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Prove Me Wrong About Brunch

m
mbasnack Jun 14, 2007 07:52 AM

I've been a longstanding poo-poo'er of brunch.

Too expensive. Long lines. And food that, frankly, I could prepare better myself. Why get dressed to eat overcooked eggs when you can stay in and have a great breakfast? Paying $15 bucks for soggy bacon or eggs benedict (which was ruined for me after Kitchen Confidential, unfortunately) seems simply ridiculous.

But, maybe I'm missing something? Are there any places in Boston one can brunch at that won't cost a fortune, give you food worth the money (interesting stuff you can't make yourself) and that won't be mobbed by hipsters or yuppy parents with babes in tow?

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  1. Gio RE: mbasnack Jun 14, 2007 07:58 AM

    The Blue Room!!! Unless you regularly cook such dishes as Morrocan Spiced Chicken or Pork Chiccarones with Tamarind Barbeque you'll find this brunch worth every penny.
    One Kendall Sq., Cambridge.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Gio
      e
      ellabella RE: Gio Jun 14, 2007 05:42 PM

      i actually had a disappointing experience with the blue room brunch just last weekend - while some of the dishes were enjoyable (octopus salad, lemon-buttermilk pudding (?), pancakes (!)), i thought most were somewhat disappointing - lukewarm, mass-produced, and not too inspiring. for $23 i felt a little ripped off, honestly. plus, my high hopes for a good spicy bloody mary were dashed by a glass of VODKA with a splash of tomato/spices and lots of ice. couldn't even finish it.

      on a happier note, a brunch that i truly enjoyed was at masa in the south end - i'm more of a savory-breakfast-dish lover anyway, and HERE were some awesome spicy bloody maries. maybe worth a try?

      1. re: Gio
        kittychow RE: Gio Jun 15, 2007 10:19 AM

        I love the Blue Room brunch but I'm afraid that the few times I've hit it in the past few months plenty of "yuppy parents with babes in tow" were also dining. I always sit at the bar so I've never been bothered. Can't recall screaming babies anyway...

      2. r
        rieslingme RE: mbasnack Jun 14, 2007 08:14 AM

        We love a good Chinatown dim sum feedfest as an alternative to
        bore-me-to-death-french-toast-Sunday-brunch with the Granny's.

        1. Bob Dobalina RE: mbasnack Jun 14, 2007 08:20 AM

          Neighborhood Restaurant in Union Square, Somerville.
          Lines happen but get there early and you'll be fine.
          Ultra-casual, so don't get dressed up.
          Opt for cream of wheat. You can thank me later. ;)

          13 Replies
          1. re: Bob Dobalina
            MB fka MB RE: Bob Dobalina Jun 14, 2007 09:30 AM

            I do love that cream of wheat, but based on my experience there over the past 5 years or more, everything else is just passable. The OP could certainly prepare all of their menu items better at home.

            I do like the Blue Room, but it can be yuppified, and the buffet is pricier. East Coast Grill has always pleased me at brunch, even when they've disappointed at dinner. The duck rellenos dish is quite good. Centre Street Cafe in JP has some solid food (had a rocking good strata there in the past month), but it's a hipster mob scene. I quite like the brunch offerings at Upstairs on the Square but have some concern that it may be a 'downhill alert' after my last visit. Their bread basket rocks, the bartending is great, and you can trust their eggs benedict (done with prosciutto). Eastern Standard does a nice job.

            Lately my found-again favorite breakfast has been Los Paisanos in Somerville. Home made fat tortillas with eggs and a creole sauce, black beans, crema, queso fresco, fried plantains and avocado for about $6. The coffee is wretched and sometimes the spanish cartoons and jukebox are blaring - be forewarned.

            1. re: MB fka MB
              Bob Dobalina RE: MB fka MB Jun 14, 2007 09:48 AM

              Where is Los Paisanos?

              Your comment really varies according to the ability of cooking of each person! Time also factors into it - gotta buy the stuff, cook it, etc. - have to clean up after and taking all morning to do so. On the weekend, major calistenics in the kitchen are typically no fun. :-{

              OR

              I could just pay my $10-12 and get the Portuguese fisherman's breakfast of:

              2 Eggs
              Portuguese sausage
              Rice & beans
              Fried cod cakes
              Toast
              Coffee
              Juice

              AND

              Cream of Wheat!

              It's basic diner breakfast + the portuguese differences, and in price/quantity/quality that's definitely worth paying. :-D

              1. re: Bob Dobalina
                MB fka MB RE: Bob Dobalina Jun 14, 2007 10:04 AM

                Agreed. I still go there once and a while because I don't feel like spending big bucks and/or I'm lazy at home. Plus, they won't tell me what's in the cream of wheat (though surely vanilla, cream, and lemon zest). But I always leave the Neighborhood at least disappointed, and sometimes angry at myself, for spending $10-$13 on crap and feeling like I got fooled again. Those home fries are wretched and I think the quality overall is not very high. As long as I just order cream of wheat and some bacon (talk about healthy!?) I'm good to go, and the setting can be fun. But for half the price I can go to Brookline Lunch in Central Square for a far better meal (still a bit like a greasy spoon and surely some don't like the place at all) or for about the same price I could be at East Coast Grill.

                Los Paisanos is on Broadway in East Somerville, a block or two up on the same side as Vinny's Superette/Vinny's at Night. You risk a bad experience if you go with a hangover and it just so happens that the cartoons or game shows or novelas are BLARING on the TV.

                I like the fried eggs with the red creole sauce (might even be called huevos rancheros), but the huevos mexicanos are scrambled to bits with ground chourico - not appealing. You have to order right to be pleased and the language barrier can be a problem when figuring out what's best to order. The tortillas are the bomb and I love all the sides. If you like fried plantains, you will love the platanos con crema.

                At lunch I've tried their torta which is fine, but does not compare even a bit to Lupitas (it's cheaper than Lupitas, tho'). Fried fish can be good here, but some dinner entrees are not so good. Again, you have to order right and might end up taking one for the team before you find the specialty.

              2. re: MB fka MB
                beetlebug RE: MB fka MB Jun 14, 2007 11:25 AM

                East Coast Grill - that duck rellenos is my favorite brunch item on the menu. I also love the accompanying sauteed greens. ECG also has delicious grits (I think it's an appetizer) that I also love but I have to convince my partners in eating crime to split. Even I can't finish both and walk out of there.

                1. re: beetlebug
                  MB fka MB RE: beetlebug Jun 14, 2007 02:00 PM

                  yup, those grits are good, but I've also experienced a number of underwhelming brunch dishes at ECG (usually specials!!)

                  1. re: MB fka MB
                    itaunas RE: MB fka MB Jun 14, 2007 02:36 PM

                    FWIW, I think the B-Side grits outshine East Coast, but they are spicy for a lot of people. (I like spicy and almost wish they were a bit more traditional -- butter and black pepper for me not chipotle, but they are addictive anyway.) Their cream gravy is also excellent (better than their red-eye), but the biscuits they serve are unfortunately sweet.

                  2. re: beetlebug
                    s
                    simonr RE: beetlebug Jun 15, 2007 12:16 PM

                    While we're in Inman Square, the Ole Mexican Grill around the corner also has a very yummy brunch - good quesadillas and chile rellenos.

                  3. re: MB fka MB
                    limster RE: MB fka MB Jun 14, 2007 07:52 PM

                    I think the brunch at Neighbourhood is pretty good for what it is, and the portions are generous. Loved the blood sausage/morcela the last time I ate there.

                  4. re: Bob Dobalina
                    Gio RE: Bob Dobalina Jun 14, 2007 05:50 PM

                    What on earth would make a humble dish like cream of wheat so noteworthy? {I would never go out to have cream of wheat}

                    1. re: Gio
                      b
                      beksis1 RE: Gio Jun 15, 2007 12:03 PM

                      Oh Gio, the cream of wheat at the Neighborhood is truly remarkable, I made a die hard no-hot cereal eating friend try it, and he was hooked-I often go just for it and it alone(but their special options are usually quite good as well)

                      1. re: Gio
                        Bob Dobalina RE: Gio Jun 18, 2007 06:04 AM

                        Gio - the cream of wheat is heaven in a bowl - a good amount of cinnamon, slightly buttery - it's almost like a bowl of cinnamon buns.

                        But note that with every order at the Neighborhood, you get a choice of fresh fruit of the day or a bowl of the cream of wheat, so not going JUST for the CoW.

                        1. re: Bob Dobalina
                          Gio RE: Bob Dobalina Jun 20, 2007 09:04 AM

                          Wow - with glowing reports from the two of you, I'll just have to go and see what it's all about.
                          Thank you for the recs!

                      2. re: Bob Dobalina
                        g
                        gltsoi RE: Bob Dobalina Jun 18, 2007 09:23 PM

                        My husband *loves* the cream of wheat. He calls it liquid crack because it's so addictive.

                      3. MC Slim JB RE: mbasnack Jun 14, 2007 08:24 AM

                        You're mostly right, and it's mostly a misery for the staff, too, which has to deal with cranky, demanding customers for far smaller checks. Everyone is so damned particular about their eggs and coffee.

                        I like places that serve brunch later, where it seems more like lunch to me, and I tend to order more lunch-like dishes. Sel de la Terre does beautiful soups, crepes, and other items I might struggle to reproduce at home.

                        The food isn't extraordinary, just solid, but I like the calm atmosphere at the B-Side Lounge, which does its brunch till 4pm. A good cheeseburger, steak and eggs, huevos rancheros, coffee, and eye-openers. A worthy day-after-a-very-late-night kind of destination.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                          wittlejosh RE: MC Slim JB Jun 14, 2007 08:27 AM

                          I am a longtime brunch-naysayer.

                          However, for Eastern Standard I'll make an exception. Steak-and-Eggs Frites is a beautiful, beautiful invention. And where else would you go to get the perfectly mixed late-morning cocktail?

                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                            yumyum RE: MC Slim JB Jun 14, 2007 09:22 AM

                            I'll agree with you about the B-side being perfect for a hungover morning ... the breakfast sandwich with sausage is great and the bloody mary makes the whole world tolerable again. However for the OP, you will be sitting in a dark room next to hipsters.

                            Speaking of bloody marys, I very much like brunch at the East Coast Grill with their diy bloody bar.

                          2. Dr.Jimbob RE: mbasnack Jun 14, 2007 03:47 PM

                            I would agree that the Blue Room serves up an outstanding brunch. However while value laden and loaded with somewhat more unusual offerings well done, I wouldn't call it cheap by any stretch of the imagination.

                            I'm definitely with you in that there are a batch of things that I've stopped ordering when I do have brunch because I am convinced that I can usually make it better myself, at home. These things include blueberry flapjacks and omelettes. However, for the salmon benedict and the sweet potato flapjacks at Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, I'm willing to put up with hipsters and yuppy parents with babes in tow.

                            1. c
                              chowfamily RE: mbasnack Jun 14, 2007 04:09 PM

                              I agree about brunch in general - we can do it decently ourselves, and it doesn't involve dressing and driving.

                              On the other hand, some of our fondest memories are brunch in the old Ritz dining room, especially near the end, when the food had caught up with the room and view. A sad loss.

                              1. limster RE: mbasnack Jun 14, 2007 08:03 PM

                                I usually brunch at New Shanghai, for Shanghainese and the occasional Northern Chinese street snacks. Very laid back and totally worth the money.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: limster
                                  h
                                  hsquare2southend RE: limster Jun 15, 2007 04:36 AM

                                  Another fan of the duck rellenos at ECG. I also had a great brunch at Harvest- they do a 3-course prix fixe menu with both sweet and savory options that I thought was a great value. I also like the duck sandwich at Aquitaine.

                                2. m
                                  misssinclair RE: mbasnack Jun 15, 2007 04:54 PM

                                  I was suppossed to go to upstairs on the square for brunch but they were closed because of a kitchen fire. I ended up across the street at OM; I loved it !!! I went there expecting the brunch to be super expensive, with small portions and also expected it to be really pretentious, but I was totally blown away by the amount of food for the price, the relaxed but attentive service and how nice our experience was. Our brunch started with a complimentary bowl of mini pastries from Iggy's bakery. I had the Avignon scramble, which was scrambled eggs mixed with wild mushrooms, boursin cheese, herbs and topped with hollandaise. It also came with chicken apple sausage and sourdough toast....so good; I know I gained 5lbs, but it was worth it. My dc had the vanilla cusatrd french toast with mixed berries, homemade berry sauce and whipped cream. We both had cappucinos (sp) ? and we started with the bloodymary, which was delicious and had a serious wasabi kick to it. By the time I walked out I was full, a little tipsy and in a relaxed sunday brunch food coma. I got more info about a vegan tasting that they do; sounds interesting.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: misssinclair
                                    Kat RE: misssinclair Jun 18, 2007 08:16 PM

                                    Had Sunday brunch at Toro a little while back and was very pleased. I hadn't even been aware that they were open for brunch but just happened to pass by. Not cheap, but it was really good and the dishes were not the usual "eggs benedict/pancakes, etc." Had a very tasty fresh banana drink. No kids (when I was there, anyway), but can't say the same about hipsters.

                                    1. re: Kat
                                      MC Slim JB RE: Kat Jun 20, 2007 09:10 AM

                                      I'm glad to hear this: the early reports on Toro's brunch were awful.

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