No longer must diners put up with steam bins filled with lukewarm eggs and prime rib kept in carving board incubators. Now brunch receives the same amount of attention as lunch and dinner, with more fun and relaxation and less pretense. L.A. chefs are also infusing innovation and making sure that everything’s made from scratch.
The second restaurant from Cal-Med minded chef Suzanne Goin and business partner Caroline Styne added brunch in 2011, and the duo clearly knows how to draw interest. During our visit, they lined the bar-top with a rainbow of cocktails, including a raspberry fennel Bellini and tangerine basil mimosa. They also encourage sharing, but nobody will want to split the wood-oven baked pain perdu. The custardy French toast arrives in a skillet and deftly balances sweet and savory, combing caramelized apples, smoked bacon and maple syrup. Duck confit hash isn’t just a way to repurpose leftover quacker. The rich meat and poached egg melds seamlessly with oyster and maitake mushrooms – to name two - and adds tang through aged balsamic. Heartier fare includes a burger with Manchego and Romesco aioli, and (hanger) steak and eggs.
Globally inspired chef Josef Centeno’s restaurant in downtown L.A.’s Old Bank District regularly spotlights a modern flatbread creation called the bäco, and on Saturday mornings he goes well beyond the bäco for his “hair of the dog” brunch. A mirrored menu features drink specials like the Bazerac (Bäco Sazerac) and a Gin-Pop!, plus sweet & sour sodas made with vinegar, sugar and macerated fruit in flavors like tangerine-Szechuan and persimmon. Centeno smothers a buttery biscuit in bacon-flecked gravy and adds a fried egg and cheddar for good measure. His griddled house-made sausage patty arrives studded with fennel seeds and chile flakes. He also offers bread-based options like a tart cherry muffin, Belgian waffle and house granola with lebni and honey.
Spend a lazy Sunday with chef Corina Weibel and co-owner Jane Choi, who channel the Mediterranean on a seasonally inspired menu in burgeoning Atwater Village. At Canele, eggs are available in an omelet, “in a hole,” or alongside pastrami hash and sauerkraut. They might feature duck hash with crusty Yukon gold potatoes, an oozing duck egg and pickled onion, or a fried chicken sandwich with pickled green tomatoes and mayo. Thick French Toast turns out to be airy pain perdu with caramelized edges and the option to option to top your slabs with tangy mascarpone and sweet poached prunes. At Canele, sides aren’t just potatoes or bacon; they can also be ricotta coffee cake or molasses gingerbread cake.
Savory chef Dan Mattern and pastry chef Roxana Jullapat quickly found their groove in Cooks County, which they co-own with Claudio Blotta and wife Adria Tennor. Natural light streams through the glass fronted space and skylights to spotlight seasonal comfort food. Start with the cheddar buttermilk biscuit tucked with a pat of creamy farmhouse butter. Jullapat is a specialty grain proponent, so she created a fluffy, naturally Gluten-free baked pancake using Anson Mills buckwheat that sports crisp edges and powdered sugar, and comes with tangy huckleberry compote and bourbon barrel maple syrup. Want something more savory? Order the fried eggs with chickpeas, yogurt, harissa and grilled egg; or a juicy wood-grilled burger on house-baked olive oil brioche with balsamic grilled onion, crunchy lettuce, molten white cheddar and aioli.
Jeff Cerciello and business partner Michael Darmon brought a Napa Valley aesthetic to Brentwood Country Mart when opening Farmshop last year, and brunch was their first meal to earn a following. Deluxe dishes emanate from an open kitchen and appear on tables under black-and-white photos of farmers. Cerciello and executive chef Joshua Drew deliver dishes like deviled eggs with herbed, smoked trout instead of yolks; pastrami and eggs with green tomato ketchup and roasted mushrooms; and frittata with lardons, creamy burrata and chanterelle mushrooms. Sweeter options include French toast with pear marmalade, raisins and Hobbs’ bacon. If that’s not sweet enough, pastry chef Brittainy Turnquist fills a counter with muffins, cookies, croissants, brownies and more.
FIG executive Chef Ray Garcia features enough elements to sustain multiple brunches. His taco bar tops fresh-griddled corn tortillas with combinations like beef tongue, shaved radish, pinto beans and tangy tomatillo salsa; and savory quesillo with rajas and a punchy salsa of tomatillo, jalapeno and Serrano chilies. Weekend-only Shrimp 'n' Grits appears in a cast iron skillet with grilled jumbo prawns, spinach and bacon tomato habanero marmalade. Porchetta is the showstopper, with caramelized slabs of skin-on belly plated with maple, roasted shishito peppers, assorted vegetables (some pickled, others not) and dots of citrus puree. A bacon waffle contains crispy bacon strips, bacon Trockenbeerenauslese syrup made from German ice wine and caramelized chunks of bacon, and bacon ice cream that incorporates filtered bacon fat. The Bloody Mary bar includes a spicy Green Mary with cucumbers, Serrano chilies and dill; and a Tomato Watermelon Mary with tequila.
The triangular Highland Park restaurant with red “spaghetti” walls from chef Andre Guerrero normally showcases Italian food, but at weekend brunch, he expands the focus. Hearty plates include chunky pastrami corned beef hash with poached eggs, potatoes, peppers and onions. Guerrero’s Southern-tinged Benedict features pulled pork on a sliced Asiago biscuit with a poached egg and cascading country gravy. His triumph might be applewood smoked bacon, which he smokes in-house and cooks sous vide for 16 hours, delivering balanced intensity. Jan Purdy fills a Baker's Bread Box with house-baked goodies like coffee cake, mini blueberry muffins, walnut zucchini bread, lemon rosemary bread and ginger scones, which all arrive in a takeout box. Just fold and go.
This game-changing South Bay restaurant from chef David LeFevre and the Simms brothers (Chris and Mike) has a postal theme, plenty of communal seating, and an exhibition kitchen. They also have one of the more ambitious brunch menus in L.A., with seasonal ingredients and plenty of cast iron serving vessels. Sticky buns sport bubbling brown sugar and crunchy pecans. “Belly button” bagels come with airy cream cheese and tangy red pepper relish. Benedict arrives on M.B. Post’s signature bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuit, topped with arugula, silky La Quercia prosciutto, Hollandaise, and poached eggs that contain brilliant orange yolks. LeFevre seasons a sizzling side of Nueske’s bacon with rosemary, brown sugar and chile. The fluffy blueberry lemon skillet cake is another highlight, topped with tart lemon and plump berries, and served with a tiny pitcher of vanilla maple syrup. To drink, they have a clever Bloody Mary derivative called Coughlin’s Law, served in a Mason jar and garnished with toothpick of peperoncini, pepperoni and hard boiled quail egg.
The dynamic ode to Americana from Nancy Silverton, Bill Chait and the late Amy Pressman has helped to reinvigorate the Farmers Market with its impeccably sourced comfort food, where they showcase purveyors on the placemat menu. The crew initially tasked executive chef Christian Page with delivering burgers, rafts, fries and spuds. They expanded his attention to brunch, which includes Rob’s Breakfast Sando, named for Pressman’s fiancé. His namesake sandwich features smoky North Country bacon, an oozing fried egg, sharp Widmer’s aged cheddar and mayo on an English muffin baked at sister establishment Short Cake. Marion’s heavenly hots are airy pancakes that honor Marion Cunningham, Pressman’s co-founder in the Bakers Dozen baking organization. The Benedict Burger features a juicy patty of North Country ham and Langley Farms pork, a fried egg, more cheddar, and tangy herb Hollandaise on another English muffin. They even offer a breakfast shake, which arrives in a jar and combines Straus Family Creamery milk, Short Cake-made granola and dried blueberries.
Chef Casey Lane draws from Italy, France, California and the sea to produce a “bill of fare” for brunch on Venice’s increasingly trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard. This is a place where it’s possible to start with a blueberry-studded, streusel topped ricotta muffin, and finish with a plate of oysters and sausage links. Waffles are either sweet (served with butter and syrup) or savory (served with buttermilk fried chicken). Add sausage or bacon to the waffle for peak indulgence. What the hell. It’s the weekend. Savory egg dishes may include the frittata with crab, potato, and caviar; and a short rib hash with a baked egg and rotating sides that might consist of wild ramps, potatoes and horseradish sauce. Bar manager Justin Pike filled a cocktail menu with classics like the mimosa, plus twists on the Irish Coffee and a trio of Bloody Marys, including a Petite Mary with a celery juice base, salt and pepper, and a tangy sumac rim.
408 S. Main St., Downtown, 213.687.8808
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225 26th St., Santa Monica, 310.566.2400
101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310.319.311
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The Tasting Kitchen
1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 310.392.6644