In a perfect world, we could all start work at noon, leaving us plenty of time to grab a nice brunch before settling into our work day. While I’ve come around on breakfast – as in, I regularly eat one now – I’m a long time lover of brunchtime, a magical hybrid of breakfast and lunch foods, sometimes with the welcome addition of cocktails, almost always satisfying and cohesive despite its hodgepodge origins. Or, in the immortal words of Jacques, the bowling instructor: “It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don’t get completely what you would get at breakfast, but you get a good meal!”
It seems that brunch has evolved a great deal since 1990 (although you’re still likely to encounter a fair share of cantaloupe – it just goes with so many flavors). But it no longer seems like an unnecessary blend of breakfast and lunch so much as a meal composed of the best elements of all mealtimes, creating a mealtime tradition that, because it doesn’t happen every day, is special each time it is enjoyed.
I’ve written about The Zenith before, but it had been a while since I paid a Sunday visit. One of the primary reasons is that football season started, and my partner and I were just as content to stay home and watch the games while eating a homemade brunch. But alas, the cupboard was pretty bare this past Sunday, and we were just motivated enough by the cool, drizzling gray November mid-morning that it seemed like the right time to reconnect with one of our favorite brunch spots.
The Zenith brunch was a fine reason for us to get ourselves out of the house this past Sunday morning. If it’s been far too long since you’ve made a brunch trip, here are five other places you might want to give a try:
– Casbah – A few Big Burrito Group restaurants offer Sunday brunches, but Casbah’s has the best reputation. The Prix Fixe deal is just about all the brunch one could handle: an appetizer, entrée, and choice of cocktail. All the Mediterranean flavor stuffed into omelets, scrambled, or mixed in with fine cuts of beef, lamb, poultry and fish. Need some sample data to whet your appetite? Check out Nicole’s account of her recent Casbah brunch @ Yum Yum. (229 S. Highland Avenue)
– Six Penn Kitchen – Probably a place you’re well familiar with if you are food-interested (or food obsessed) in Pittsburgh, but if you haven’t given their brunch a visit, you’re missing a fantastic meal. It’s not just about innovative ideas – it’s about the quality of the endeavor and the vision behind it. The brunch menu offers several neat twists on typical brunch fair (“Eclair” pancake specials, tempura-fried bacon BLTs), produced from ingredients culled from local farms and suppliers, not to mention their rooftop garden harvest. A delicious way to eat consciously and support sustainable local agriculture. (146 Sixth St, Downtown)
– J‘eet – You know, it really frosts my cupcakes. I lived around the corner from where this terrific little cafe moved in, but it didn’t open until I had moved away. (Not to pay any disservice to the local eating options, of course.) Maybe it’s for the best. I would have spent a whole lot of money at this cafe that specializes crepes. Sweet, savory, traditional and unique, these crepes are definitely brunch worthy as there is typically something for any member of a mixed group of diners. Order a Panini for something a bit more substantial, or try my personal favorite combo: a small roasted beet salad and lemon curd & fruit caprese crepe. (4200 Penn Avenue, Bloomfield)
– Sun Penang – Burned out on eggs? Had just about enough elaborate artisan sandwiches? Might I suggest something different for brunch? Take a visit to Squirrel Hill’s Sun Penang for dim sum, a Chinese tradition of small plates similar in many ways to the traditional English tea time, but has since evolved into its own full meal. The dim sum menu offers options like a bean curd skin roll, sweet rice, and stuffed eggplant, as well as spare ribs, chicken, and beef dishes. Order several items for a full meal, or split a few among a group while enjoying one of the regular entrees on the menu. A neat way to shake up the ordinary brunch trip. (5829 Forbes Avenue, Squirrel Hill)
– Deluca’s – On the other hand, sometimes what you want is a big old heavy-duty brunch to keep you full long past dinnertime. If you can stomach (heh heh) the wait, it’s worth making a visit to Deluca’s in the Strip District. Omelets? Check. Sandwiches? Check. Crepes? Oh yeah, check. They’ve got options upon options, and what’s more, near all of them are worth trying at least once. They also offer about a hundred variations on key dishes, so feel free to get inventive with your choices. A really good place to take visiting family and friends, especially if they don’t plan on eating for the rest of the day. (2015 Penn Avenue, Strip District)