The popularity of brunch used to elude me. Now don’t get me wrong. I like brunch; in fact, I sometimes even love it, but I’ve never made it habitual. Now, however, my research for this story has made me think I should be more, well, brunchy.
Consider how relaxing it is to have a long, leisurely lunch experience when there’s no pressure to get back to an office. That’s one of brunch’s big appeals: breakfast and lunch foods, without the distinction between the two, and without the rush. Plus mimosas and bloody marys! You have hours to just eat, drink, sit. What could be better? Here are eight great ones to try any week – or specifically to fête the mom in your life on Mother’s Day, May 9.
1. Buckley’s Restaurant and Bar
$12-$21 | SUN 10 A.M.-3 P.M. | 801 N. CASS ST. | 414-277-1111
This joint is one of my all-time faves for everything brunchy. The Buckley’s approach combines the classics of breakfast with dinner-like main courses that elevate the midday meal. The lobster Benedict with tarragon aioli is a treat – so rich – and croque madame (the French toasted ham and cheese with a sunny-side-up egg on top) is knife-and-fork comfort. You will want a spoon to get every drop of the Mornay sauce and egg yolk. Also terri c is Buckley’s burger, with bacon, cheddar and spicy pepper jam, and the Nashville hot chicken sandwich, made appropriately with tender thigh meat. With Pam Buckley leading the baking program here, there’s always a head-turner on the dessert plate. Her carrot cake is the bomb.
2. Le Rêve Patisserie & Café
$4-$17 | SAT 9 A.M.-2 P.M. | 7610 HARWOOD AVE., WAUWATOSA | 414-778-3333
The name of Tosa’s French haunt translates to The Dream, and it is rather dreamy sitting in the light-drenched dining room with a café au lait and a flaky, buttery croissant. Brunch is a Saturday a air here, and a savory French air guides the menu. The croque-monsieur and crepes filled with duck confit, chèvre and caramelized onions are rich and delectable. But I’m always torn over what to order because of so many good choices – the salade niçoise and eggs Benedict with smoked salmon also catching my eye. Normally closed Sundays, Le Rêve is open May 9, serving a special Mother’s Day three-course brunch with choice of aperitif, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Keep your eyes peeled on facebook.com/lerevewauwatosa for menu details.
3. Story Hill BKC
$7-$15 | SAT-SUN 9 A.M.-2 P.M. | 5100 W. BLUEMOUND RD. | 414-539-4424
The breakfast dish shakshouka is a vegetarian baked egg-tomato dish that debatably originated in Tunisia. Co-owner/ exec chef Joe Muench took that foundation and added smoked lentils, goat cheese and sumac mayo with Indian naan to eat on the side. It’s a perfect illustration of this place’s spark of delectable creativity. Shakshouka is hard for me to resist here because it’s not a brunch dish you see everywhere, but I also enjoy the frittata with bacon, house-dried tomatoes and cheddar, and the decadent French toast bread pudding with granola streusel and rum maple syrup. The nap you’ll need afterward is worth it.
4. Allie Boy’s Bagelry & Luncheonette
$2.50-$14 | SAT-SUN 8 A.M.-2 P.M. | 135 E. NATIONAL AVE. | 414-988-0388
One of my breakfast highlights of late was a bagel sandwich topped with griddled halloumi cheese, braised greens, spiced tomato confit and harissa mayo, consumed in the morning sunlight on my back porch. That unusual and absolutely delicious combo represents the modern side of Allie Boy’s – the “posh noshes” that are part of the repertoire here. That playful, modern approach is also apparent in creations such as the Big Latke Waffle, a potato pancake waffle topped with applesauce and sour cream or smoked maple butter. But you can also get classic offerings like Bubbe’s matzo ball soup and lox and cream cheese/ house-cured lox on a bagel. Weekend specials are also hot, from personal-size quiches to cheese blintzes. Allie Boy’s has been to-go only, but the patio may be open as you read this, a great opportunity to hang and nosh.
5. Café at the Plaza
$5-$15 | SAT-SUN 7 A.M.-2 P.M. | 1007 N. CASS ST. | 414-276-2101
I’ve had some of my very favorite brunch experiences over the years right here – lemony poppyseed pancakes smothered in blueberry-ginger syrup; huge build-your-own omelets; rich eggs Benes, sopping up the hollandaise with crispy hash browns. And oh, how I love the intimate courtyard patio, which at press time was expected to be the only area of the cafe open for on-site dining – as weather allows. Some lighter fare has joined the menu this spring, including avocado toast, Greek egg white scramble and a coconut muesli. Café at the Plaza is also doing a Mother’s Day weekend special of crab cake benedict with Old Bay hollandaise and asparagus. Feeding a group? To-go brunch kits featuring quiche, eggs benedict, scones, salads and so on are available for pre-order on the website, plazahotelmilwaukee.com.
PICKUP ON SAT 4-8 P.M. $50 | 2457 S. WENTWORTH AVE., 414-763-4706
Continuing to operate differently this year because of COVID, Goodkind is offering inspired, thematic brunch kits for eating at home. The kits, which feed two, change each week – a recent one featured salt-and-pepper chicken wings, wild rice waffles with sausage gravy, maple braised collards and six-minute eggs. Each bundle comes with a cocktail kit that also rotates. The food is packaged in oven-safe pans and includes simple prep instructions.
7. Public Table
$10-$13 | SAT 11 A.M.-2 P.M.; SUN 10:30 A.M.-3 P.M. | 5835 W. NATIONAL AVE., WEST ALLIS | 414-488-2948
A month or so before the pandemic hit, I discovered this bright, friendly venue, the bar acting as the focal point of the room and the fare not de ned by the fact that it’s a watering hole. Owner/chef John Clark uses the West Allis Farmers Market to help guide the menu specials coming out of what he calls an “unorthodox kitchen.” That includes brunch. The core menu is across-the-board good, but of particular note are the chilaquiles (poached eggs, queso fresco, crème fraîche and salsa make it so creamy), the MATO toast (a take on avocado toast, adding portobellos, tomato and drizzles of olive oil) and Not Your Mama’s French Toast, which offers a trio of delicious toppings – berry compote and whipped cream, Nutella and banana syrup, and apple butter and apple compote. Public Table also shares a spacious, socially distanced beer garden/patio with neighbor Kegel’s Inn.
8. Pastiche Bistro
$8-$19 | SUN 10 A.M.-1 P.M. | 4313 W. RIVER LN., BROWN DEER | 414-354-1995
The decorative inspiration here is French farmhouse, with warm yellow walls and patterned curtains – a touch of easygoing elegance. The menu, too, conjures up a French aura, even with a bit of American comfort folded in. One of my best picks to enjoy on a relaxed Sunday is the Monte Cristo – ham and chicken breast along with gruyère and cheddar on a roll dipped in egg batter and fried. I also recommend the shrimp and grits with “big shrimp” as the menu promises, the deep-dish quiche served with a mesclun salad, and chicken crepes with a white wine butter sauce and rice pilaf. Special dishes for Mom include chicken a la king and shrimp-scallop crepes served with a wine-butter sauce. Eat slowly and savor the time.