Brunch to the Future: 9 classic dishes made modern

Great Scott! Twin Cities chefs are time-warping these nine brunch-menu classics from 1985 to 2015.

MICHAEL RIETMULDER | PHOTOS BY COURTNEY PERRY | ILLUSTRATION BY BRENT SCHOONOVER
Updated 1/29/2015

Had Marty and Doc not been preoccupied with chasing consanguineal buttheads Biff and Griff in 2015, they would have also discovered that by this year, brunch had gotten super good.

Yupsters’ favorite weekend meal has officially arrived. Every Saturday and Sunday, an army of hungover singles and dog-walking couples hit the streets in search of eggs and bacon worth tweeting about. Twin Cities chefs and bartenders have fueled the H&M-clad militia, upping their late-morning offerings and putting their own spin on classic dishes and drinks Marty McFly might have enjoyed in 1985 — or 1955, for that matter.

“You have to step up to the plate and offer them better food,” said J.D. Fratzke, chef de awesomeness at the Strip Club in St. Paul. “You can’t just get your C-squad or B-squad team walking in hungover on Sunday morning and hoping that their eggs are halfway near what the guests order.”

Fortunately, you won’t need a flying De­Lorean to enjoy these nine futuristic, er, contemporary brunch item revamps.

 

Pork belly benedict

Where: The Third Bird, 1612 Harmon Place, Mpls.

Info: 612-767-9495 or www.the­thirdbirdmpls.com.

“When you start getting into brunch, it’s not a good time for a gastronomy lesson,” posits Third Bird’s Lucas Almendinger. Maybe not. But the culinary rising star takes his brunch flock to church with a praiseworthy eggs Benedict ($12) inspired by our northern neighbors and his own dad’s pancake, egg and bacon stacks. Instead of a lifeless ham slice and a hard-to-cut toasted English muffin, Almendinger uses healthy-sized pork belly slabs — a chubby king’s bacon — and a soft corn ploye, which is a thin Canadian pancake typically made with buckwheat. Keeping it hockey country, the chef uses maple syrup to sweeten the lightly smoky hollandaise that lays beneath this divine breakfast heap. No knife is needed with this simple yet enlightened eggs benny update.

 

Silver Dollar Cachapas

Where: Hola Arepa, 3501 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.

Info: 612-45-5583 or www.holaarepa.com.

Christina Nguyen cares about your comfort zone. “But I also want to not make boring food,” said Hola Arepa’s back-of-house baroness, who’s bringing South American flavors to south Minneapolis. Hola’s colorful interpretation of silver dollar pancakes ($4.75) won’t put you to sleep, or even in a food coma for that matter. The hearty and lightly sweet cachapas are essentially Venezuelan corn pancakes, served as a side dish (for an entree version, try the fried chicken and cachapas for $13-$15). The trio of mealy mini cakes are loaded with Parmesan-esque cojita cheese, grilled sweet corn, bacon shreds and sliced jalapeños, and they come with an addictive smoky chipotle maple syrup that we’d shoot if they let us. Well, only if they’re out of horchata eggnog.

 

Biscuits and gravy

Where: Heyday, 2700 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls.

Info: 612-200-9369 or www.heydayeats.com.

Biscuits and gravy — a farm-boy breakfast and diner staple that fancy-pants city chefs need not turn upside down. “It’s one of those things. It’s comfort,” said Brian Werner, gravy guru at Heyday. “We want it to be recognizable.” Still, the acclaimed Uptown restaurant applies its masterful touch. Werner’s modestly spicy sausage gravy is inspired by his grandmother’s recipe, but adds an herb and spice medley including cayenne and toasted coriander. The sous chef slathers his robust gravy over pastry queen Jo Garrison’s texturally perfect biscuits, made with hay-smoked butter, and cilantro oil is drizzled over the top. Neither groundbreaking nor too basic, Heyday’s subtly distinctive take could satisfy farmhands and “foodies” alike. ($11.)

 

Red Snapper

Where: The Bachelor Farmer, 50 2nd Av. N., Mpls.

Info: 612-206-3920 or www.thebachelorfarmer.com

The Bloody Mary enjoys cultlike status among avid brunchers and the weirdos who order them at night (to each their own). In the ’tweener-meal utopia that is 2015, brunch spots with full bars have to have one. “We don’t always play to expectations, but in this case it made a lot of sense because it’s such a brunch tradition,” said beverage director Pip Hanson. Still, Hanson’s invigorating version is anything but traditional, starting with fresh tomato and cucumber juice, which gives it a spring garden nose. A little red wine is added for body, and vinegar lends this lean and clean rejuvenator a brisk, acidic finish. Hanson swaps in a mild, floral Japanese shochu for vodka or gin, requiring less seasoning to balance, he said. Pinches of salt and pepper and other “top secret” ingredients round out this depurating sipper that needs no ridiculous accouterments. ($11.)

 

Gravlax and a sunny-side up egg

Where: The Rookery, 4124 W. Broaday, Robbinsdale.

Info: www.tempotickets.com/travail.

For clean-plate clubbers, brunch can spell a pre-noon knockout. Since the Rookery’s kitchen wizards hit guests with a barrage of micro-plates during their ticketed brunch service ($40), they don’t want to TKO them with rounds of heavy, creamy dishes. “Whenever you eat brunch, you don’t want to just get shit-packed,” said chef and co-owner Bob Gerken. “You want to still feel refreshed.” That’s part of the Rookery/Travail team’s brunch-time philosophy, embodied by their spin on gravlax and sunny-side up eggs. A fried egg with a bright tomato-jalapeño relish sits atop a sheet of salmon carpaccio, cured with citrus zest and slightly warmed by the egg. A showy cilantro froth blankets the whole fresh, savory petite plate. We wish we could super-size it and scarf it on a Mediterranean yacht.

 

Stuffed French toast

Where: The Strip Club Meat & Fish, 378 Maria Av., St. Paul.

Info: 651-793-6247 or www.domeats.com.

A year ago, J.D. Fratzke and his kitchen mates at the Strip Club sought to shake up their menu, and brunch-loving sous chef Chris Uhrich remixed their sourdough French toast. “He wanted to make it a little more elegant,” Fratzke recalled. Check. The current iteration of the seasonally changing stuffed French toast is like a decadent chocolate and chèvre brioche sandwich, with roasted pears and a rich whiskey caramel sauce leveraging blended Scotch. A formidable dollop of faintly lemony crème fraîche gradually melts over the brioche surface, which is fried to a light crisp, for a sensuous morning meal. The East Side fixture might take a blue-collar approach to high-end food, but its French toast is a $10 luxury dish.

 

Pig in a blanket

Where: HauteDish, 119 Washington Av. N., Mpls.

Info: 612-338-8484 or www.haute-dish.com.

If it’s an a.m. haymaker you’re after, the North Loop’s HauteDish is a brunch-punching Mike Tyson, where de- and reconstructing classics is the norm. “That’s the idea behind a lot of the things we do here,” said co-owner David Walters. Rather than roll up a dinky sausage link in a flimsy pancake for their pig in a blanket, chef Landon Schoenefeld and crew smoke pork shoulder for 12 hours and fold it into a spongy grilled johnnycake (a dense potato pancake) with pepper jack cheese and softly scrambled eggs, seasoned with bourbon-barrel maple syrup. We can’t get enough of the roasted poblano gravy that’s spread across this mountainous feast, which heat-seekers might dash with Cry Baby Craig’s garlicky hot sauce (ask your server). Portion control is on you, though. ($15.)

 

Clam omelet

Where: The Kenwood, 2115 W. 21st St., Mpls.

Info: 612-377-3695 or www.thekenwood restaurant.com.

The omelet is an inescapable brunch item. While a Denver or Western will do, the Kenwood’s Don Saunders draws on Portuguese and Spanish influences in this signature version ($13) combining shellfish and cured pork. Last fall the chef fell in love with the guanciale (cured pork jowl) from Red Table Meat Co. “One of the beauties of using guanciale is not just the meat itself, but probably the best part is the rendered fat,” Saunders said. The eggs benefit from a guanciale fat butter, making them richer and fluffier, he said. Thinly sliced fingerling potatoes and tarragon are cooked with a succulent, creamy white wine and clam sauce reduction that oozes through an omelet packed with meaty, briny clams and chewy guanciale bits. No cheese necessary in this exquisite, rich dish.

 

The Dirty Leotard

Where: Eat Street Social, 18 W. 26th St., Mpls.

Info: 612-767-6850 or www.eatstreetsocial.com.

No one should have to choose between starting their day with coffee or booze. A real breakfast of champions combines both in the same glass. Something of a cross between an Irish coffee and milk punch, the Dirty Leotard is like a caffeinated chocolate milk that’ll get you drunk. Wake up with this creamy eye-opener that packs a buzz from Dogwood cold brew and a spirited trio — herbal amaro, a vanilla-y Irish whiskey and a luscious house cocoa nib liqueur that screams “eff you!” to the Nesquik bunny. This chocolaty cocktail’s for sophisticated big kids. ($8.)

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