The #1 Order to Never Make at a Brunch Spot, According to Chefs
From mimosas and waffles to omelets, eggs Benedict, French toast, and avocado toast, brunch is a love-it-or-hate-it meal riddled with classics—and riddled with no-no orders. Just like taboo menu items at Italian restaurants, pizza places, and steakhouses, there's a right way and a wrong way to order at a brunch spot.
Across the country, even the best brunch restaurants serve familiar fare that tends to be found at every egg-slinging eatery. Especially considering how pricey brunch can be, this is one meal period where it pays to be selective—and by that, we mean selecting items that are worth your money.
According to chefs who cook brunch, and in many cases love brunch, those items are the ones that you can't easily make for yourself at home. Be it a straightforward frittata, a plate of scrambled eggs, or an overhyped—and oft overpriced—piece of avocado toast, the number one order to never make at a brunch spot is the one that's too simple to justify the cost. No offense to Reese Witherspoon, but chefs know a bit more about what to order at brunch.
In many cases, the dishes that default to being overly basic are various forms of eggs. "Egg dishes are all too easy to make yourself at home, and tend to be way overpriced, or priced with a healthy profit margin, at any restaurant," explains Greg Lopez, executive chef at the new NOUN Hotel in Norman, Okla. "You are shorting yourself a potential fun experience by ordering anything that you could get at a quick-serve breakfast joint when out to brunch."
Instead, he suggests using brunch as an opportunity to get more adventurous with the over-the-top stuffed French toast or the inventive breakfast sandwich. "Do your part in making brunch a special meal and not just breakfast with booze socially permissible."
For more Asian-influenced ingenuity, brace for a singular feast at Sunda New Asian. With locations in Chicago and Nashville, chef Brawnson Rattanavong's brunch menu eschews standard scrambles and frittatas in favor of longanisa sausage and musubi.
"Restaurants that serve an elevated brunch tend to lean towards straightforward classics," says the chef, citing dishes like eggs Benedict, standard fried chicken and waffles, and avocado toast as examples. "You can find a variation of these and more just about anywhere—let's spice it up!"
A prime example, he does exactly that with his Japanese fried chicken and ube waffles, with purple yams infused in tempura waffle batter and syrup, served with karaage-style fried chicken. "This is different because it is a lighter coat of batter than traditional frying, plus we use our own seasoning we created. Then matcha green tea is dusted on top!"
Another overly basic egg dish worth avoiding is corned beef hash. That's according to Tony Marchese, owner of TRIO in Palm Springs. Why? More often than not, he says the corned beef is usually not crispy enough, it's too mushy, and the eggs are cold when the dish arrives at the table. If you're after a meaty brunch entree, he recommends opting for something like TRIO's short rib sandwich.
Be it a blah plates of eggs or an overrated stack of avocado toast ("overplayed and overhyped for way too long"), Chris Arellanes prefers brunch items that offer something different. The executive chef of KYU in New York City, says, "I personally enjoy preparing a classic brunch dish and adding a unique spin," like his signature brunch item, Thai spiced waffles, or the king crab scramble with white soy crème fraîche. "There are much more unique options for an indulging brunch adventure, especially when you are trying to persuade your girlfriends' from veering off their ever-so-boring Keto diets!"
Whether it's a king crab scramble or an ube waffle, Robert Guimond of Brooklyn's Public Display of Affection is another chef in the camp of steering clear of dishes that would be all too easy to replicate at home. "If I'm going out in the morning to spend $14 on some eggs with some other stuff, that other stuff better be components that aren't easily prepared at home, like hollandaise or fresh bread or a hash with tons of different vegetables." Or, as at PDA, brunch dishes cooked in the wood-fired oven. "The wood oven makes everything delicious, and most people in New York don't have them in their home kitchens."
That being said, don't go too wild with your non-basic egg orders either. "I'm all for the crazy brunch foods! I think brunch food is what diners really want to eat, but limit themselves to once or twice a week," says Taylor Kearney, corporate chef of Harwood Hospitality Group in Dallas. "However, the only thing I wouldn't do is going crazy on your egg order." As someone with years of brunch cooking experience, he says there's some merit to keeping it simple too. "I've heard everything from 'poached medium' to 'over easy plus.' Just know, when you order something this way, the entire kitchen gets a laugh."
Braden Wages is more of a brunch purist, so if you simply have to have eggs for the occasion, order them the right way. "When it comes to brunch, respect the egg," says the chef/owner of Dallas-based Malai Kitchen. For him, that means never ordering eggs well-done ("well-done eggs will ruin just about any dish"), and never substituting scrambled eggs for an over-easy or poached egg.
"It's almost always going to be the highlight when cooked perfectly," he notes, pointing to the chicken and egg congee on his brunch menu. "The egg comes poached and when the yolk mixes in, it's one of the most luxurious and comforting ways to start your day."
At the end of the day, and at the end of the weekend brunch rush, the menu items to avoid are the standard dishes that are simply not worth your money—the key differentiator between home cooking and restaurant food. "I know chefs are supposed to hate brunch. But I kind of like it," says Guimond. "There's something about walk-in 12-tops and tickets with 30 modifications on them that makes me feel alive. That's restaurant cooking."
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