It’s perhaps a stretch to say that there are any downsides to bottomless brunch (besides the ensuing hangover, I suppose), but if there’s one, it’s this: the brunch menu is long, but the stomach can only hold so much food. If they’ve got 20 different kinds of mimosas it’s no problem to try the majority, if not all of them, and yet seeing two different dishes that appeal to you presents a distinct problem.
If you’ve got your wife/girlfriend/Tinder date/that girl you brought home from the bar last night who wouldn’t take the hint to leave and invited herself (or male equivalents of all of those things), you can split a couple of dishes, but even then you’re still limited. There are some excellent solutions to this, like brunch buffets and dim sum, but those are limited in number.
While I wish that I could empower you to eat all of the brunch foods you want, instead I’ll have to go with the second best option – helping you make the right choice. With no further ado, here’s the top five items on any brunch menu:
While they only rank number five overall, benedicts are easily the classiest of all brunch foods (though on the flip side, they do allow you to make “friends with bennies” jokes in your Venmo requests to split brunch). Done right, they’ve got the right blend of flavors and textures to be rich, crisp and generally delicious.
There are, however, two downsides to benedicts. First of all, they’re often not done right – it’s key to get the benedict out right after the hollandaise sauce goes on, and yet some restaurants don’t seem to get this, leaving you with a soggy English muffin by the time the dish is served. Second, benedicts tend to be on the smaller side of brunch dishes. This might seem to make them a healthy option, until you remember that they’re drenched in hollandaise, which is up there with ranch among the least healthy sauces. If you’re doing bottomless brunch, it’s important to get enough food in you, so size most definitely matters here.
4. Breakfast Sandwiches
Always a reliable staple of the brunch menu, breakfast sandwiches cover all the major brunch food groups – bread, eggs, cheese and meat. They’re classic and timeless, and there’s no real strikes against them, unless they’re especially poorly made, but unlike with benedicts that’s much more the exception than the rule here.
The reason these aren’t higher is that they’re so common that it can feel like a bit of a waste to order one at brunch. I can get a good breakfast sandwich from Starbucks – hell, I can make a good breakfast sandwich with very little effort. A great food, but perhaps one to be saved for a time when there are no better options.
3. The Standard American Breakfast
It’s not imaginative or clever, but a big plate of waffles/pancakes/eggs/sausage/bacon/toast/hash browns/home fries will always hold a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s that my dad made us pancakes and waffles when I was a kid, but I’ve never owned a waffle maker myself. Maybe it’s just that pancakes and waffles are delicious and nigh-impossible to mess up. I don’t really know, but I’ll never hold this classic against you if you order it at brunch with me.
2. Mexican Breakfasts
I’m cheating a little here, I know. If you forced me to pick one specific item here, I’d go with chilaquiles (which you may also know as breakfast nachos). They’re nachos that you can eat at breakfast, so I think their place here is pretty self-explanatory. Still, they generally aren’t available on brunch menus except when you go to a Mexican place, so I’m also lumping in breakfast burritos here for their combination of deliciousness and general availability.
1. Chicken and Waffles
Do I even have to explain this one? It’s fried chicken served with waffles. This is a dish that would be way too much of a pain to make at home for breakfast, so it’s got that special brunch value on top of the fact that it’s just two delicious foods served together. Chicken and waffles also tend to be big and hearty, which never hurts either.
You’re naturally best off getting this at a place that does traditional Southern food, but if that’s not an option, most brunch places that do chicken and waffles do them well. If this is available, and you don’t have a very specific hankering for something else, you know what you’re eating.