lemon ricotta blueberry pancakes at cucina pazzo's brunch photo by carmen troesser

The Best of Brunch 2014

We love everything about brunch. But don’t let our unabashed affection make you think we’re talking about any cobbled-together breakfast or lunch menu masquerading as something special. We don’t mess with basic brunches. And while we dig an epic buffet complete with waffle iron, omelet station and tiers upon tiers of desserts, that’s not what we’re talking about either. For us, true brunch is a sit-down affair involving menu items that can’t be ordered any other time of the week. It’s about delicious food, about drinks and décor and the intangible je ne sais quoi you feel there. Once you find your true brunch, the elusive weekend meal becomes less of a treat and more of a necessity. While “Sex and the City” may have made it a thing, a handful of area restaurants are making Sunday (and Saturday) brunch a meal to remember.

croque madame at brasserie by niche // photo by elizabeth jochum

4580 Laclede Ave., St. Louis, 314.454.0600, brasseriebyniche.com, Sat. and Sun. – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If too many bad bloody marys and overpriced plates of scrambled eggs have tainted your love for brunch, Brasserie just might be your panacea. The service is exacting, the scene is classy but not stuffy, and most importantly, the food is always on point. Since being too full for something sweet is just sad, start your meal by ordering the French toast with lemon curd or the hazelnut waffle topped with seasonal fruit compote. Then, move on to the croque-madame for yourself and the eggs Benedict for your companion. After inhaling your croque, invite your friend to help you drag every last fry through all the deliciously decadent leftover Mornay sauce in exchange for a stab at her hollandaise.

If, like any true brunch-goer, you have a Pavlovian response to the pop of a Champagne cork, bypass the common mimosa in favor of the carefully concocted Violet 75, which adds gin, crème de violette and lemon to the bubbly. And if you find last night still has you feeling a bit fuzzy, there’s always the Corpse Reviver to sip and savor on the patio as you watch the world pass by, jealous of you and your reignited liaison amoureuse. – J.C.

lomo saltado at cleveland heath // photo by carmen troesser

106 N. Main St., Edwardsville, 618.307.4830, clevelandheath.com, Sat. – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Time for a pop quiz. Of the five total dishes on the small-yet-mighty brunch menu at Cleveland-Heath, which is the best one to order? While you think, ponder the drink menu, where choices are simpler. Lighter palates can order a delightful mimosa with fresh-squeezed orange juice, but for those wanting a real kick, order the CH Bloody Mary – the bloody to convert all bloody haters.

OK, time’s up. If you said the Lomo Saltado, a dish with roots in Peru but reminiscent of a Midwest slinger, you’d be right. Meltingly tender strips of rib-eye and caramelized peppers and onions are tossed with soy sauce and laid over a mountain of crisp shoestring fries (both russet and sweet potato), which is crowned with two over-easy eggs just begging to be punctured.

Of course, if you said the house-made cheddar drop biscuits and red-eye gravy, you’d also be right. Same for the stack of pancakes smeared with house-made tart cherry jam, sitting in a pool of maple syrup. Because the truth is that with impeccable service, hearty portions and unbeatable prices (each dish is $9), there are no wrong answers at Cleveland-Heath’s brunch. Class dismissed. – C.K.

The Restaurant at The Cheshire
7036 Clayton Ave., Clayton, 314.932.7818, restaurant-stl.com, Sun. – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

When you brunch at The Restaurant, here’s what to order when:

You’ve got Paul Bunyan’s appetite.
The prime rib hash with roasted potatoes is sauced in a flavorful, savory au jus, complete with poached eggs and horseradish hollandaise. You’ll be full until tomorrow.

Your mother-in-law is at the table.
The Bloody Caesar, a bloody mary with a shrimp garnish and gazpacho flavor, could be passed off as a meal, and after drinking one you’ll be too content to get defensive.

You’re gearing up for “Downton Abbey.”
Strawberries served with sweetened clotted cream, mint and honey is delightful. Combined with Sister Schubert’s biscuits, served to your table at brunch, it’s a smorgasbord fit for nobility.

You’re a grits snob.
Seared Alaskan halibut and over-easy farm eggs is a stunner. The fish is perfectly cooked, the eggs are easy, the grits are cheesy and there are mushrooms and asparagus dressed in a citrus vinaigrette to make it healthy but magically delicious.

You have a sweet tooth.
The brioche French toast with lemon curd ricotta is a study in sweet. Roasted dates and vanilla syrup are tamed by tart strawberries and sharp, citrusy cheese. Or just get the bananas foster waffle – dessert disguised as brunch. – M.N.

Atomic Cowboy
4140 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.775.0775, atomiccowboystl.com, Sun. – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Although this well-known restaurant and watering hole in The Grove opened in 2005, Atomic Cowboy’s brunch menu is a new innovation – which is good news for you, since the masses haven’t caught on yet. When we stopped in on a Sunday afternoon things felt a little empty, as if tumbleweeds might drift by.

But Lonesome Dove, Texas this ain’t, and whether you hitch yourself to the barnwood-and-brick saloon inside or the Quonset hut-shaded cabana out back, rest easy, partner – you’ve drawn a bead on one of the finest brunches east of the 100th meridian. Order the horchata iced coffee – spiced with Grand Marnier and Kahlúa – and try the kitchen’s kinda-sorta border-country take on eggs Benedict, which sneaks grilled toast under crabcakes – carne asada and smoked salmon are also options – streaked with citrusy hollandaise and chipotle mayo.

Twenty-somethings, scenesters and those on a budget take note: You can be out the door for under $20 with a cocktail and brunch under your belt buckle. But don’t rush off – this place was made for the young and iconoclastic to gather. Saddle up and get out to your new Sunday brunch home on the range. – G.F.

mimosas at soho restaurant & lounge // photo by carmen troesser

SoHo Restaurant & Lounge
4229 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.5554, eatplaysoho.com, Sun. – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

New York’s skyline may gird the logo of SoHo Restaurant & Lounge, but the name means “Southern hospitality,” and the kitchen has assembled a menu to prove it. Though it operates as a nightclub after 10 p.m. on weekends, SoHo pulls out the stops for its Sunday brunch, a stellar procession of traditional Southern food crafted by executive chef Ceaira Jackson.

Skip the stark interior that caters to the club scene. Instead, make a beeline for the patio that overlooks Manchester Avenue and even features a couple shade-giving pagoda tents. The pacing of the service is a bit lax, but remember this is a lounge, people – plan to stay awhile. Kick back and listen to the music. Don’t neglect to order a mimosa – brightened with a splash of pineapple juice, it’s one of the best we’ve had – while you wait for an order of catfish and grits (authentic, battered in cornmeal), red velvet pancakes (divine – they include vanilla cream frosting) or the chicken and waffles (crispy and sweet). SoHo is surely the biggest indicator that The Grove is the place to be on brunch day. – G.F.

coffee at half & half // photo by carmen troesser

Half & Half
8135 Maryland Ave., Clayton, 314.725.0719, halfandhalfstl.com, Sat. and Sun. – 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Eggs and coffee are the heroes of brunch, and Half & Half knows how to do both equally well. On Saturdays and Sundays, it offers a special brunch menu of three items with fresh, seasonal ingredients and, as always, eggs. These, by the way, are executed with precision, whether they’re perfectly poached atop the Soft-Shelled Crab Benedict; scrambled to a golden fluff and stuffed in breakfast tacos with chorizo; or simply served sunny side up to finish The Mom Hash, an earthy mix of mushrooms, spinach, snow peas, prosciutto and carrots. Since the wait for a table can last up to an hour on weekends, pass the time by indulging in Half & Half’s excellent coffee program, which outstrips just about everyone else in town. The menu includes everything from pour-overs to cold brews to drip coffee to espresso drinks, all brewed from thoughtfully selected and delicious beans. Try the Rwandan Rulindo from Handsome Coffee Roasters in a pour-over and you won’t be disappointed. – M.N.

Missouri History Museum, 2nd floor, 5700 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, 314.361.7313,
bixbys-mohistory.com, Sun. – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bixby’s is practically a St. Louis institution, tucked in a natural-lit corner on the second floor of the Missouri History Museum. Floor-to-ceiling windows ensure an unimpeded view of Forest Park, and among the after-church crowd and small family gatherings you’ll dine in a quiet bustle of activity. You can either visit the buffet to fill your plate yourself, or order as much as you want from the restaurant’s a la carte menu, then settle in while the staff brings it straight from chef Callaghan Carter’s hands to yours. In either case, you’ll be handing over $25.75 – and that includes a glass of Champagne.

We recommend the eggs Benedict of the day. During our visit, the big B included rich slices of Black Forest ham, a poached egg and locally sourced sunflower sprouts delicately arranged on top. Save room for a heaping portion of the bread pudding with caramel sauce, the capstone to this delicious – if staidly traditional – brunch experience. – G.F.

green tea waffle drizzled with sake syrup at hiro asian kitchen // photo by carmen troesser

Hiro Asian Kitchen
1405 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.4476, hiroasiankitchen.com, Sun. – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

When Asian flavors are on your mind, Hiro Asian Kitchen is the answer. Put a comb to that bed-head and hit up one of the most stylish brunches in town (with spectacularly snazzy décor to match). Hiro showcases contemporary interpretations of breakfast and lunch dishes from China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan and other Southeast Asian nations. You’ll also find familiar American a.m. fare reimagined with Pac Rim ingredients, like the parfait-esque sweet tofu pudding; the green tea waffle drizzled with sake syrup

and topped with vanilla ice cream, house-made coconut cream and fresh fruit; and the Kaya Toast, a Malaysian-style French toast with house-made sweet coconut egg jam and a fried egg on the side. Out late clubbing on Washington Avenue? Wake up with the Hiro Slinger, which features bulgogi beef, tater tots, chipotle mayo, spicy cheese sauce and an over-easy egg. From a pair of bloodies to the mimosa to the Lychee-lini, a modified bellini that subs puréed lychee for peach, the brunch cocktails here are filled to the brim with delicious Asian distinction. – L.F.

farmer's breakfast at big sky cafe // photo by carmen troesser

Big Sky Cafe
47 S. Old Orchard Ave., Webster Groves, 314.962.5757, allgreatrestaurants.com. Sun. – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tucked away off bustling Big Bend Boulevard in tree-lined Webster Groves is the respite from everything that ails you on a weary Sunday. At Big Sky Cafe, you’ll find an uncomplicated menu, a friendly, attentive wait staff and a serene setting, whether you take a seat in one of the dining rooms or settle into a thick-cushioned chair on the patio. Dishes are well executed and celebrate the bounty of nearby farms, like the Farmer’s Breakfast, a fill-me-up platter of buttermilk pancakes, scrambled farm eggs, Todd Geisert Farms bacon and breakfast potatoes, the latter a thoughtful mix of finely diced russet and sweet potatoes. The house-cured salmon roll-ups, stuffed with lemony Claverach Farm sprouts and a parmesan-caper whipped cream, impressed with their fresh, savory goodness. If you’ve got a hankering for sweet, order the buttered peach French toast bread pudding with a dollop of airy Frangelico whipped cream. On the beverage side, little touches go a long way: The water carafe remains on your table; the Bellini is spot-on balanced; and the bloody mary, with its house-made bloody mix featuring local tomato juice and freshly grated, local horseradish, is the cleanest we encountered. – L.F.

Cucina Pazzo
392 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, 314.696.8400, cucinapazzostl.com, Sun. – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dining alfresco is the only way to do brunch at Cucina Pazzo. The patio is shaded by trees and, on a cool morning, makes for a lovely place to tuck in. Begin with the Meyer's Wakeup Call, an infusion of vodka, espresso and Rumchata on ice finished with cinnamon. The menu is full of Italian twists on traditional brunch dishes: the Chicken Saltimboca Benedict – breaded chicken, fontina, prosciutto, sunny side up eggs and a mushroom Madeira sauce on an English muffin – is satisfying and filling, especially with crispy pesto home fries on the side. Or share the Pancetta di Pazzo, thick-cut pancetta served with a jammy apricot and cherry mostarda, which has that salty-sweet thing down. But we especially loved a perennial favorite among the restaurant staff: Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes. Two pancakes are dotted with plump blueberries and ricotta cheese and topped with a frothy lemon zabaglione, which begins to melt the instant the custard hits the hot cakes. A modest drizzle of maple syrup and life-altering sea-salt caramel butter finish the dish. If you order only one thing for brunch, it should be this. – M.N.

kaley's comet green juice at local harvest cafe // photo by carmen troesser

3137 Morgan Ford Road, St. Louis, 314.772.8815, localharvestcafe.com, Sun. – 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

True to name, nearly everything on the menu at LHC, formerly Local Harvest Café, is locally sourced or organically grown. It shows. Although its brunch lineup is barely two months old and cribs a bit from the regular menu, this is a hit-lister for anyone craving farm-to-table freshness (and a hangover cure).

Sip on Kaley’s Comet, an effervescent juice of freshly pressed kale, apple, lemon and ginger, naturally sweetened by the fruit. Order the Sunrise Plate, the restaurant’s fragrant berry kefir poured over granola and topped with banana slices, served alongside toast and sliced fresh fruit. If you’re feeling deeper hunger pangs, go for the cheese grits and Italian sausage, braised in spicy tomato sauce. The Belgian waffle, too, is worth your while. Currently, it’s studded with blueberries and served with maple syrup, both organic, and is enough to take you back to Sunday mornings at the grandparents’. In such a cozy space, expect this nascent brunch haven near Tower Grove Park to start filling up soon – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay a visit yourself. – G.F.


bloody marys at cleveland heath // photo by carmen troesser

Best Bloody Mary

The CH Bloody Mary pairs a perfectly balanced sweet, savory, spicy (Hello, sambal!) house mix with a 1_-ounce Tecate chaser. Add it halfway through your cocktail to turn a classic bloody on its boozy head.

Best Coffee
Half & Half

Coffee gets the shaft at a lot of restaurants, but at Half & Half it gets its own menu. Begin your brunch by perusing the tasting notes on the restaurant’s handpicked roasts, brewed up all ways in pour-overs, espresso drinks and cups of drip brew. However you choose to caffeinate, there’s something there for coffee-hounds of every stripe.

Best Dish
Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes at Cucina Pazzo

Cucina Pazzo takes hot cakes to new heights with its Italian spin on Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes. The cakes, capped with blueberries and chunks of ricotta, are covered in a fluffy citrus zabaglione, maple syrup and sea-salt caramel butter. It’s no surprise why this is the kitchen’s favorite brunch dish, and ours, too.


Best of bottomless drinking
You survived Saturday night. Still up for a few more? If you find yourself with a hollow leg come Sunday, we recommend the bottomless cocktails here for taste and price.

Head upstairs to slake your mimosa yen, and since you’re there, try the Kir Royale, a sophisticated pour of Champagne and crème de cassis, a liqueur made with blackcurrants.
$12 for bottomless mimosas; $1 extra per drink for other Champagne cocktails. 2017 Chouteau Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.8989, vindeset.com, Sun. – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Your ticket to the brunch buffet also earns you one on the mimosa gravy train. All aboard!
$22, includes brunch and bottomless mimosas. 2901 Salena St., St. Louis, 314.449.1995, jax-cafe.com
Sun. – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In our February Nightlife column, we liked the Bloody Ghost – pepper-infused Jacob’s Ghost white whiskey and Zing Zang – so much we’re mentioning it again. Our favorite part? It’s bottomless on Sundays.
$28. 236 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, 314.875.9500, gamlinwhiskeyhouse.com, Sun. – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

You’re committed for 90-plus minutes to that soccer game – order yourself a generously poured bottomless mimosa while you watch the match in this classic pub atmosphere.
$15. 8 S. Sarah St., St. Louis, 314.535.0551, thescottisharms.com, Sun. – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

With unlimited mimosas and unlimited bloody marys, this popular Central West End spot is a shoo-in for a hang-loose Sunday brunch.
$15. 23 S. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.5595, centraltablestl.com, Sun. – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

It doesn’t get any more elaborate – or delicious – than Cielo’s bottomless bloody mary bar, otherwise known as Mary Mayhem. Choose from about a dozen infused spirits, six different flavors of ice cubes and countless garnishes.
$12. 999 N. Second St., St. Louis, 314.881.2105, cielostlouis.com, Sat. and Sun. – 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.