Best of Brunch 2017
Weekends are not for sad cereal bars and stale office coffee. Weekends are for lingering over sparkling mimosas, velvety hollandaise and syrup-soaked flapjacks. Weekends are for the greatest meal of the week. In our quest for the area’s top brunches, we laid out some ground rules. Brunch is more than just a hodgepodge of your daily breakfast and lunch; it’s a unique menu or the addition of several specials that take it to the next level. And while there’s a time and a place for buffets, this isn’t it. We drank dozens of bloody marys and broke countless yolks during the nearly 60 meals we ate to bring you St. Louis’ 23 very best brunches. Clear your schedule – you have weekend plans.
2609 Cherokee St., St. Louis, 314.797.8250,vistaramen.com, Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Vista’s brunch is a singular experience. Sure, there are pancakes. But they’re pale green matcha pancakes topped with dollops of elderberry compote, mint leaves, crushed peanuts and a drizzle of condensed milk, hitting all of the sweet, fresh, verdant, savory notes you need. There are grits. Perfectly loose, white grits swimming in a deep, salty shiro dashi with smoked shrimp XO sauce instead of whole shrimp, served with two poached eggs with custardy yolks. Even the okonomiyaki is unexpected – Rueben-inspired, the light, eggy Japanese pancake is topped with thick-cut bacon instead of pastrami, white kimchi instead of kraut, dollops of creamy Thousand Island and a sunny egg for good brunch-isn’t-too-early-to-show-off measure. It’s a relief to know that Vista’s seemingly effortless ability to hit every texture and flavor note needed for a balanced dish is also available on Sunday mornings. – H.H.
Seed Sprout Spoon
3137 Morgan Ford Road, St. Louis, 314.606.0165, seedsproutspoon.com, Sunday – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Gwyneth Paltrow would gush over Seed Sprout Spoon’s idyllic Sunday brunch. The cozy space is a design guru’s dream, decorated with mismatched flatware, vintage blue water glasses and punched tin pendant lights. An organic bloody mary bar boasts jars of pickles and hand-stuffed olives, while the neighboring mimosa bar (yes, mimosa bar) offers house-made honeysuckle or lavender-blueberry syrup. Chef-owner Brendan Kirby champions sustainable, local purveyors on the tight, ever-changing menu. He crumbles Prairie Breeze cheddar cheese atop fluffy cheddar-herb biscuits swimming in gravy with sausage from Todd Geisert Farms. The nearly effervescent waffle arrives bejeweled with strawberry-rhubarb compote, Raber’s maple syrup and fresh whipped cream. Even health-conscious Gwynie wouldn’t feel left out with oyster mushrooms and wilted Swiss chard atop cheesy McKaskle Family Farms grits. Now that’s all good. – C.K.
2728 Cherokee St., St. Louis, 314.400.7712, yaquispizza.com, Sunday – 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
It’s Sunday morning, and Saturday night is weighing heavily on your shoulders. Bleary-eyed, you stumble into the welcoming confines of Yaquis and order the one thing you know will make all things right with the world again: Big Gay Al. A huge bowl of goodness, this creation has a fluffy biscuit base that’s topped with your choice of sausage or bacon, scrambled eggs, and then smothered with gravy. Hangover, be gone! If Al is a bit too much to take, give the breakfast pizzas a shot. Our pick is the Saylor, topped with bacon, sausage, roasted potatoes, eggs, mozz and a thick gravy sauce. These beauties come in either 8- or 14-inch varieties and are baked in a wood-fired oven for just the right amount of chew and char. – M.S.
DeMun Oyster Bar
740 DeMun Ave., Clayton, 314.725.0322, demunoysterbar.com, Saturday and Sunday – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Brunching at DeMun Oyster Bar feels a bit like whiling away the hours at a Parisian sidewalk cafe. Sip on a glass of sparkling rosé from the extensive wine list or one of an array of tasty brunch cocktails, indulge in an oyster or two and let the day slip away. The menu has something for every taste. The breakfast hash, made with ingredients from the restaurant’s Saturday farmers market, is a combo of fresh and hearty. For a tasty twist on a classic, check out the crabcake Benedict – patties of crispy lump crab topped with poached eggs and rich hollandaise, served with home fries. For the truly peckish, the Pony Boy, a hefty open-faced burger topped with cheese sauce, pomme frites and an egg, fits the bill and then some. – M.S.
Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria
9568 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, 314.942.6555, katiespizzaandpasta.com, Saturday and Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Ordering a sweet something for the table is the only way to start brunch right. At Katie’s, get the giant pistachio cinnamon roll, pronto. The dense, cakey and gooey roll is made for grown-ups – rich but barely sweet with a scant amount of icing and a scattering of chopped pistachios. Highlights of the menu include dishes both sweet – a decadent French toast served with berries, whipped cream, fig syrup and crisp pancetta – and savory – the wood-oven eggs cooked to perfection and served with spicy fiama sausage and garlicky potato hash. Order a mimosa (we’re partial to the blackberry) and relax; the sunny dining room is a chic escape meant for all-day brunch lingering. – M.N.
Reeds American Table
7322 Manchester Road, Maplewood, 314.899.9821, reedsamericantable.com, Saturday and Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Subtle culinary touches take brunch at Reeds American Table from great to extraordinary. Hollandaise? Chef-owner Matt Daughaday will see the classic French sauce and raise you his version made with browned butter. He sloshes it over two perfectly poached eggs nestled in a shallow bowl with a cluster of charred mushrooms and green onion. And don’t even get us started on the Italian beef sandwich: paper-thin shreds of beef packed on a hoagie with spicy-sweet-sour giardiniera and a side of rich jus that could hold its own against any Chicago deli. Start and finish with bottomless (but time-limited) miraculous mimosas, made with fresh juice and better wine than is reasonable, or the deep but bright gin-based Brunch Punch, which balances a hit of cold brew coffee with a pop of lemon. – C.K.
7036 Clayton Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.7818, boundary-stl.com, Saturday and Sunday – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Chef Rex Hale and his team at Boundary add refined touches to classic dishes that take the brunch menu from drab to fab. Beignets come with a strawberry-cream dipping sauce perfumed with cardamom, while pancakes are rich and custardy and served with a heap of organic poached fruit. On the savory side, a smoked chicken crepe was as decadent as the sweet stuff due to a ladle of aged white cheddar-cream sauce. Even simple plates like a bacon, egg and avocado sandwich, have a nice array of flavor: a little heat from the pepper jack, juicy local tomatoes and a rich farm egg. It’s comfort fare made brand-new. – M.N.
The Tavern Kitchen & Bar
392 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, 314.696.8400, tavernstl.com, Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Historic space, great service, plus an extensive array of brunch delicacies? Yes, please. The Tavern Kitchen & Bar, housed in the venerable location that once housed Duff’s, continues this address’ tradition of putting out fine food. Those who want a selection of several different items should check out the trios, three small plates that give diners a variety of tastes from the menu. Don’t disregard the stuffed biscuits and gravy just because it’s relegated to the sides list. An enormous, flaky biscuit chock full of egg, mushroom and cheese, topped with spicy gravy and chunks (crumbles is too diminutive a word) of crispy bacon, this dish deserves its own solo spot on the menu. And the lemon ricotta doughnut, somehow rich, dense and fluffy at the same time, is not to be missed. – M.S.
6177 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314.726.2222, eclipsestlouis.com, Saturday and Sunday – 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Candice Poss, the newly appointed executive chef at Eclipse, will charm you with her southern accent and her southern brunch fare. Her shrimp and grits are not to be missed; a sauce that tastes of the ocean spiked with spices, peppers and onions coats super-fresh, head-on shrimp cooked to a remarkable silken texture. She uses Delta Grind grits special-ordered from Mississippi, Poss’ native state, for the most wonderful creamy, buttery concoction that balances the intense flavor of the sauce. Get it, please. Avocado toast – which is ubiquitous and, let’s be honest, basically just mashed avocado on toast – is an unexpected winner. Here, it’s the extra texture that makes it noteworthy: Soft, buttery toast with lemony avocado mash serves as the base for sliced peppery radishes, a sunny egg and thick avocado slices. Solid. But the menu doesn’t stop there; the bananas Foster French toast was a sight, stacked high with several bronzed slices making it an ideal table order. The toast was soft and sat in a pool of caramel, while a smattering of sliced bananas and whipped cream tempered the sweetness of the whole plate, keeping it from becoming a full-blown dessert. – M.N.
7734 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, 314.773.7755, sardellastl.com, Saturday and Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
There are plenty of reasons to tuck into Sardella’s weekend brunch (a warm, yeasty glazed doughnut, a tender house-made English muffin holding a bacon-egg sandwich, a verdant foamy matcha latte), but we only need two. First, we require a hybrid of two brunch classics: chicken and French toast. The kitchen soaks a thick slab of French toast overnight in a custard spiked with fierce ’nduja. After the spa treatment, it’s griddled to order and piled with fried chicken wings and a boneless tender, then drizzled with maple syrup and deceptively hot pickled peppers for a sweet-spicy powerhouse. Second: thick ricotta pancakes smothered with candied walnuts and gamble jam – a mixed berry concoction jarred last year that that most definitely paid off. – C.K.
Hiro Asian Kitchen
1405 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.4476, hiroasiankitchen.com, Saturday and Sunday – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sometimes we crave a brunch with less Benedicts and more bulgogi. It’s then that we turn to Hiro Asian Kitchen for Pan-Asian dishes to fill any brunch need. For the hangover: The Hiro Slinger offers comfort to the weary weekend partier. Take solace in a deep stone bowl filled with seasoned tater tots smothered in gooey cheese, spicy chipotle aioli and a tangle of tender bulgogi beef. A requisite egg perches sunny side up and sinus-clearing Sriracha gives the kick you need to get back on track. For the health nut: You already crushed it at CrossFit, now keep the smart choices going with the glazed salmon rice bowl. A poached egg and a thick slice of teriyaki-glazed salmon rests atop crunchy radish salad and a bed of garlicky rice studded with sweet corn. Then reward yourself with a matcha or charcoal waffle a la mode – you earned it. – C.K.
4611 Macklind Ave., St. Louis, 314.499.7166, copperpigstl.com, Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Copper Pig has one of those brunches that makes you utterly useless for the rest of the day. “I want to go home and lie down after brunch,” explained owner Nhat Nguyen. The menu is dominated by rich dishes, like the doughnut French toast made from doughnuts sliced, dipped in eggs, cooked until golden and served with whipped cream and syrup. The breakfast chimichanga is another behemoth: a tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, tater tots, bacon, pico, then deep-fried until crisp and topped with sausage gravy. Items with a nod to Asian flavors also make an appearance, like Thai Scotch eggs, bacon-cream cheese rangoons or flavorful okonomiyaki, an eggy Japanese pancake with Chinese sausage, shrimp and cabbage folded in and topped with mayo, okonomiyaki sauce, bonito flakes and green onions. A cup of coffee cannot save your day after this meal, but who cares? It’s time to lie down. – M.N.
Charleville Brewing Co. & Tavern
2101 Chouteau Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.4677, charlevillebeer.com, Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Beer and brunch make for the perfect pair at the recently opened Charleville Brewing Co. & Tavern. More than a dozen taps take care of the beer part of the equation, while reimagined breakfast favorites take front and center with the food. The absurdly tall chicken and waffle sliders utilize waffle quarters instead of buns, and a sweet and tangy maple-mustard aioli augments the crispy chicken nestled between. As the name implies, the pastrami slinger features tender pastrami and subs spicy sausage gravy for chili for an extra rich, tasty take on the local go-to. Not in a beer mood? Plenty of classic brunch cocktail options are on hand, including a briny bloody mary, red sangrias and that most minimal of drinks, the screwdriver. – M.S.
Scarlett’s Wine Bar
4253 Laclede Ave., St. Louis, 314.797.8223, sashaswinebar.wixsite.com/scarlettswinebar, Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Build your own sangria. Do we have your attention now? It’s true. At Scarlett’s Wine Bar, select from four infused spirits – apple-lavender gin, pear-blueberry vodka, watermelon-cucumber rum and strawberry-basil Grand Marnier – and top it with your choice of white, red, sparkling or rosé. It’s the boozy brunch drink of our dreams. But if you also came to brunch to eat (why?), the paired-down menu offers a variety of standards, including a thick slab of brioche French toast coated in cinnamon sugar and a breakfast pizza that will feed a table. But the standout is the old-fashioned pancakes: thick and fluffy and undeniably addictive with a simple, classic flavor. No compotes, jams or jellies adorn them – they’re just pancakes, and they’re just right. – M.N.
Edibles & Essentials
5815 Hampton Ave., St. Louis, 314.328.2300, ediblesandessentials.com, Saturday – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Devoid of darling design flourishes, this small shop with a deli counter on South Hampton Avenue isn’t exactly the archetype of a brunch spot. But the unassuming rotating menu proves E&E is focused on something far better than appearances. Don’t breeze over basic-sounding dishes, or you’ll risk missing out on an epiphanic bite of the bacon sandwich’s thick, perfectly crisp and chewy house-made bacon paired with a fried egg, havarti and a creamy kick of hoisin mayo on yielding ciabatta. Such moments of transcendence abound. The quiche is equally rich and delicate, with a fully baked, flaky crust (a depressingly rare accomplishment), and a light, custardy filling studded with veggies. The biscuits are layered and light with just the right amount of salt, smothered in a no-nonsense gravy thick with huge chunks of Wenneman sausage. If you’re still craving cute, be sure to sit on the sunny patio out back. – H.H.
Half & Half
8135 Maryland Ave., Clayton, 314.725.0719, halfandhalfstl.com, Saturday and Sunday – 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
As a breakfast and lunch spot well known for its menu of top-notch favorites, Half & Half technically does brunch daily. But should you find yourself there on the weekend, go for the specials. They change weekly (check the restaurant’s Twitter or Instagram feeds each Saturday), but always include inventive dishes like pulled pork with salsa verde, served with fresh cilantro, crisp radish, jalapeno and little dollops of crema or crispy skinned trout with smoked grits and creamed spinach. If biscuits en papillote is on offer, don’t pass it up – it’s rare to find a brunch dish that takes you by surprise. Chunks of flaky biscuit, fresh strawberries and blueberries are neatly tucked inside a parchment packet and baked; the fruit keeps its firmness and the slightly salty biscuits soak up the juice. It’s served with a scoop of sweetened cream cheese that melts as you dig in. Trust us, you may think you know these flavors, but you’ve never had them like this. – M.N.
Russell’s on Macklind
5400 Murdoch Ave., St. Louis, 314.553.9994, macklind.russellscafe.com, Sunday – 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Beyond the sunny upstairs bar, homey atmosphere and friendly service, it’s Russell’s on Macklind’s brunch menu that will make you feel good. Nothing’s weird, no “challenging flavors” – just a sweet, towering strata as big as your head and a hash so full of veggies you can probably have as many bloody marys as you want. The maple-chile glazed fried chicken biscuits are a favorite (moist, crunchy tenders with just the right sweet and spicy notes), but the baked goods are what really set Russell’s apart. Those biscuits were so soft and satisfying with a burnished crunch of crust, they inspired us to order a ham and cheese croissant. Rich with smoked ham and fontina, cut through by spicy mustard, that shattering, flaky, layered beauty was a revelation. – H.H.
Big Sky Cafe
47 S. Old Orchard Ave., Webster Groves, 314.962.5757, bigskycafe.net, Saturday and Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast is your idea of the ideal brunch, then you will love the Farmer’s Breakfast at Big Sky Cafe. Two buttermilk pancakes, farm-fresh eggs, Geisert Farms’ crispy smoked bacon and breakfast potatoes; yes, it’s simple, but it’s anything but basic. The pancakes alone are reason to go – a little fluffy, with a crisp edge cooked to a golden glow. Local is the theme at Big Sky, which is evident in dishes like the grilled asparagus with Ozark Forest mushrooms sauteed in herb butter and finished with a fried egg, a lovely rich and earthy vegetarian option. The biscuits and gravy were a welcome surprise; the pork jowl red-eye gravy spiked with coffee was super savory and layered, elevating a common brunch standard to unusual and excellent. Don’t overlook cocktails like the Purple Hellfire Margarita made with añejo tequila, a lighter, breakfast-friendly margarita with a floral note and a pretty purple hue. – M.N.
Brasserie by Niche
4580 Laclede Ave., St. Louis, 314.454.0600, brasseriebyniche.com, Saturday and Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
First things first: you must begin brunch at Brasserie with the French breakfast for the table. A sophisticated and varied opener with a six-minute egg, raw veggies, slices of ham, a croissant, apple butter and a wedge of luscious Saint Andre triple creme cheese arrives on a board. If there’s a sweet tooth among your party, consider adding the equally sharable beignets, light and fluffy and dusted with powdered sugar. They come with house-made fresh cheese similar to a ricotta and a rotating compote (on our visit a barely sweet dried plum scented with vanilla). For some, this is enough to constitute brunch, but it would be a shame to stop there. The menu’s trusty French mainstays include eggs en cocotte (think poached eggs in bacon-y creamed spinach) and a croque madame draped in cheesy Mornay sauce and topped with a picture-perfect egg. With both dishes and drinks – like the bracing Corpse Reviver – executed with precision and care, brunching here is easy. – M.N.
1923 Park Ave., St. Louis, 314.325.2553, politesocietystl.com, Saturday and Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
When brunching at Polite Society, you’re basically inside an Instagram filter – with soft, natural light pouring in from Lafayette Square onto tall exposed brick walls and the occasional bookshelf. Offering a range of classics from French toast and pancakes to a solid Farmer’s Breakfast and the requisite Benedict, it’s the elegant details that set Polite Society apart. The steak and eggs come with a deep, dark port demi-glace. That rich, barely sweet sauce also makes an appearance on the Osso Buco Hash – a composed dish with tender pieces of wine-braised pork, cipollini onion and bell pepper topped with two poached eggs that should be an elegant dinner entree more than a weekend morning hangover cure. The pervasive breakfast potatoes make us regret any time we’ve used the word airy before – puffed, french fry clouds that must be ordered. – H.H.
7734 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, 314.862.6603, pastariastl.com, Saturday and Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Wood-fired, an airy-fairy crust, fun toppings – Pastaria has the pizza thing down, and any trip to the Clayton restaurant (even for brunch) would be incomplete without it. The breakfast pizza woke us up fast with heat from sliced garlic and chiles, rounded out with crispy pork belly, tomato sauce and gooey fontina cheese. Of course, an egg was on top – this is brunch, after all. On the sweet side, we cannot stop thinking about the buttermilk farro waffle. The texture is crisp and soft at the same time and its distinct nutty flavor is enhanced with the addition of candied pecans. Wash it down with an Aperol spritz, effervescent from prosecco and just bitter enough to keep you sipping all morning long. – M.N.
106 N. Main St., Edwardsville, 618.307.4830, clevelandheath.com, Saturday – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The brunch menu is everything we’ve come to expect from Cleveland-Heath: kick-ass American food with flashes of Asian and Mexican influences. A classic, super meaty biscuits and gravy (with cheddar biscuits so good they made Red Lobster your man’s second choice after a good night) shares menu space with an alarmingly towering heap of chilaquiles, and a breakfast fried rice dish rich with Sriracha, soy and sesame beneath its fluffy disc of scrambled egg. Thick, soft pancakes are worth getting for the cherry jam alone, but the dark horse menu star is undeniably the Spamwich. With just enough jalapeno spice to cut through the delightfully artificial richness of griddled Spam and Velveeta-y American cheese, the nap-inducer is grounded by scrambled egg on a soft bun and rounded out by Kewpie mayo and bright pickled red onions. Don’t be afraid. – H.H.
4317 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.553.9252, laylastl.com, Saturday and Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Fans of Layla know The Grove favorite doesn’t do anything small or halfway (witness the cranium-sized burgers available on the regular menu), and this more-is-more attitude definitely extends to the brunch offerings. Case in point: the Layla Benny, a slab of thick ham steak on grilled sourdough, topped with flash-fried kale, tangy goat cheese and a couple of eggs cooked your way, all smothered in a pepper jack-bacon sauce. Or the Sling Blade: flaky house-made biscuits drenched in vegetarian gravy you’d swear actually wasn’t. And if you have a hankering, a limited selection of those aforementioned big ol’ burgers are also available. But it’s not all savory stuff here. The banana bread French toast is a study in sweetness, tender and flavorful and decadent as all get out. Whatever your taste, Layla has you covered. – M.S.
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