Brunches by the Bunches
Pick and choose among spring-eats and day-drinks
lamb ribs with green tomato relish
Photographed by Denny Culbert
New Orleans’ brunch scene suggests that the compound repast is a meal best served with festive libations and consumed between peals of laughter. It is an indulgent, leisurely meal that tends toward decadence with free-flowing adult libations. Champagne, Mimosas, milk punch and Bloody Marys are the traditional offerings, but Pimm’s cups, specialty punches, and a variety of sangrias are becoming popular, as are craft cocktails intended for pairing with specific dishes. Rich, flavorful foods, usually consumed by nattily attired participants, remain the norm, as does an air of frivolity.
As the city is abloom and the festival season is going full-throttle, restaurants offering brunch, particularly those with outdoor seating, see their numbers climb. Always ready for a party, New Orleanians line up early to get a head start on days to be spent dancing in public, lounging in a hammock, or returning to laze in bed aftera hearty and heady start.
6078 Laurel St.
Jewel-like and elegant, Patois is just a couple of blocks from Audubon Park in a quiet residential neighborhood. Sidewalk tables allow you to dine al fresco when the weather is nice.
1403 Washington Ave.
In the early 1970s, Dick Brennan Sr., was struck with the idea to invite a lively jazz trio to play for the post-church crowd that visited the then-fledgling Commander’s Palace on Sunday mornings. “Us kids in the family were sent to the French Quarter to hand out flyers to tourists advising them that they should take the streetcar to the Garden District for jazz brunch,” said Dickie Brennan, Jr. “It was an instant success, I mean we were slammed.”
In bringing together the New Orleans trifecta—booze, food and music—Dick Brennan effectively created a new genre in New Orleans dining where it was perfectly acceptable to party hardy on Sunday morning then return home for a nap. His winning formula has been replicated by many and evolved by others even as the Commander’s Palace original continues to thrive on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Brunch specials: Unfailingly brilliant, it would be hard to go wrong with anything from Chef Tory McPhail’s menu, but if you love oysters, and Oysters in Herbsaint Cream Under Puff Pastry is an offer, the dish is a must-do. For great value, the chef’s daily three-course prix fix brunch menu is a culinary coup. A Commander’s Bloody Mary is included in the $46 price.
Brunch drinks: Eye openers include classics such as Milk Punch, Mimosas and The Saint (St. Germaine, Tanqueray gin, basil and sparkling wine.)
8201 Oak St.
The Commander’s kitchen was a learning ground for Chef Carl Schaubhut of DTB (Down the Bayou), a vibrant, recently opened destination on Oak Street in the Carrollton neighborhood. With reinterpreted coastal Cajun cuisine and craft cocktails, in April DTB began serving brunch Friday through Sunday, and a Service Industry Brunch on Mondays.
Brunch specials: The over-the-top fried stuffed chicken biscuit features a chicken breast stuffed with chicken-garlic sausage, cooked sous-vide and then sliced, breaded and fried; served with fermented pepper jelly and charred cabbage slaw.
Also featured is the cornmeal crusted Des Allemandes catfish sandwich served on a Leidenheimer French bread bun and dressed with a lush deviled egg puree and an arugula salad with pickled mustard seed vinaigrette.
Brunch cocktails: From celebrated beverage director Lu Brow: the Window Box (Euphrosine gin, cucumber, garden herbs, egg white, orange flower water); Dude’s Delight (Rougaroux rum, St. George coffee liqueur, vanilla bean, milk, cocoa dust); and Saltwater (Magnolia vodka, Pamplemousse, basil & pink peppercorn syrup, grey salt).
boudin noir and fried oysters with a smoked vodka bloody mary
The Country Club
634 Louisa St.
Always a good time, and now more so than ever, to celebrate 40 in New Orleans, the historic Bywater Country Club recently unveiled the results of a year-long renovation. Executive Chef Chris Barbato, yet another Commander’s Palace alum, now helms the kitchen. He has crafted a locally-inspired menu that stresses Italian-French and Creole-Southern influences.
Brunch specials: The lump crab cake is paired with a poached egg and smoky tomato butter; boudin boulettes are served crispy with pepper jelly; and beef debris comes with hash browns, poached eggs, kale and a horseradish cream.
Brunch cocktails: The cocktail program has been updated, featuring an Aperol Spritz (Aperol, Champagne and orange zest) or Pample Concombre (pamplemousse rose liquer and Effen cucumber vodka) to start your brunch on a refreshing note.
819 Rue Conti
The city’s brunch spots are diverse in their appeal, whether it’s reinterpreting classics, highlighting regional standards, celebrating an ethnic cuisine, bottomless beverages, or simply churning out delectable comfort foods. But atmosphere counts, too. At Broussard’s that means Sunday mornings at white-clothed tables either inside or overlooking a verdant tropical courtyard, with the strains of a strolling jazz trio.
Brunch specials: Diners satisfy cravings for Southern fried chicken and waffles with candied pecans, or raspberry mascarpone stuffed pain perdu. The drama of flaming bananas Foster, prepared tableside, will make you feel like a kid again.
Brunch cocktails: Though numerous Sunday brunch libations are on offer, head bartender Paul Gustings concocts Imperial Punches - Swedish Punsch, Nuremberg Punch and English Milk Punch - served both hot and cold.
Although bright, shiny, and saturated with vibrant artwork, Katie’s still feels like the old-school neighborhood eatery that opened in its Mid-City spot in 1984. Guests are greeted at the door by Mary Craig the “Hostess with the Mostess” and mother of Chef Scot Craig, a definite “more-is-more” kind of guy, with a big personality that really comes out in his frequent Food Network appearances and in the kitchen. His creations are legendary and his generous, hearty nature makes him everyone’s instant best friend. Brunch is Sundays-only.
Brunch specials: Like many over-the-top delicious foods, the crawfish beignet, Chef Scot’s riff on Jazzfest crawfish bread, came late one night when he was “starving and kinda drunk.” Filled with loads of crawfish, gooey Mozzarella and smoky Provel cheese, peppers, onions and topped with jalapeno aioli, it is pretty unforgettable.
Brunch cocktails: Bottomless Bloody Mary’s, Mimosas, and red and white sangrias are a deal for a thrifty $15.
mimosa with croque benedict
Ruby Slipper Café
139 S. Cortez St.
2001 Burgundy St.
200 Magazine St.
1005 Canal St.
2802 Magazine Street
Just a few blocks from Katie’s the first Ruby Slipper Cafe opened on South Cortez Street in 2008 on a block still suffering from post-Katrina blight. Amid the gloom, Erich and Jennifer Weishaupt created an invigorated gathering place where weary neighbors could enjoy breakfast, lunch and brunch in a colorful atmosphere.
Since its opening, the Ruby Slipper has experienced explosive growth, adding two locations downtown, another in the Marigny, and yet another most recently in the Garden District. In 2015, the beloved local joint went regional with an opening downtown Pensacola, Florida, and another in Orange Beach, Alabama, last year. A Baton Rouge location will open this summer.
Brunch specials: Brunch specials at reasonable prices include local delicacies like pork or duck debris, shrimp and grits, cochon de lait, and bananas Foster.
Brunch cocktails: Favorite cocktails are: the Ruby Sunrise (tequila, orange and pomegranate juice) and the award-winning house-made Bloody Mary, prepared with either vodka, tequila or bacon-infused vodka.
Red Gravy Café
125 Camp St.
With gorgeous food and bright, homey atmosphere it is no surprise that Red Gravy Cafe, a humble little spot in the CBD was voted the Number One Best Brunch Spot In New Orleans by Open Table for 2016. The cozy bistro serves the rustic Italian recipes the chef/owner collected from her grandmothers, aunts and mother throughout her New Jersey childhood.
Brunch Specials: Ingredients are locally sourced and organic to create such daily brunch show stoppers as It’s a Jersey Thing (crostini with Jersey pork roll and Provolone); browned butter pancakes served with Italian sausage; Sicilian egg pie; Ligurian shrimp and grits; and a wealth of handmade pastas.
Brunch cocktails: With a full bar, Red Gravy offers a unique Italian-centric wine list, as well as brunch favorites such as Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s and the like.
Twelve Mile Limit
500 S. Telemachus St.
The delightfully low-key Twelve Mile Limit offers brunch all weekend.
Brunch specials: The menu focuses on “build your own” breakfast burritos and biscuit sandwiches, which can be customized with pulled pork, bacon, eggs, hollandaise, Brie, gravy and caramelized onion.
Brunch cocktails: For affordable day drinking, take advantage of $5 mimosas and Bloody Mary’s.
901 Louisiana Ave.
Atchafalaya has become famous for its outstanding Thursday through Monday brunch menu.
Brunch specials: Specials vary, but favorites include: Duck Hash (poached eggs, duck confit, blackberries, mangoes, hollandaise and bacon vinaigrette) and Crab Louis Salad (lump crab meat, iceberg lettuce, deviled egg, oven roasted tomatoes, and house-made dressing.)
Brunch cocktails: Have it your way, with the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, with both tomato juice and tomatillo bases offered along with an array of liquors and all manner of garnishes from bacon to okra.
fried chicken biscuit with Calabrian honey
2800 Magazine St.
In the Garden District, Coquette offers three different, three-course brunch menus, each of them for a thrifty $30 every Saturday and Sunday.
Brunch specials: Choose from starters, such as Italian wedding soup or fried oysters; and entree selections such as shrimp Bolognese over fettuccini with country ham and fennel; or braised pork corn pudding, with Brussels sprouts, and kale. Desserts include: coffee flan with pistachio biscotti, and chocolate tart with Chantilly cream and peanut butter cookies.
Brunch cocktails: Coquette’s “Brunch Bottles” program offers three specially priced suggested wine pairings.
630 Carondelet St.
Old world charm and a nautical theme set the tone at Seaworthy, an oyster bar featuring ice-cold bivalves from the Gulf, as well as the east and west coasts. For brunch, offered on both Saturday and Sunday, the offerings expand beyond the half-shell with surprisingly light-on-the-pocketbook prices.
Brunch specials: Fork over $7.00 for flakey buttermilk biscuits served with sliced country ham and seasonal preserves. The smoked fish Benedict, $15, is generous enough to share and is served with a sensational caviar-chive Hollandaise.
Brunch cocktails: Round out the meal with a Goldfinch (Cocchi Americano, Fino sherry, freshly squeezed lemon juice, orange bitters, and club soda) or an Outer Banks made with Angostura bitters and house-made ginger beer.
611 O’Keeffe Ave.
In the thriving SoMa District, Chef Kelly Fields, a recent James-Beard award nominee, is keeping it Southern with her the brunch menu at her lofty, contemporary space, Willa Jean.
Brunch specials: Brunch hot plates include: fried oysters Benedict served with stewed okra and Hollandaise; crawfish and grits served with slow poached eggs and Cheddar biscuits; and BBQ Shrimp Toast made with grilled sourdough and burrata.
Brunch cocktails: The $40 Mimosa Service offers a chilled bottle of sparkling wine and four bottles of fresh, seasonal juices to mix and match at the table.
535 Tchoupitoulas St.
Chef Nina Compton, the St. Lucia-born darling of the city’s culinary scene, is never one to seek shelter in the same-old, and she has the stones to roll fluidly through French, Caribbean and Italian cuisines on her Compere Lapin menu.
Brunch specials: Her weekend brunch menu continues the James-Beard Award Finalist’s penchant for the unexpected, with taste bud thrillers like avocado toast with radishes and fresno peppers; truffle fonduta with poached egg and ciabatta; coconut French toast with a pecan rum sauce; and goat Bolognese with potato gnocchi and egg.
Brunch cocktails: Not to be outdone, superstar Head Bartender Abigail Gullo offers a selection of just-for-brunch concoctions including a $20 bottom-less brunch punch/dealer’s choice (brunch punch bowls rotate regularly), and a revolving selection of fresh fruit daiquiris. Fun fact: If your idea of brunch is a poor boy sandwich (or some such) consumed on the levee by the nearby river, Gullo has you covered. She offers the bottomless punch in gigantic jars to-go.
There are far worse—and few finer—ways to usher in a new week with style and a smile.
spiced orange shrub drink with the pork and yucca hash