New Mornings: Cool brunches in Salt Lake City

Utah News

I am notorious among my friends for disliking brunch, the meal that most regard as a guaranteed party.

After all, brunch is a meal invented with leisure in mind—it’s not one of the basic three-a-day, it’s not supposed to fuel you for working productively and it’s seldom a meal where you conduct business. It’s a meal that presupposes you sleeping in before and not doing too much afterwards. That’s part of the reason I don’t like it—I don’t mind dedicating a whole day to a meal, but brunch is not that meal. (Exception: New Orleans.)

For me, for me…I know most of the world disagrees.

Here’s what I don’t like.

The drinks. You know the choices: mimosas or bloody marys. Cheap champagne is the problem with the first and tomato juice is the problem with the second. There’s really no point in putting good sparkling wine under a mask of fruit juice, so what’s the point of a mimosa anyway? And I don’t care how elaborate the garnish is, tomato juice is still tomato juice.

So what’s the solution? There are lots of cocktails suitable for morning imbibing but here are a few: an Aperol spritz. A grapefruit margarita. A French 75. A plain old screwdriver.

Also: buffets. Most chefs, if they’re being entirely candid, will tell you that buffets are a less-than-optimum way to serve hot food. Yet in the ’80s, the glory days of brunch, every hotel worth its salt had a mammoth brunch spread with omelet stations, crepe stations, all kinds of egg casseroles (usually made with Saturday night leftovers,) prime rib, ham, chicken, waffles and nine kinds of toppings….all over pinch-pleated and starched white tablecloths. Now, only a few of those Roman-worthy spreads are notable: Grand America and Stein Ericksen. Brunch at these places is still a Very Special Occasion.

But more and more of us who want weekend brunch (sleep late, feel noshy, want to dawdle over something to eat) without all the pomp. And bloating.

So brunch has adapted. Here are some cool brunches in Salt Lake City.

Laziz: The hip Lebanese restaurant famously offers a drag brunch and it is an eyeful on a weekend morning—faaaaabulous in all senses of the word. But even when costumes are not involved, this brunch menu is different: For example, ful is a traditional Lebanese vegan breakfast dish of cooked fava beans flavored with lemon juice and garlic and served with olive oil, chopped parsley and tomatoes. On the sweet side, try the banana-walnut pancakes made with rosewater. Lazizslc.com

Zest: Always vegetarian, Zest serves brunch seven days a week. Their avocado toast comes with guacamole, cashew cream, pico de gallo and hemp hearts; pancakes are made with toasted hazelnuts and chickpeas with basil maple syrup and spirulina whipped cream. Mini biscuits are served with mushroom gravy and zausage. Zestslc.com

The Dayroom: Em’s by night is a different place during the day. Chef Milo Carrier flexes breakfast notions in the kitchen and presents a very California-tinged menu: eggs with kimchi and gochujang, the Korean chili paste that’s replacing sriracha in the hot and hip category, pumpkin pie French toast, yes those spices again in the anglaise but with bay ice cream and brown butter? And, you can order gummi bears on the side. Dayroomandems.com

SLCEatery: Chefs Logen Crew and Paul Chamberlain share different ideas about morning food. One of the best is their idea of a mimosa: The “Mimosa Intorno” could be translated as “Mimosas all round,” meaning a bottle of Adami Prosecco with your choice of orange, pineapple or grapefruit juice. The House Bloody Mary is made with charred tomato and harissa and a meal’s worth of garnishes. Or you could opt for chai spiked with rye whiskey. Food, including a breakfast sammy made on griddled masa bread, is just as inventive. Slceatery.com

Tupelo: IMHO the best breakfasts are Southern like Chef Matt Harris and in concept they’re as retro as those initials. Biscuits, fried chicken, andouille, grits and benedict are all on Tupelo’s brunch menu and then they throw some Yankee curves like Maine mussels. Good idea. Tupeloparkcity.com

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