Let's do brunch!

Photo: Eze Amos
Bluegrass Grill's Friends with Benedicts. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto
Bluegrass Grill’s Friends with Benedicts. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Trends with Benedicts

Charlottesville chefs love to put their own spins on a brunch basic

Eggs Benedict unites a crisp English muffin, savory Canadian bacon, decadent hollandaise sauce and two fluffy clouds of poached egg. No one knows for certain who first dreamed up this bedrock of the respectable brunch menu. And here in Charlottesville, it seems, no one can quite agree on the best way to make it. As this roundup reveals, poached eggs are a must, but everything else is up for grabs.

Eggs Sardou

Rapture

Chef Alex Terpilowski’s latest Benedict “hails from the New Orleans tradition,” he says. Its Big Easy namesake pairs artichokes with creamed spinach, but Terpilowski’s version combines housemade spinach-artichoke spread (with buttermilk and lemon for extra tanginess), eggs, a biscuit or muffin and grilled tomato. Terpilowski says he’s already thinking about his next Southern twist on the Benedict, and pondering ways to meld Hollandaise sauce with red-eye gravy.

Chorizo Benedict with avocado salad and jalapeño hollandaise

Hamiltons’ at First & Main

Chef Curtis Shaver and his kitchen compatriots were brainstorming new Benedict ideas when they remembered the Spanish dry chorizo they served with mussels at dinner. An avocado salad creates a nest that keeps the sausage and poached eggs on their housemade biscuit base. Jalapeños smoked for 20 minutes add slight heat to the avocado’s brightness, the chorizo’s spice and the eggs’ richness, Shaver says.

Breakfast BBQ

Blue Moon Diner

Six years ago, co-owners Laura Galgano and Franklin Rice Hall updated their weekend specials with a Benedict topped with hand-seasoned, six-hour braised pulled pork barbecue. It proved so popular that they not only kept it on the breakfast menu, but they took pulled pork sandwiches off the lunch menu; the breakfast version outsold its midday counterpart. “If we put an egg on something, people go crazy,” Galgano says.

Commonwealth's pork belly Benedict. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto
Commonwealth’s pork belly Benedict. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Pork belly or sauteéd greens Benedicts

Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar

Chef Reggie Calhoun trades English muffins or biscuits for buttery toasted brioche slices from Albemarle Baking Company. That base soaks up juices from either a tender, crispy, house-brined hunk of pork belly, or a sautéed mix of Swiss chard, Louisa living lettuces, baby spinach and cilantro. The water, lightly squeezed from the blend just before serving, Calhoun says, helps cut the richness of the eggs and hollandaise sauce: “You can taste the real flavor of the greens.”

The Hungry Norman, the Southern Belle, the Big Bad Wolf and more

Bluegrass Grill & Bakery

“I would run a whole restaurant of Benedicts if I could,” says Bluegrass owner Chrissy Benninger. Instead, she offers a battalion of regular and special Benedicts. The Hungry Norman, a previous chef’s invention involving goat cheese, blackberry jam and sausage links, began the Benedict bonanza about five years ago. Its many companions now include customer favorite the Southern Belle, a weekend-only mix of smoked Gouda pimiento cheese, chopped bacon and tomatoes, and jalapeño Hollandaise. Benninger also created a Brie, raspberry jam, ham and jalapeño Hollandaise combo to fit a name her 22-year-old son dreamed up: “Friends With Benedicts.”—NA

 

Bizou's vegetable frittata. Photo: John Robinson
Bizou’s vegetable frittata. Photo: John Robinson

Keep it clean

If you’re trying to be health-conscious, brunch can be a real buzzkill. But it’s not all sugary syrups and pastry baskets. Here’s the good, better, best if you’re craving cleaner eats.

“I mean, it has spinach, so…”

Cafe Caturra’s spinach, tomato and cheddar omelet

A fluffy cheese omelet intermixed with greens and tomato overtop Caturra potatoes with a side of wheat toast. Don’t forgo a cup of the café’s locally roasted coffee to accompany.

“It’s vegetarian!”

Bizou’s vegetable frittata

Crimini mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and braised kale mingle in this brunch staple, topped off with a sprinkle of chèvre and drizzled with a red pepper coulis for just a hint of spice.

“I’m vegan.”

Fig’s vegan scramble

This mix of organic tofu with zucchini, tomatoes, onions, spinach and baby bellas shines. Add a side of avocado for three bucks and toss it on top for a creamy addition.

Old Mill Room. Photo: John Robinson

The big binge

Stretch out your weekend repast with one of three local brunch buffets

What’s the worst part of brunch? When it’s over, of course.

Enter the brunch buffet—your invitation to eat as much as you want at your own pace and maybe even throw in a couple mimosas.

“We do a breakfast buffet every day, but on Sunday we blow it out of the water with brunch,” says Shawn Jernigan, director of food and beverage at the Boar’s Head Inn Old Mill Room. “It’s a lively Sunday afternoon.”

After a long week of charging hard at work and the gym, loosen the belt and check out one of these three never-ending brunch spreads.

Old Mill Room

The granddaddy of C’ville brunch buffets has been around for more than 20 years. To hang on that long, it’s had to find its niche.

“It’s evolved into something that’s been a community effort, a focal point of the community,” Jernigan says. “People go to church and come see us, or those same families that come to town year after year come when they visit.”

The evolution means that alongside perfectly poached eggs Benedict and slow-roasted prime rib sliced to order, the Old Mill Room is adding new items to the brunch buffet all the time, like the rotating composed salads or throwing a crab cake on that eggs Benny.

And they’re sourcing more and more items locally, be they from Virginia’s vast selection of artisanal cheeses or produce bought at the farmers market on Saturday and served the next morning at the à la minute omelet station.

“In an era when sometimes Sunday brunch has been a little passé, we have seemed to be able to sustain a great Sunday crowd and following,” chef Dale Ford says. “We are proud of the level of interaction in the dining room and proud of the fact that the local community supports all our efforts.”

The Old Mill Room brunch customer base has likewise evolved. What began as a meal focused on hotel guests is now about 90 percent outside customers, many of whom are loyal regulars, Jernigan says.

The Fitzroy

When the Fitzroy opened last year, it was clear owner Richard Ridge and his team totally “got it” when it comes to brunch.

“We may eat breakfast rushing out the door on our way to work or heat up leftovers for dinner at home because we’re too tired to cook,” Ridge said. “However, brunch is the one meal that if you’re going to go for it, you absolutely want to do it right.”

The answer was a buffet with a few select items, prepared in a way that didn’t cost the kitchen on quality. It lets folks eat at their own pace, and it’s particularly well suited to big crowds—the key to a good Sunday funday stretching from late morning to early afternoon.

As for the menu, it’s classics-plus: shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles (two regulars’ favorites), a rotating veggie frittata, locally baked cinnamon buns from Goodwin Creek bakery or a fresh-baked house coffeecake. The Fitzroy also offers fresh-squeezed juices and one of the best new cocktail programs in town.

“Brunch is all about comfort, and we’ve got a lot of dishes that we know our guests look forward to having week in and week out,” Ridge says. “Knowing that, we prefer to keep a steady lineup while varying certain dishes slightly depending on the season.”

The Pointe

When you do a breakfast buffet every day, you get the hang of it. Like the Old Mill Room, The Omni’s Pointe restaurant takes its weekday bread and butter and amps it up on Sundays.

“We call it The Art of Breakfast, and it’s everything under the sun—steel cut oatmeal, Bodo’s bagels, capers, onion, pancakes and waffles, omelets to order, a whole gluten-free section with cereal and muffins,” says Jordan Siverson, the hotel’s director of food and beverage. Wait, Bodo’s bagels? Yep.

The Pointe serves up its brunch buffet, which includes coffee, tea and juice, both Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 2pm. Reservations are suggested.—SG

Petit Pois' short ribs and eggs. Photo: Eze Amos
Petit Pois’ short ribs and eggs. Photo: Eze Amos

Meat and greet

For optimal hangover-crushing power, turn to the meaty brunch

Go ahead and have that light breakfast. It’s early, and your dainty little tummy probably can’t take anything heavy.

But as the clock rolls toward noon, open things up and bring on the meat. Brunch gives you the chance to order anything you want, maybe have ’em throw an egg on there, and call it a morning meal. These six dishes put the lunch in brunch with some seriously meaty implications.

Short ribs and eggs

Petit Pois

Chef Brian Helleberg knows his way around a brunch menu—he’s constantly making up new dishes for the weekend spread by adapting successful lunch and dinner items. Take the braised short ribs and eggs. “Our short ribs from Wolf Creek are just so good,” he says. Why not take them to brunch?

Helleberg braises the ribs in wine and stock, pulls them off the bone and pairs them with parsnip purée, grilled bread, poached eggs and a splash of the braising liquid to bring it all together.

Brunch burger

Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar

Commonwealth’s Brunch Burger is all about simplicity. That’s what chef Reggie Calhoun says his customers want. “Our cheeseburger on the regular menu is more complicated,” he says. “I felt like for brunch, people love simplicity.”

To achieve the goal, Calhoun makes his patties out of Commonwealth’s house grind of brisket, skirt steak and short rib, and tops them with bacon, an over-hard fried egg, American cheese, aioli and fresh lettuce and tomato.

“We don’t overcomplicate it,” Calhoun says. “I’ve figured out our crowd. We just want to give them something made from scratch and delicious.”

B&B waffle

Fossett’s

The first B: blue corn waffle. The second: braised pork belly. There’s no going back and forth on this one—it’s a celebration of meat for breakfast.

“We cure our own pork belly and braise it in local apple cider,” Fossett’s Robert Jackson says. After about five hours at 300 degrees, the pork belly gets a hard sear on the flattop and is served with sunny-side up eggs, whipped butter and “the best Virginia maple syrup we can find.”

Oh, and that’s all on a waffle beefed up with blue corn so it can stand up to the rich toppings. Thank the brunch gods those Bs got together.

Pulled pork biscuits

Firefly

Homemade drop biscuits, slow-roasted pork shoulder and not one but two sauces. That’s how Firefly rolls out its take on biscuits and gravy.

“It’s been one of our top sellers at brunch,” says chef Ted Miller. Get a load of these flavors and you’ll see why—marinated pork butt cooked low and slow, barbecue sauce with the braising liquid as a base, biscuits with notes of onion, Monterey Jack cheese and rosemary and a traditional white cream-based gravy with bacon fat and sage.

When the barbecue sauce and gravy come together, “it’s like an overload of sweet and salty,” Miller says.

Chicken and waffles

The Whiskey Jar

The chicken and waffles at The Whiskey Jar are the restaurant’s “big work horse,” according to chef John Meiklejohn. And why wouldn’t they be? This “classic combo hits all the notes—savory, sweet, crispy and the waffle is nice and soft inside,” Meiklejohn says.

The Jar’s take on the dish is highly traditional and highly addictive: a Belgian-style buttermilk waffle topped with maple syrup and old school on-the-bone Southern fried chicken marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce, served with or without gravy. Go ahead and get the gravy.

Duck Hunt club

Oakhurst Inn Café

Club sandwiches are great. What if they had duck confit and applewood-smoked bacon on them?

“The nice smokiness of the bacon goes well with the juicy fattiness of the duck,” chef Hannah Moster says. Add to those bits local chèvre cheese, peppery arugula, house-made sweet-and-sour cherries in a balsamic reduction, tuck it all into three slices of local pain de campagne, and you got yourself one ducky club.SG

Brunch battle

Which taste sensation reigns supreme at the mid-morning meal?

Salty versus sweet—an epic battle playing out across mankind’s tabletops for generations. And in no place is that battle more heated than on the brunch table. Those who favor the savory will have no place for those who bow to the sweet. And those who favor the saccharine shall hardly deign to dine with the salt-addled savages.

Hyperbole you say? We say not. Let’s turn to the experts.

Savory saviors

Patrick Evans of MarieBette Café & Bakery is a pastry chef living a lie. He’s much more likely to order an egg dish for brunch than a sugary confection.

“I don’t want to sugar crash in the middle of the morning,” he says. “I feel like sugar is really good in the moment but then you regret it.”

Egg sandwiches, bacon, croques madame and monsieur, breakfast tacos and burritos, maybe an apple tart with no sugar added—that’s what gets Evans going in the morning. And indeed, it’s his castigation of the cloying that might make him the pastry chef he is.

“I’m not as inclined to load anything up with icing, anything overly sweet,” he says. “Our pastries are not sickeningly sweet. I have just never had a huge sweet tooth.”

Sweet saints

How far do you have to go from Evans to find a dissenting opinion? Across the kitchen. His partner Jason Becton can’t get enough of the ’crose.

“Patrick would rather have bread during dinner, and I would rather skip it and fill up on dessert,” he says. “I think it’s kind of like our personalities.”

Becton craves MarieBette’s French toast stuffed with roasted bananas and cream cheese, crêpes with Nutella, pancakes with berries and whipped cream for brunch. And he comes by it honestly.

“One of our daughters said, ‘This is too sweet’ about something,” he says. “That would never have come out of my mouth when I was 5.”—SG

Photo: Eze Amos
Photo: Eze Amos

Old Country cookin’

For brunch with a kick, head south

Brunch isn’t just an English tradition. If you ask the folks at The Bebedero, your mid-morning meal might be the best time to spice things up.

The Downtown Mall restaurant features a unique brunch menu inspired by the family cooking traditions of chefs Yuliana Perez Vasquez and Cesar Perez, specifically the food from Vasquez’s native Veracruz, Mexico. “We wanted to show some dishes used as brunch in Mexico,” says Vasquez. “We use mainly fresh ingredients and all made in-house recipes to make sure the true Mexican flavors stand out.”

The region of Veracruz lines the Gulf of Mexico, and is known for the use of seafood and tropical fruits in its cuisine, which has Afro-Cuban and Spanish influences. The result is a mix of bright, savory and slightly sweet flavors like black pepper, saffron and vanilla that happen to pair perfectly with brunch staples.

The Bebedero's Puebla omelette. Photo: Eze Amos
The Bebedero’s Puebla omelette. Photo: Eze Amos

Examples of this fusion on the brunch menu at the Downtown Mall restaurant include the Veracruz Benedict, which replaces the traditional English muffin with a dense potato and chorizo cake, topped with an egg and a tangy Veracruz Hollandaise sauce. The Puebla omelette is a take on the classic brunch favorite, but with the kick of sliced jalapeño, which gets rounded out by creamy queso Oaxaca. Both dishes balance rich, comforting components with lighter, clean flavors.

While brunching at The Bebedero, make plans to share a toast over one a signature cocktail. Brunchtime calls for a pisco sour: light and fluffy with citrus, egg whites and Chilean Pisco, rimmed with a smoky, spicy salt, set aflame then topped with a fresh flower. Salud!—WK

For some, just a leisurely meal isn’t enough. Fellini’s #9 takes care of those with short attention spans every first Sunday of the month, with its ever-popular drag brunch. Let Ava Loution, Dreama Belle or any number of buxom entertainers dazzle you with song, dance and Bingo. And be sure to get a bloody Mary, doll.

Rise & shine

Brunch cocktails worth waking up for

Weekend brunch: the only time it’s socially acceptable to order a water, a coffee, an orange juice and a bloody Mary all at once. We all know that brunch would just be plain old breakfast if it weren’t for the drink menu, so whether you’re still recovering from the night before or just getting started for the day, go ahead and make brunch official with one of these morning (or afternoon) cocktails.

Photo: John Robinson
Photo: John Robinson

Green bloody Mary

Tavern & Grocery

It may not be easy being green, but it sure is tasty. At Tavern & Grocery, a spin on the classic bloody Mary features green tomato, tomatillo and jalapeño juices blended with arugula and roasted garlic. General manager and bar director Patrick McClure recommends ordering it with gin or tequila, but he says the drink is hearty enough to cover the burn of vodka.

Pair it with: Croque Madame

Breakfast shot

Boylan Heights

It’s never too early for a shot, amirite? Should you stagger on down to the Corner for weekend brunch, go ahead and treat yourself to the breakfast shot, which tastes like pancakes and syrup. It’s the perfect solution for those mornings when you can’t decide between sweet and savory for brunch—eat your eggs, drink your pancakes.

Pair it with: A classic bacon, egg and cheese

Rhubarb fizz

Hamiltons’ at First & Main

In the mood for something bubbly, but not fruity? The brunch menu at Hamiltons’ includes the rhubarb fizz, an elegant cocktail made of rhubarb bitters, raw sugar cube and Prosecco. It’s not too sweet, not too bitter and not too sour.

Pair it with: Frittata du jour

Key lime brown sugar margarita

Beer Run 

Okay, we know a margarita isn’t exactly classic bunch booze. But Beer Run offers breakfast tacos on Saturdays, and really, what could possibly pair better with those than a margarita with Sauza Gold tequila, homemade turbinado sugar syrup and natural key lime juice?

Pair it with: El Guapo breakfast burrito

Photo: Rammelkamp Foto
Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Mimosas

Shebeen Pub & Braai 

You didn’t think we’d get all the way through this list without a mimosa, did you? Well at the Shebeen they’ll see your orange juice and champagne and raise you 10 other fruity choices. With options ranging from blood orange to peach to pineapple, all mimosas are available by the glass and by the pitcher (which servers four).

Pair it with: Anything on the menu—LI