Soon enough, we’ll all be able to go to restaurants that are crowded, have a wait, and allow you to drink a mimosa while you hold onto the little pager thing that lets you know when your table is ready. Sure, you can kinda still do that, but the restaurants are at limited capacity, you have to keep your mask on unless you’re already seated, and the whole experience is just a little off. That’s okay, by the way. It’s okay. Covid has hit restaurants and other food service businesses especially hard. It’s okay to wear your mask while you wait if it means keeping food on the proprietor’s (and server’s and cook’s and busboy’s) tables.
One of the things I miss most is Sunday brunch. You meet up with some friends, some of you are hungover, some are still drunk, and some were the DD and can’t wait to drink hard liquor at 10:00 a.m. on a school/work night. You all get to the restaurant which normally has some weird name like The Pickled Ginger or The Horse & Jockey or Hill Country Egg Company. I don’t know if those are real places. I didn’t Google it or anything. But if one of those places existed, I wouldn’t be surprised. Your drink order isn’t important unless you order something REALLY nor brunchy like Scotch on the rocks or just a big ol’ glass of gin. But your food order generally says something about you. For instance…
Eggs Benedict: You’re a Traditionalist
Classic Eggs Benny. English muffin topped with Canadian bacon, a medium-poached egg, and velvety-smooth Hollandaise sauce. This is a brunch staple. Maybe you order this because you ordered it the first time you ever had brunch and loved it, or because you’ve been experimenting with other brunch dishes and want to get back to something more traditional. It’s likely that you order a mimosa because that’s the most traditional brunch cocktail. You have a 9-to-5 in an office building where you have some management responsibilities. You answer a LOT of emails, and despite your wishes to be more aggressive at idiots, you smartly maintain your professional demeanor, even when the email is stupid. After brunch you’re probably swinging by Ace Hardware because you’ve got some yardwork to do and you need to grab some more weedeater string. I love eggs benedict. It’s a touchstone of brunch, and it deserves some respect because of that. I may not order it every time, but it’s definitely an option, and it’s always there when I need it.
French Toast or Loaded Pancakes/Waffles: You Hate Your Job and Might Be Drunk Still
We’ve all seen it. French toast, or pancakes, or waffles, piled high with whipped cream, fresh berries, a sprig of mint, and enough maple syrup to make Dudley Do-Right renounce his Canadian citizenship. There’s a better word for what you actually ordered: dessert. You ordered dessert. There’s no protein, no savory element, no reprieve from sugar. It’s something that would be just as appropriate being ordered from the dessert cart at a steakhouse. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with having something sweet in the mornings. But every time I have seen someone order that, they’ve still been just a touch buzzed from the night before. You probably have an office job that you hate. Maybe you’re a model employee, but you hate it. You hate the dress code, you hate the clientele, you hate your boss, you hate Becky in human resources because she compares owning a chihuahua to raising children. But you love your best work friend. That person makes fun of everyone else with you, occasionally goes with you when you have a liquid lunch, and is always game for barhopping after the lame-ass Christmas party.
Chilaquiles/Migas: You Don’t Actually Like Mexican Food
There’s one caveat to this rule: If you are having brunch at a Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant that just happens to serve brunch, then migas or chilaquiles will probably be awesome. But if you’re ordering this at some place in a recently-gentrified trendy center where the waitstaff wear flannel and suspenders, you’re not getting real migas or real chilaquiles. Real migas and real chilaquiles are like most authentically Mexican/Texican dishes: simple. Not too many ingredients, not too difficult to make, not containing anything you can only get at a specialty store, and definitely not made by someone who pronounces the names like Peggy Hill would. These meals at brunch places always have too much going on. Too many things mixed in with the eggs for migas, too many toppings for the chilaquiles. You ordered this because it seems like it’s ethnic or a little more worldly than something as simple as pancakes. You may even go whole hog and order a tequila sunrise, thinking it’s a Mexican cocktail. In reality, the tequila sunrise comes from Arizona. You wouldn’t ever actually go to a Mexican restaurant and order something traditional because it wouldn’t be gringo-ified enough for your palate. But the monstrosity in front of you with 76 ingredients and 8 sauces, topped with neatly sliced avocado and cherry tomatoes, is all you.
Breakfast Sampler: You’re Hungover
In many other English-speaking countries, they have what is known as a fry-up, or sometimes a full English. This is normally eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, toast, tomatoes, blood pudding, and mushrooms. We don’t have that hear because we won the Revolutionary War, but we do have breakfast platters/samplers. This is normally eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, toast, hash browns, a pancake, and maybe some tomato slices. It’s a lot of grease, a lot of fat, and a lot of deliciousness. But you’re only ordering it because you feel like absolute death and you’re hoping the grease will soak up the alcohol and texts you sent to your ex. Trust me. I’ve had my share of breakfast samplers in my time. And for the record, I’ve loved them all. Normally that combined with some Irish coffee or a screwdriver normally takes care of the hangover. And even if that much food doesn’t rid you of the hangover, it will probably make you sleepy. That’s just as good. Sleep is great for hangovers.
Breakfast Burger: You Didn’t Want Brunch
You didn’t want brunch. You wanted to wait and go to lunch, and maybe catch the game on TV at the restaurant. All you wanted was lunch food. Maybe you wanted to sleep in. Maybe you hate the whole brunch scene. Or maybe you’re meeting your girlfriend’s friends and you don’t like them very much. Whatever the reason, you didn’t want orange-juice-based cocktails and blueberry waffles. The menu provides a saving grace: a hamburger. Sure, it’s served with some weird sauce and arugula instead of lettuce. And sure, it comes with hash browns instead of french fries. But at it’s core, it’s a cheeseburger with a side of fried potatoes. All you gotta do is scarf this bad boy down and listen to your girlfriend’s friends complain about their boyfriends, then you can be home in time for the noon kickoff. This burger is a compromise, and frankly compromise is what makes the world go ’round, so that’s okay. But you’re definitely going to order a beer with it because you just can’t succumb to the juice-and-hard-liquor thing.