Who doesn’t love brunch? Brunch is breakfast all grown up, but it still keeps things casual. Simplicity and sophistication coexist on the same menu but at a friendlier price point. Chefs love it because it lifts their bottom line with an additional service, and customers love it because it’s, well, brunch. And in the Riverbend neighborhood there are an array of different restaurants that are a good fit for all styles and budgets. And with college out for summer, June is a good time to visit these spots that will be crowded come fall.
Carrollton Market quickly made a name for itself when it opened back in 2014 and with good reason – chef Jason Goodenough uses southern cuisine as a platform to swiftly branch out into polished iterations of more contemporary fare. But one thing he didn’t offer was lunch service, which made the announcement of his weekend brunch welcome news.
“We tried out an Easter brunch last year just to test the waters, and it was such a success that we did three turns that day,” Goodenough recalls. “So we made it a regular thing, and along the way we added Saturday service. Now we offer brunch all weekend long.”
Goodenough’s menu offers a tasteful mix of options. His “Biscuits and Debris” melds cornmeal biscuits, braised oxtail debris, spicy hollandaise and poached eggs into one sinful concoction, and also one in which you see a well-balanced interplay of southern, local and contemporary influences. An omelet dish makes use of his popular dinner appetizer Oysters Goodenough by incorporating them into a decadent omelet stuffed with creamed leeks, Benton’s bacon and sauce béarnaise. And if this isn’t enough for you, consider the Brunch Poutine, a more sophisticated take on the popular late-night Quebecois drunk food or hangover cure. Goodenough’s take features bacon and eggs atop the foundational fries, gravy and cheese curds.
On the lighter side, there is a Creole Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast with local blueberry jam and a homemade cinnamon roll with Cream Cheese icing. Look for mid-summer produce to appear in his vegetarian omelet, and also keep an eye open for dishes that make use of California Olive Ranch olive oil, a domestically produced product that’s foundational to a lot of his lighter dinner preparations, including his summery appetizer of crabmeat and Creole tomatoes.
“I was a guest at their ranch last year and got to see how it was made from harvest to bottle,” Goodenough says. “Compared to some of the Italian oils, the difference was the depth of flavor and just how peppery it was. It had lot of natural character. We use it extensively.” The higher-end Arbequina version, for example, is used with to finish a lot of his finfish dishes, as well as with his salads and dressings.
Carrollton Market also offers a full bar and signature cocktail menu, which adds to the allure. The light-filled main dining room is elegant without being fancy, and fans of the craft will appreciate the view into the open kitchen.
Just a few doors down is Refuel Café, a hugely popular pit-stop for the college crowd. This inexpensive counter-service spot focuses exclusively on breakfast and brunch, seven days a week. Enjoy going in the summer, before the schools are back in session.
Refuel distinguishes itself with a healthier, more thoughtful brunch menu than most other casual places. Egg whites, fresh produce and fresh-cut fruit abound. But for the less healthily inclined, plate-sized waffles are available with a slew of accompaniments including Nutella, whipped cream and more. You can assemble your own Grit Plate with add-ons like bacon and avocado, roasted red pepper and feta. Indeed, part of the appeal of this place is the mix-and-match nature of the menu. More composed dishes include a very nice Spicy Cuban Sandwich made with citrus pulled pork, house-pickled jalapeno peppers, coarse mustard and Swiss on pressed bread. Wraps are on the smaller side, but the ingredients are fresh. I like the Southwest version with chorizo, avocado, eggs and cheese. Unlike Carrollton Market, Refuel doesn’t have a liquor license, but their coffee program is strong and they also offer an array of high-quality teas.
Brunch at chef Eman Loubier’s Dante’s Kitchen has been a draw for years now. The charming cottage at the foot of Dante Street seamlessly melds indoor and outdoor seating thanks to its lush tropical courtyard. On the menu you’ll find a long list of entrées, such as Dante’s Eggs Benedict, made with rosemary-scented pork tenderloin, local honey, buttermilk biscuits, eggs and hollandaise sauce. Chef Eman Loubier famously supports local foragers and producers, and while their sourcing is seen more in the dinner menu, look for excellent produce and seasonal fare to appear in the brunch menu as well.
Get there when they open at 10:30 a.m. for the best choice of seating. Reservations are not accepted for smaller parties, and they fill up quickly. Also, Dante’s is a popular incubator for pop-ups, so be sure to check their website to see who might be appearing there on a Tuesday night to mix things up.
Late Morning or Late Night
Some things never go out of style, and among them is a late morning (or late night) stop at Camellia Grill. A straight-up diner with local flair, you won’t find ‘locally sourced’ this or ‘hand-forged’ that here. What you will find is a crowd-pleasing array of burgers, omelets, waffles, sandwiches and more. It is a rite of passage for tourists and locals alike.
8132 Hampson St.
Dinner Tuesdays-Saturdays, brunch Saturdays-Sundays
8124 Hampson St.
Breakfast and brunch daily
736 Dante St.
Dinner Wednesdays-Mondays, brunch Saturdays-Sundays