The insider's scoop on food, travel & southern culture
It’s Sunday morning. Hopefully you just caught up on a bit of much-needed sleep. Or maybe you went out last night, and the sunlight streaming through your window is just a little too bright. As you grope the night stand for a glass of water, it hits you — hunger.
Whether brunch is your post-church celebration or your hangover cure, I think we can all agree: brunch hits the spot. It fills a void. It brings us together. It makes us whole again.
Am I being dramatic? Of course not! If you read my last post, The Rules of Brunch, then you know that these are the very reasons why we brunch in the first place. I briefed you on the origins of brunch and laid down a few ground rules. Now, as promised, I am following up with a run-down of some of the best brunch spots.
As I sat down to write this post, I thought about what makes a great brunch, and I decided to stick with what I know best: Southern food. So I sat here and imagined my perfect, down-home brunch — warm & buttery grits, eggs benedict with creamy hollandaise, fluffy pancakes drizzled in maple syrup, crisp bacon, juicy sausage… And then I made myself stop, because drool is not very becoming.
I decided to reach a little further outside of Washington, DC, and clue you in on some of the best Southern brunch spots in the Southeast. I’d advise you not to proceed on an empty stomach:
Big Bad Breakfast (BBB), Oxford, Mississippi
If you’ve never been to Oxford, it’s like taking a trip back in time. The downtown has an Old South charm, with balconies and architecture reminiscent of the late Victorian era. James Beard Award-winning chef, John Currence, has opened a number of nationally acclaimed restaurants in Oxford, yet Big Bad Breakfast is certainly the best of brunch. The restaurant serves up true Southern fare — home fries, andouille and three different kinds of gravy (red eye, sausage and tomato). How does bacon house-cured in tabasco and brown sugar sound to you? This place is a meat-lovers paradise. I’m partial to the omelets myself. The Frittata Omelet is whipped up with parmesan, goat cheese, fresh zucchini, tomato and herbs. Or if your eyes are as big as your stomach, order The Awesome and you can add to your omelet anything you find on the menu. Unleash your Southern creativity.
The Flying Biscuit Cafe, Atlanta, Georgia
To honor Atlantans, I thought I’d give a shout-out to a Southern favorite, The Flying Biscuit Cafe. It’s probably not hard to guess that the restaurant is known for its biscuits. I’d first like to point out that a biscuit is a hard thing to perfect. It’s gotta be the right amount of fluffy, crumbly, doughy — something only the South has been able to accomplish to date. (What, you’d trust a Northerner with your biscuit?) The restaurant is tucked back in Candler Park; the decor’s a bit mismatched, like you’d find in a Southern kitchen. Flying Biscuit serves up a number of breakfast combos that include their signature chicken sausage and organic oatmeal pancakes. The restaurant’s Smoked Salmon Scramble is incredible (wood-smoked with a dill creme cheese), along with the Orange Scented French Toast (whole wheat with raspberry creme sauce). Of course, served with biscuits on the side!
Acadiana, Washington, DC
The Louisiana-style restaurant, Acadiana, offers a prix fixe menu for their Mardi Gras Brunch, allowing you to craft your own three-course feast. Chef Jeff Tunks, and Executive Chef Brant Tesky, impart the New Orleans influence onto dishes like the Southern Shrimp and Grits and the Eggs Acadiana (two poached eggs, Louisiana crawfish crabcakes and tasso ham hollandaise). Tricks me into thinkin’ I’m back home… The Fresh Market Beignets are served with a chicory coffee creme anglaise. The best part? Every Sunday, a live jazz band fills the restaurant with rhythmic renditions from the French Quarter. And with the prix fixe menu, Acadiana’s Blood Orange Mimosas and Cajun Marys are only $2. No excuse not to try…
The Grand Hotel, Point Clear, Alabama
I’ve been going to the “Grand Gourmet Buffet” at the Grand Hotel for many years now. At the Southern tip of Alabama (near Mobile), Point Clear may be a little off the beaten path, but well worth the trek for a Southern bruncher. Fresh breads from the hotel’s Pastry Shoppe are among the spread of breakfast meats, potatoes and stone-ground grits. Try as I might to resist, I succumb to the Belgian waffle station every time, with fresh fruit and all the fixings. The dining room overlooks the beautiful gulf coast of Point Clear. Sweet home Alabama!
Ralph’s On the Park, New Orleans, Louisiana
Last but not least, I journey to my homeland for a little Southern lovin’ at Ralph’s. Executive Chef Chip Flanagan is known for honoring local, Louisiana favorites with “an eccentric twist.” The historic building sits on New Orleans’ City Park — picturesque & peaceful. The restaurant is famous for one of my favorites, the Blue Crab Beignets, served with a spicy pepper jelly creme. With the “Bubbles & Brunch” menu, you have the choice of endless mimosas (um, I choose yes), as well as the choice of dishes like Braised Lamb, Chicken & Waffles, and White Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding (with cinnamon ice cream). Can’t go wrong people, you just can’t.
While there are so many more Southern favorites to honor, I must stop here for time’s sake. Even if you don’t have Southern roots, there’s nothing wrong with growing some.