Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why No Prix Fixe Brunches in DC?

I recently wondered why it is that there are few good prix fixe brunch deals in D.C. when they are prevalent in New York. Today the good people at DC FUD asked me to guest blog over there and I discussed this topic. Check it out. More D.C. reviews coming this weekend.

BrunchDC's Take on Brunch [DC FUD]

Full post reproduced below:

In the late 19th century, British hunter Guy Beringer wrote in the long-defunct Hunter's Weekly that we ought to abandon the heavy English Sunday dinner, a "post-church ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies" and instead introduce a "new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee." This revolutionary idea, which Beringer termed "brunch," was principally appealing to him because it would "make life brighter for Saturday night carousers" (i.e. allow him and his friends to stay up later and get drunker on Saturday nights). Over a hundred years later, with brunch soaring in popularity, the justification for it remains essentially the same.

As a lifelong New Yorker until my recent transplantation to Washington, I had grown accustomed to what I had mistakenly thought was a nationwide solution to the brunch meal: the prix fixe brunch menu with coffee and/or drinks included. Prix fixe brunch is pervasive in New York City. The best one is Essex on the Lowest East Side of Manhattan, and serves a $16 prix fixe meal that includes three bloody marys, mimosas, or screwdrivers with free coffee on Sundays if you arrive before noon. The food is a highly creative Jewish-Latin mix consisting of food that you won't find outside of New York (maybe it's illegal to ship bialys across state lines?) such as Eggs "LEO"-- scrambled eggs with onions and gravlax -- or challah French toast.

When I moved down to Washington a little over a year ago I assumed D.C. would follow this successful trend. Unfortunately, I was sorely mistaken. The only brunches I've found in D.C. that even remotely resemble the drinks-included prix fixe deals you'll find in New York are the touristy (Kramer's), the mediocre buffets (Front Page -- a "buffett" spelled with an extra "t" for "terrible"), or the extremely expensive (Georgia Brown - $34.95, drinks extra). There are, of course, various places with drinks deals such as Creme's $15 unlimited drink deal (food extra) or Tabaq's $3 drinks, but the drinks aspect is only one part of the beauty and simplicity of the prix fix deal.

That's not to say you can't get good brunch in D.C. Recently I've set out to find those places and have come up with some promising brunch spots around the city. On 18th street, Mezè, a Turkish place has surprisingly excellent French toast. Bardia's New Orleans Cafe, a small hole-in-the-wall serves creative and authentic New Orleans style brunch complete with poached eggs atop catfish bites with creole sauce. Even The Diner, while way too popular for its quality, has some decent food as well, especially the French-inspired croques. Creme and Cafe Saint-Ex on U street are generally solid (good fried green tomato eggs benedict at St. Ex) and Rosemary's Thyme and Café Tropé in the Dupont area are both good bets.

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