Two scrambled eggs with a side of toast? Think again. Breakfast moves from the ordinary to the extraordinary with exciting and inventive brunch options that pack a punch. So whether you’re looking for breakfast punch and want to nurse a large-format cocktail, or need to knock out a hangover with indulgences like breakfast poutine crafted from hand-rolled tater tots, there are new brunch trends being served in your neighborhood.
Almost as much fun to say as it is to eat, this Latin dish of shredded tortillas, egg, crema, and beans rolls off the tongue as “chee-lah-KEE-lehs.” Though it may not be the easiest to pronounce if you’re nursing a hangover, it is the perfect cure for one, says Chris Cullen, manager of Barrio Mexican Kitchen & Bar. The restaurant serves up a new version of chilaquiles daily depending on what’s in season, but recent versions include green-chile-braised pork with asparagus cream sauce; chipotle-braised chicken; and spicy habanero crema. No matter what’s in them, it’s easy to describe this winning combination as “breakfast nachos” to the uninitiated, says Cullen, who recently spent time vacationing in Guadalajara to research just how authentic those at Barrio are. “The similarities were striking,” he says.
Whether it’s food or music, Beat Brasserie in Cambridge and its sister restaurant Beehive in Boston’s historic South End make it a point to jazz things up, and the shakshouka is no different. The traditional Middle Eastern dish of poached eggs baked in a spicy North African tomato sauce with polenta and Moroccan sausage is served at both restaurants, as is a side of live music for the Sunday brunch service. Chef Daniel Boulud gets into the game where the Mediterranean meets Manhattan at Boulud Sud, serving up shakshouka with spicy green harissa sauce, labneh, and a soft-poached hen egg.
Push those home fries to the side—there’s a new spud in town. Tater tots have moved far beyond what’s been frozen in a bag to the downright gourmet, including the 1,000 hand-shaped tots Marc Taft serves up weekly as executive chef and owner of Chicken and the Egg in Marietta, Georgia. The most popular brunch dish there, whether for sharing or indulging, is his tater tot poutine that combines a Canadian staple with upscale Southern comfort food: Springer mountain chicken roasted and hand-shaved, caramelized Vidalia onions, and garlic-and-thyme-roasted mushrooms topped with chicken gravy made from homemade stock and cheese shredded in-house. Northward in Baltimore, Alexander’s Tavern puts a morning spin on their specialty — gourmet tots — with a breakfast bowl featuring fried potatoes, bacon, sausage, cheese, and a bit of sweet maple syrup to offset the savory.
What would brunch be without a libation … or several? For mixologist Nandini Khaund, referred to as the Spirit Guide of Cindy’s rooftop bar at the Chicago Athletic Association, large-format cocktails not only make a visual splash, but they make it easier to loosen up and decide what to order after sharing a communal sip with friends. Her biggest crowd-pleaser? The Grey Garden, featuring gin, white wine, crème de violette, jasmine tea, lemon and honey, just as delicious as it is pretty. “It’s floral, refreshing, and so interesting to look at,” she says. “The color is dusty and there are floating orchids.” Diners at Fairsted Kitchen (especially those basking in the patio sunlight in this Boston neighborhood of Brookline) are transported to a more tropical garden with the shareable Plum Island, a punch featuring plum brandy, curacao, green tea, grapefruit cordial, and fresh lemon. “It drinks like a Long Island Iced Tea studying abroad in Japan,” says Fairsted sommelier and co-owner Steve Bowman.
It appears breakfast pizza isn’t just what’s cold and leftover in the fridge anymore. The perfectly crisped crust at Gather make toast well, toast. The breakfast pie is topped with brunch staples like bacon and egg paired with cheese, caramelized onion, and oregano, all sourced locally in California. The flavors may be classic but the presentation isn’t. East Coasters can try two versions at Shelter in Brooklyn: Bacon and Scallion with egg and mozzarella or the most popular brunch item — Portabella Pie with buffalo mozzarella, eggs, truffle oil, and shaved parmesan.
Carley Thornell is a travel writer whose experiences eating street food in Japan, English peas in the UK, free-range steak in Argentina, and Brussels sprouts at Estragon tapas in her hometown of Boston have provided unforgettable culinary inspiration. Shout out at email@example.com.