Friday Question of the Day – What Should a Proper Brunch Menu Look Like?


“Dear PoPville,

I was out walking in Petworth and saw a note that Petworth Citizen has started serving brunch. the menu (attached) looks like a lunch/dinner bar menu with a few waffles thrown in. I ate the chicken and waffles, and that was good, but I’d like opinions from others about whether they find this an appetizing selection for brunch. No pancakes? No french toast? No omelettes? Egg and grits as a starter? This all seems out of the ordinary to say the least. I don’t expect Citizen to have a menu that is long and complicated (when Coupe opened up, I was pretty disappointed and I hoped that the chef would take a machete to the menu and redirect resources to making a few great dishes), but this menu seems lacking. I’ll be interested to hear what others think.”

So what do you guys think a proper brunch menu should look like? What’s the closest one to perfect that currently exists? And out of curiosity since a related question was asked in the rant/revel yesterday – how often/how many times a month do you go out to brunch?

136 Comment

  • i think people often mistake brunch for breakfast.

  • Challah French toast. And not the cheap challah from supermarkets. Next question.

  • I don’t know, it looks like a delicious menu to me.
    Maybe some more alcohol-sopping items like toast, straight pancakes and waffles, and sausage.
    But actually, that’s too much for a small place like the Citizen. It should be a “here, take what we have to give you” type of place, not a brunch at the Marriott type of place. That’s the nature of a neighborhood joint.

  • a brunch menu should look the way the owner of a restaurant wants it to look. duh.

  • I think a brunch menu should depend on the cuisine the restaurant is already offering. You’re going to a specific place usually because you already like what they offer at other times of the day. In terms of great brunch menus in DC, I’d say Duke’s Grocery, The Queen Vic, and Le Diplomate all have it covered. Duke’s Grocery, though, is probably the most affordable and more of a go-to place because of that.

    • +1 on the brunch menu reflecting the restaurant’s cuisine. Also, I do like Duke’s brunch. The service could be better, but it was quite good and reasonably priced.

    • +2. I like it. Could loose the waffles. I hate trying to go out for a meal (whatever you call it) at midday on a weekday and getting stuck with eggs and pancakes. I can make those, I want something more interesting from a restaurant. Good for you Petworth Citizen.

  • I’m a sucker for corned beef hash, so I wouldn’t need to look beyond that on this menu. Smoked salmon, too, but what the heck is “egg mousse”?

  • I read the menu before I read the posting itself, and all I could think was “This looks really tasty.” (Probably because I’m really hungry and haven’t had breakfast.)
    But after reading the posting and reading the menu again, I see what the OP is getting at. This menu is somewhat short on breakfast-y items. It’s got chicken/waffles and shrimp/waffles combinations, but chicken/waffles is something that shows up on the dinner menu at places like Marvin.

    • Oops, that was me above.

      • I should also note that I’ve been happy to see waffles (in the form of chicken and waffles) infiltrating dinner menus. 🙂

    • There are 7 entrees. 5 have either egg or waffles.

      • Thing is, there are no waffle-waffles–like syrup/fruit on a plain old waffle sans deep fried meat. They’re already making them, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t also offer them in more breakfasty form.

  • Poached eggs. I’m open to all sorts of variations in terms of cuisines and items, but no poached eggs or a really poorly poached egg is a deal breaker for me. Worst offender: red rocks. I ordered some sort of hash that I was really excited about and they asked me how I wanted my eggs. Poached, of course! The waitress said they don’t “do” poached eggs because they “don’t have the right equipment for that.”

    • if they don’t do it, it doesn’t really matter why, does it?

      • The why matters when they’ve lied. The equipment to poach an egg is: a pot; a stove top burner; water; an egg; and vinegar…but you can probably do it without vinegar. I’m sure they have all of those.

        • They should have just been truthful and said they don’t do it because it’s a pain in the ass and hard to do well without those nifty egg-poaching cups, right?

    • They don’t have a pot of boiling water? I call shenanigans.

      • Yeah, everyone else at the table thought it was odd too. And the thing was, she responded as though I was making some unreasonable and special request, but the menu said that the hash came with eggs cooked in whichever way you liked and she’d just ASKED me how I wanted them. Then she was like, “We don’t have the equipment to do that (we all looked at her funny) We’re a pizza place; we just have an oven.” That still doesn’t make sense to me though, because they have other menu items that clearly require a stove. I guess it’d be kind of embarrassing to admit that your “chef” can’t poach an egg or doesn’t want to, but if that’s the case, why not just say with your choice of fried or scrambled egg? Oh well.

    • I think the real problem is that you have to pay attention when you’re poaching eggs, so some places don’t want to bother with them. A few seconds too long and they’re toast, and a few seconds too short and they’re kind of gross. A few years ago I was with a group of people having brunch and a few of us ordered poached eggs. Not one came out right — most were hard boiled and one still had translucent whites. The manager admitted that the brunch staff was the C (not even B) team and didn’t know how to cook with any precision.

  • If you insist on having a choice of each of the three traditional bready breakfast foods (pancakes, waffles and french toast), plus omlettes, IHOP awaits. (Or drive 10 minutes to Parkway Deli – still one of my favorities). This menu has two waffle dishes, four dishes with eggs, grits, corned beef hash, smoked salmon, a couple of vegetarian options – it’s perfectly fine. Plus, I’m quite sure there is the opportunity to look at the menu before you sit down – if you find the menu “lacking,” feel free to eat somewhere else.
    By the way, when people roll their eyes at hipsters/yuppies/what have you, this is precisely the type of complaint to which they’re referring. (“The brunch menu is inadequate at one of the dozen or so restaurants within walkign distance.”) And they’re not wrong.

    • I guess “If you don’t like Petworth Citizen’s brunch menu, go to IHOP” is the new “If you don’t like such-and-such thing about D.C., move to Reston.” FALSE BINARY.
      And “a dozen or so restaurants within walking distance” might apply to certain neighborhoods, but it’s a bit of a stretch for this one.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      “By the way, when people roll their eyes at hipsters/yuppies/what have you, this is precisely the type of complaint to which they’re referring. (“The brunch menu is inadequate at one of the dozen or so restaurants within walkign distance.”) And they’re not wrong.”

      Dude, it’s a Friday Question of the Day – you can lighten up. We can have a fun discussion without being lectured. But if you don’t like this discussion, the New York Review of Books awaits. As for people rolling their eyes at this topic, well, this is a friendly place so I can’t respond how I’d like to – but if you come to the next PoPville happy hour – where these discussions happily abound – I’ll be sure to tell you in person.

    • The biggest problem here is for vegetarians (which I am not). Their answer seems to be: “Here’s a big mushroom on a bun!” So sad.

      Another problem is that the food at PC just isn’t very good. I’ve tried two of these brunch entrees — the bacon and the chicken/waffles — and both were mediocre at best. The bacon itself was great, but the way it was served — in a big messy stack — was gross. The chicken sausage patty that comes with the waffle was utterly forgettable. On one of those occasions they didn’t have coffee. The server said that their grinder was broken, and that they were waiting for someone to bring another one. Yes, I’m serious.

      • +1!!!! I’m a vegetarian, which is why I (usually) always LOVE brunch – there’s always something delicious on the menu that’s more interesting than what I typically get to order for dinner. Eggs Florentine, versions of frittata/quiches/omelettes, a big ol’ bowl of veggies, eggs, and hash, etc. As long as there are multiple different egg options, I’m all in. My current fave is shakshouka. But when a place has more lunch-y options, and literally just offers a portobello burger (which is BORING AS HELL by the way), I’ll pass and try somewhere else.

        The great thing about DC, though, is there are always multiple other options to choose from not too far away. We do brunch pretty well here, for the most part 🙂

      • jburka

        Their other answers seem to be falafel, eggs ‘n grits, salad, granola with yogurt, and sticky buns.

        Is this my ideal brunch menu? Actually, it’s fairly close, because there’s a lot of variety packed into that small list and everything on the left side is cheap enough that you could order two or three if the stuff on the right doesn’t catch your fancy.

        Contrast this to Ted’s Bulletin, which has a lot more breakfasty items, but apparently feels virtually every dish needs to include meat (which I don’t want to pay for) or is an utter carb overload (really, I don’t need hashbrowns with my pancakes…)

      • Try being a vegan. Brunch limited to very, very few places. Thankfully, mimosas are always vegan.

  • Being that they have chicken & waffles, it would have made more sense for them to do Shrimp and Grits instead of Shrimp & Waffles…
    For me all I need is some really tasty bacon, and lots of mimosas- easy on the oj…

  • Bottomless bottomless bottomless everything!!!

  • Sort of feel weird about this topic calling out Petworth Citizen. I’ve never been there, but can’t this be a “brunch menu at a restaurant in DC”?

    • The OP’s question focused on Petworth Citizen, but I think the Prince was using it as a jumping-off point to pose a larger question as to what a brunch menu should look like.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        Correct. Plus regular readers know I have lots of love for the Citizen:

        • I’m not sure why? I’ve given it 10-15 chances since I live around the corner and it’s food could not be more disappointing from the same guy who did room 11. It’s so mediocre and it worries me that the new French/Japanese place has the same chef.
          On a side note what ever happened to the place that was supposed to go in beside Qualia?

          • it hurts when i do this.

          • Well, just goes to show that people think different things. I will never go back to Room 11 to eat (or for anything probably). It wasn’t bad, it was just wholly uninteresting. The menu was limited, and only one was something that appealed to me – and it tasted fine, but certainly nothing I’d go back for. And all this while seated in the world’s most uncomfortable chair/table while other patrons hovered waiting for me to finish and leave? It’s a fine place but not for me.
            The Citizen on the other hand, to my taste has more interesting food and it’s not awesome, but it’s better than just fine – and that’s all I want when I go to a casual neighborhood bar for a drink and a bite to eat. The atmosphere (again, to my taste) is way better than Room 11.

  • A proper brunch menu must contain eggs benedict and/or florentine, bacon, strong coffee, and at least one sweet breakfast option (waffles, french toast, pancakes). And bacon, did I mention bacon?

    • I agree, except I wouldn’t be so restrictive with the egg option. Eggs Benedict is ideal but a nice selection of omelettes or other interesting egg dishes like huevos or shakshuka is fine.

      • I adore shakshuka! One of my favorite things to make on a Saturday morning at home, especially if I have homemade bread around for soppy by all that yummy tomato sauce.

  • I am generally not excited about brunch because restaurants feel they have to fit into the “proper brunch” menu. Places that all have relatively diverse options at dinner turn into the exact same restaurant at brunch. It can be tasty but not particularly interesting. I have actually actively looked for a place that is serving a non-brunch menu on Sunday afternooons and it can be hard depending on cuisine.

  • I think once you’ve worked the brunch shift at a restaurant for a few years you become incredibly anti-brunch. Brunch brings in a lot of money but it’s utter hell for the cooks and servers. You can’t drag me out of my house to have overpriced eggs and mimosas.

    • utter hell? why?

      • I’ve heard that too.

      • I think it would be all the drinks that have to be served, and all the egg-based dishes that have to be made on the spot and carefully regulated (because over/under cooked eggs are the worst). But it’s still a lot cheaper than dinner so the servers get less tip.

      • Drunk patrons. Lower prices, so tips are crappy. Quicker turnover of tables than at dinner time, so you’re doing a lot more frantic running. Customers are a bit more particular about the meal and want substitutions (most people want their breakfast the same way every time; they’re more adventurous and trusting of the chef at dinner). There also tends to be less staff on-duty during brunch.
        Also, if you wait an hour to be seated for brunch, you’re an idiot. 90% of places are making the same exact thing (eggs, bacon, sandwiches, mimosas, Sysco bloody mary mix, etc).

      • Dozens of people are ordering eggs, all different styles. Over easy, over hard, scrambled, poached, egg whites only, etc. People are fucking particular about eggs.

        Then you have to factor in time. People start showing up to brunch at what, 11:30, noon? Most probably haven’t eaten and if they have to wait a while for a table, they get crabby as hell. So in turn, they are snippy to the server.

        It’s hell. Utter god damn hell. The only thing to trump a normal brunch is a Mother’s Day brunch which is a whole other game.

        That Portlandia sketch about brunch hits particularly close to home for me.

  • I’ve had the steak cut bacon off this brunch menu a handful of times. It’s delicious – if you like bacon, I highly recommend it. The bacon is so thick – you need to each it with a steak knife.

    • Is it a sandwich? The mention of pumpernickel made me think it was, but maybe it’s just pumpernickel seeds?

      • It’s one slice of pumpernickel bread at the bottom that ends up soaking up the yolk from the poached egg and jelly/mustardy sauce.

  • I had brunch there last weekend and loved the waffle and the eggs’n grits, but I was a bit surprised by the shape of the chicken atop the waffle, and even more surprised when I cut into it. It’s chicken sausage fried in batter, not a piece of fried chicken. It says so right on the menu, but why would I read the description below “Chicken and Waffle”? It tasted good, but I just feel more guilty eating sausage than chicken, and that doubles when they’re battered and fried.
    The menu is fine for me. It doesn’t have to offer everything other brunch spots offer, but it does touch on every main group. They have waffles, granola, eggs (a frittata is an oven omelet, eggs’n grits), potatoes (french fries, or the potatoes in the corned beef hash), bready pastry (sticky bun). And you can’t beat the atmosphere, entirely free of the Sunday brunch franticness and long waits of the more popular spots.

  • I usually go breakfast for brunch, but at Le Diplomate I just can’t stop myself from getting that steak, with the delicious herb butter. Mmmm.
    And maybe next Friday’s Question should be “How grumpy do you think the PoPulace has been lately?” I’d say full-blown “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” grumpy. Cheer up people! Things could be so much worse.

  • “Brunch menus are an open invitation to the cost-conscious chef, a dumping ground for the odd bits left over from Friday and Saturday nights. How about hollandaise sauce? Not for me. Bacteria love hollandaise. And nobody I know has ever made hollandaise to order. And how long has that Canadian bacon been festering in the walk-in? Remember, brunch is only served once a week – on the weekends. Cooks hate brunch. Brunch is punishment block for the B-Team cooks, or where the farm team of recent dishwashers learn their chops.”

    -Anthony Bourdain

  • I’m a sucker for a good egg sandwich — good bread, good bacon (or sausage) and cheese that isn’t a slice of American. Ages ago, the Reef nailed it.

    • I think American is the perfect cheese for an egg sandwich! It’s so melty and creamy and the mild flavor doesn’t complete with the bacon/sausage.

      • See, I think American cheese has a weird flavor that overpowers everything.

        • Agreed! Since I was a kid I’ve really hated American cheese with a passion, for the exact reason you mention. I hate to admit it, but I’ve even gone so far as to tell one restaurant that KEPT putting American cheese in my food despite my saying no cheese that I am allergic to it. I reallllly hate that taste.

  • Like other readers said, there are plenty of other brunch options in the city and you won’t please everyone. That being said, some of my friends would decline brunch here since they are vegetarians (I’m sure they could ask for something else or leave off the shrimp on the waffles if needed) but it’s just best to avoid a meat-heavy restaurant so we all can dine happily and have options. (I realize there is a mushroom burger main dish option but I’ve heard that many vegetarians are really tired of mushroom substitutes as their only option – anyone have an opinion on that?).

    • I can’t imagine brunch without sausage, bacon, or corned beef hash. I feel sorry for vegetarians.

    • Mushrooms are hard to like, and being a vegetarian doesn’t automatically mean you can tolerate them. My girlfriend’s a vegetarian and hates mushrooms, so this menu would be entiely unappealing to her.

      • Also, I agree that it’s a cop-out. Even if she didn’t have a hatred of mushrooms they wouldn’t feature prominately in our meals at home. It’s not like there aren’t other foods that aren’t meat.

      • Vegetarian here. Agree entirely about the mushrooms–I like them fine, but a giant slab of portobello with some butter is a lot less interesting than a giant slab of steak with the same I think, and there are so many other ways to cook vegetables, eggs, cheese, bread without meat! Shakshouka, grilled asparagus with eggs, grilled cheese, omelets, etc. are all delicious, vegetarian friendly brunch foods that non-vegetarians like too–why not offer a few choices?

        • Yeah, I’m not crazy about mushroom sandwiches. I’d much rather have a sandwich with various grilled veggies (peppers, eggplant, zucchini) and maybe some ricotta. Or a caprese sandwich, or a hummus sandwich, or even a grilled cheese. And there’s a whole world of meatless options outside of sandwiches.

  • Brunch to me is a late breakfast that serves alcoholic beverages, so my ideal brunch is eggs, sausage, bacon and potatoes with mimosas and bloody marys. I just get lunch if I want a sandwich and no drinks.

  • Brunch has always been typically a way for a restaurant to get rid of dinner leftover dressed up with eggs and other breakfast stuff. Liberally coat with alcohol masked by either orange juice or tomato juice and you are good to go!

  • My dream: Chef’s choice. I’m tired of making decisions in life. Just want to walk in and say “dude, whip me up something good.. for less that 20 bucks” .

  • Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Wait…wait. I worry what you just heard was: Give me a lot of bacon and eggs. What I said was: Give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Do you understand?

  • No more home fries unless they are best MF-ing home fries that have ever existed. No one in DC does them well.


  • People really will find a reason to whine about anything, won’t they?

  • We do bunch maybe 4 times a year (unless going next door for a breakfast burrito counts). It always sounds nice, but there are just so many other things we’d rather be doing on a Saturday or Sunday. Living near Eastern Market means even the mediocre places have a very long wait. And usually we’re in the mood for egg-based things, which are really easy to make at home.
    Random question: Does anyone ever order the yogurt and granola that’s always on these menus? Sometimes it’s honestly what I feel like having but I get something else because it seems silly to pay that much for granola.

    • Oh yeah, I refuse to do brunch unless I/we have reservations. Waiting around all Sunday morning when I haven’t had food? I don’t think so!
      Also, I would never pay for yogurt and granola at a restaurant. I can make it at home for less than 90 cents. That’s like ordering cereal at a restaurant.

  • Breakfast burritos. That is all.

    • If someone opened a weekend-only breakfast burrito shack, they’d make a killing.
      The west coast has amazing breakfast burritos.

      • I would love this so much. But you’d have to make enough of a killing in two days to pay rent for an entire week. I think that’s the trick. What about a weekend-only breakfast burrito foodtruck that parks somewhere in U Street/Logan?

    • Breakfast burritos and tacos! Austin has a few of these that are so incredibly delicious. I don’t do brunch, but would go to a breakfast burrito/taco truck frequently.

  • Israeli breakfast:

    Amazing breads, cheeses and olives
    Trays of fresh fruit
    Endless salad platters
    Giant logs of halva

  • I think the PC menu is decent, but I’d like to see a few more items to round it out: sausage gravy and biscuits (non-negotiable), fruit salad, veggie tart, and the bacon/egg/cheese sammich mentioned by a previous commenter.

  • skj84

    Brunch is my favorite meal. Even more than dinner. I live for Weekend Brunch. Personally as long as there is Eggs Benedict, waffles and mimosas on the menu I’m good.I’m relatively easy to please. Bottomless drinks is cherry on top. Especially when the server knows how to read the group and keep em flowing.

    Petworth Citizen is actually on the list of potential venues for PoPville brunch at the end of the month! I need to call them.

  • 1) X & eggs…steak, ham, bacon…offer toast or home fries
    2) Omelets/Frittatas
    3) Waffles/Pancakes/French toast
    4) Club Sandwich
    5) Hash (salmon/corn beef)
    6) Eggs Benedict (salmon, crab, etc)
    7) Fruit
    8) Burger and Fries
    9) Shrimp and grits
    10) Bottomless beverages

    • I think Commissary has an ideal brunch menu. So many options, reasonably priced and consistently good food.

  • Must have eggs benedict!

  • My partner and I love brunch and were just looking at the PC menu the other day (we live in the neighborhood)…and we were disappointed because it doesn’t match what _we_ look for in a brunch, as a half meat-eating, half-vegetarian family. That’s not to say it isn’t a perfectly lovely brunch for some people — it probably is, and we do like PC overall (and Room 11, so judge us accordingly).

    For us, the ideal brunch menu is one that leans more toward the “br-” side than the “-unch” side, and has a good balance of vegetarian options (either straight up veg or items that will be made veg if you ask, such as an amazing omelet or frittata filled with stuff, minus the one meaty thing that normally comes in it). So, we like places like Zaytinya (where we basically order the entire brunch menu) but closer to home our go-to locations for consistently good, non-boring brunch are Kangaroo Boxing Club & Mothership. The key for us is more than a few interesting choices for meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters alike. Extra bonus points for interesting boozy drinks, which Mothership has many of (last time we were there, at least 5 different boozy coffee drinks were available, besides the regular mimosa/mary/etc fare).

    • What I didn’t note explicitly in my ramble above is that specific dishes don’t matter as much as having a variety of dishes, and I agree with the commenters above who said that the offerings should naturally match the typical cuisine of the restaurant.

  • Super important question: does Petworth Citizen have the bottomless option for brunch? Yes, I’m afraid of one of those people…

    And I have to say this has to be one of the crankiest Friday Question of the Days I’ve seen. Even the political questions had less negativity than this one. It’s such a beautiful day out and Friday people! Cheers!

  • As possibly the only person in the world who doesn’t want to get breakfast food at a restaurant (I’m not a big fan of the meal) I often run into the problem of places not offering enough “lunch” options. It can be tough to find a sit down meal on the weekend before 3 that doesn’t include eggs, waffles, pancakes or french toast.

    • Really? I’m not sure I believe you. What restaurants ONLY serve items with eggs, waffles, pancakes and french toast?

      • I’m sorry. You are correct. Please excuse my hyperbole.
        What I meant to say is that the options without any of those things are often limited. You can usually have a hamburger (which many restaurants have decided needs an egg on it for brunch) or its mushroom/veggie equivalent.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Eggs Benedict with Crab is my go-to for brunch. Check out the menu at Eggspectation – that is what a brunch menu should look like. And there should be fruit – canteloupe, strawberries and watermelon – either on the side with the dish or as a separate plate.

    • Have you tried the (I think its called) eggs chesapeake at Old Ebbit? So delish. Skip the reservation/table mess and go to the back bar: same food, faster service.

  • Vegan options!

  • I don’t really get how just yogurt and a sticky bun are considered breakfast staples. No eggs? No toast?

  • “I finally found the meal between breakfast and brunch” — Homer Simpson

  • Brunch must haves:
    1) a very good bloody mary. not “decent”, not “ok”, a GOOD bloody mary. One of my fave restos has the saddest bloody mary, everything on their menu is divine but the BM are basically V8 and vodka.
    2) BLTs: sourdough, crispy crispy bacon, (if you can put a poached duck egg on it, I’ll give you an extra star)
    3) bottomless mimosas (cheap california sparkling is fine but the OJ should be the good stuff, and a drop of bitters makes this heavenly)
    4) I’m not a vegetarian but veg options are important, brunch is done with groups of people and there’s always a handful of vegetarians who deserve something better than the ubiquitous granola/yogurt.

  • 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 at breakfast, but you get a good meal.

  • The corned beef hash at Citizen is out-of-this-world good and something that not a ton of brunch places prepare in house. As for the rest of the menu, I think it’s great.

  • My go to brunch order is a breakfast burrito…failing that, breakfast tacos. That’s my barometer of a brunch menu.

  • I’m more the “Br” side of brunch….one easy rule in my book, it should go well with a Mimosa and I only see one item that makes the mark.

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