Beyond Brioche French Toast: Top Brunch Dishes to Try Now

The days of the classic breakfast platter (two eggs, potatoes, side of bacon or ham and toast) will likely never be over, but the day has finally arrived when brunch offers far more to intrepid gastronauts than a great dish of over-easies and taters. Inspired perhaps by dinner, chefs are remaking brunch to include flavors and presentations from across the day’s menus. Whether traditionalist or modernist, that’s a win-win for brunch fans everywhere. Here are seven top brunch dishes that now call the menu home.

Content / Cast Iron Quiche, Café Gratitude, San Diego, California
A twist on a classic dish eaten along the French and Italian Riviera, this egg-free quiche gets its character from chickpea flour. “Protein-rich chickpea frittatas have been made in Southern France and Northern Italy during harsh times when eggs were scarce or too expensive and have now become a popular street food staple in these regions,” said chef Dreux Ellis, who learned the dish while living in Venice, Italy. Layered with Kalamata olives, cashew feta, and a toasted almond Romesco sauce, this 100% plant-based dish will have you rethinking the definition of a classic brunch dish. Make a reservation at Café Gratitude.

Top Brunch Dishes

Torrijas at Canela Bistro & Wine Bar, San Francisco, California
The thirst for Spanish flavors in the USA shows no sign of slacking and chefs like Canela’s Mat Schuster are looking beyond tapas. A Spanish variation of what we Yanks call “French toast,” torrijas are a traditional dessert, typically prepared during the season of Lent or Holy Week. Schuster’s torrijas, too, are made of white bread, but before their egg dip and turn in the frying pan to caramelize the edges, they are bathed in a fragrant mix of spiced wine and honey. To achieve true decadence and an “only in San Francisco” flavor, this toast claims caramelized apples, toasted coconut, candied almonds, and bacon as its signature. Make a reservation at Canela Bistro & Wine Bar.

Top Brunch Dishes

Smoked Salmon Pie, Pie Tap Pizza Workshop +Bar, Dallas, Texas
Pizza dough is sacred here — a celebration of the alchemy of fermented flour, water, and heat, but the inspiration for the smoked salmon pie is New York’s brunch staple of bagels and lox. Seared in a wood-stoked oven, the dough is then topped with Icelandic smoked salmon and the classic accouterments of red onion, fresh dill, and capers. It’s the housemade lemon-ricotta and cured egg yolk that give the dish a venerable yet supremely fresh flavor and has fans clamoring for the dish all week long. Too bad it’s only available on Saturdays and Sundays. Make a reservation at Pie Tap Pizza Workshop + Bar.

Top Brunch Dishes

Breakfast Sausage Ravioli & Egg at Verge, Los Gatos, California        
Pasta for breakfast? Why not! Executive chef Albert Nguyen-Phuoc does not shy away from crossing culinary boundaries. His sausage-stuffed, handmade ravioli meld American, Italian, and the Vietnamese influences of Nguyen-Phuoc’s heritage. “Noodles have long been the morning sustenance for Vietnamese people, who enjoy pho for breakfast,” Nguyen-Phuoc said. Lightly sauced with cream and Parmesan and topped with a breaded, fried egg, this dish exemplifies the cross-over trend from dinner to breakfast. Because dinner for breakfast is the best thing ever. Make a reservation at Verge.

Top Brunch Dishes

Hot Chicken and Stuffed French Toast, Party Fowl, Nashville, Tennessee
Hot Chicken is a Tennessee specialty, and at Party Fowl, it becomes a brunch masterpiece. Executive chef Bart Pickens starts with a traditional brioche French toast. Cut thick, the egg-enriched bread is stuffed with apples caramelized in local Bourbon and cream cheese and then dipped in egg and griddle-fried until golden brown. The hot is up to you – Pickens lets customers choose Southern fried, mild, medium, Nashville Hot or Poultrygeist for their chicken – but the orange zest in the toast’s custard adds an unexpected flavor dimension and takes this mash-up of Louisiana and Tennessee style to a new place. Make a reservation at Party Fowl.

Top Brunch Dishes

Shrimp & Polenta, Sophia’s, Austin, Texas
An homage to the Southern staple of shrimp and cheesy grits, the shrimp and polenta sing an only-in-Italy high note. Chef Mark Sparacino reworked the polenta’s classic technique, cooking the polenta in a Parmesan brodo (rather than the other way around) to bring out the cheese’s complex flavors. A simple “gravy” of shrimp stock, sun-dried tomatoes, and a knob of butter harmonize in a distinctly Italian-American voice. Make a reservation at Sophia’s.

Top Brunch Dishes

Mushroom Ragoût, Gather, Berkeley, California
Corn equals grits at many brunch tables, but not at Gather, where executive chef Charis Wahl makes polenta with Red Flint Floriani, a rare heirloom corn grown by Italian Alpine farmers. Ground locally to preserve the polenta’s rustic character, it is used as a base for a salsa verde-thickened ragoût. Bright with oregano and mildly sweet from crushed tomatoes, the ragoût is best savored during California’s rainy season when locally foraged mushrooms are at their peak. Add a poached egg for a quick trip to the Italian countryside. Make a reservation at Gather.

Top Brunch Dishes

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Christina Mueller is a San Francisco-based writer, epicurean adventurer, and culinary sleuth. Find her at //christinamueller.com and follow her on Instagram @EatDrinkThink and Twitter @EatDrinkThink.

Photo credits: @Breakthe4thWall (Gather); all other photos courtesy of the restaurants.