) jerk pork, and green chilis. In an atmosphere of laid back, friendly chic, it’s a great way to spice up your Las Vegas weekend. 9275 West Russell Rd., Suite 190, Las Vegas, NV. Tel: 702-527-5200. Brunch served Saturday 10 A.M. to 3 P.M., Sunday 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. www.dwbistro.com
CAFÉ MADELEINE (St. Louis. Missouri)
The first thing you notice about Café Madeleine is the amazing setting. As you enter the main gates of Tower Grove Park, off to your left, reposing behind a lily pond and a profusion of green, is the Piper Palm House, the oldest greenhouse west of the Mississippi (built in 1878). Step inside to see sunlight flooding in through the many windows and rows of palms and other greenery lining the walls. Then your eye strays to the buffet in the center, which is colorfully eye-catching. Step up to the tables groaning with food, and you’ll find such marvels as arugula/peach or spinach/feta/raspberry salads, a tempting array of cheese, fruit, vegetables, smoked salmon, and all the fixings. Dig into roasted Brussels sprouts with pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries, or a gorgeous fingerling potato salad. There’s a create-your-own omelet station and another area for waffles with a variety of toppings. Desserts range from their eponymous madeleines to minimuffins, pinwheel cookies, and bread pudding. If it feels like a special event, it is, as the Palm House is not open as a restaurant and Sunday’s brunch is catered by the local company Butler’s Pantry. It’s the perfect spot for a birthday or anniversary, or simply to take a loved one to enjoy some great food in a stunning setting. 4256 Magnolia Ave., St. Louis MO. Tel: 314-575-5658. Brunch served Sunday 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. www.cafemadeleinestl.com
FORK (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Longtime Philadelphia favorite Fork (it celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017) remains popular for a reason: they get it right. From the farm-fresh cuisine (Fork was using local purveyors before it was a “thing”) to the earthy/hip, chic/soothing atmosphere, there’s a reason that Fork continues to draw in a mix of locals and visitors. Brunch is straightforward and delicious, fueled by the freshness of the food, with touches of creativity making for a series of unexpected delights. Sweet Amalia oysters, for instance, are paired with pickled rhubarb, while a yogurt parfait comes with pumpkin seed granola. Looking for something hearty? Their broccoli/swiss/caramelized onion omelet is perfect for vegetarians, while carnivores can add ham from Ely Farm, located in suburban Philadelphia. With such dishes as eggs and grilled sausage with romesco, poached eggs with polenta, and maple French toast, they keep it simple but with hints of the creativity that has long marked Fork. Have a seat on the sidewalk in nice weather and watch the Old City foot traffic go by or enjoy your brunch in the warm and inviting interior. Either way, it’s a guaranteed winner. 306 Market St., Philadelphia PA. Tel: 215-625- 9425. Brunch served Sunday 11 A.M. to 3 P.M. www.forkrestaurant.com