Once neglected, brunch makes a comeback

Someday, Mother’s Day will be known by its true identity: National Brunch Day.

It’s the Sunday when Los Angeles turns to its late-morning A team: the faithful Campanile, the lately expanded Ammo and the new weekend starlet that is Square One.

But for every Border Grill, there’s an eat.on sunset, Melisse or Lucques that keeps the doors locked. Or teases like Locanda Veneta, which has the brunch hours, but not the menu.

We asked why. And we got excuses.

AOC claims a too-small kitchen; Violet says its small-plate thing doesn’t work on Sunday morning.

“If we were where there’s foot traffic, it would be something we’d think about,” says Donato Poto, co-owner of Providence. “Even though we have a nice neighborhood, I don’t think there’s a big enough crowd to justify opening for brunch.”

True, the eastern portion of Melrose Avenue can be slow on weekends. But if foot traffic determined L.A. brunches, we’d all be picking up Egg McMuffins at the drive-thru.

Chef-owner Neal Fraser, who’s preparing to open BLD (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) down the street from his first restaurant, Grace, says he sees a wide-open market. “There’s not a lot of effort being put into breakfast,” he says. “For many of them, it’s a paint job and a good location.”

Hollywood’s the Hungry Cat does a brisk Sunday brunch, but chef-owner David Lentz says he can sympathize with those who abstain. “It’s wham, bam, as fast as you can,” he says. “Customers are secretly more disgruntled because they just woke up.”

Owners face another disgruntled crew in their own servers; many are not keen to work weekend mornings, especially when they often bring lower tips.

Veteran restaurant critic Merrill Shindler, now senior editor for Zagat Survey, describes the ’80s as a brunching heyday, when he spent every Sunday eating something-Benedict for his Los Angeles Herald-Examiner column. (“It nearly killed me,” he says.)

Today, brunch action is concentrated at hotels like Four Seasons, where feed-bag buffets are often the rule. “I’d rather go for a decent breakfast,” he says.

Some restaurants are looking to reverse that trend. Santa Monica’s Boa Steakhouse and Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City will treat their Mother’s Day brunches as trial runs for regular appearances; Chaya will serve weekend brunch as of May 20.

“It’s difficult to position yourself as a successful brunch venue,” says Gordon Bijelonic, owner of Memphis. “But once you are established, you can enjoy years of successful Sundays.”

That bright future can come at a price; Memphis doesn’t close its kitchen until 1 a.m. Sunday. Bijelonic claims to cycle staff to avoid double duty, but a recent Sunday morning visit saw carpets being unrolled and and chairs being set upright at the intended

11 a.m. opening time. A server begged, “Come back in 20 minutes!” (We did and, once seated, brunch was delicious.)

However, there are those who will never do brunch. Violet chef-owner Jared Simons admits his real reticence has nothing to do with the menu.

“Honestly,” he says, “I have a hard time getting up on a Sunday.”

Easy like Sunday morning

Square One Dining Café Del Rey
Campanile
Square One Dining
4854 Fountain Ave.
(323) 661-1109
Café Del Rey
4451 Admiralty Way
Marina Del Rey
(310) 823-6395
Campanile
624 S. La Brea Ave.
(323) 938-1447
Where to sit: Patio has a panoramic view of Scientology headquarters.
What to order: Stone-ground grits with bacon and cheddar; eggs Benedict with house-cured salmon and French toast with banana-citrus caramel
What to drink: Robust coffee from San Diego’s Cafe Moto; no booze
Special for mom: The menu’s the same, but they serve until 4 p.m.
Where to sit: The dining room faces the marina, so anywhere is a treat.
What to order: Scrambled eggs with chunks of buttery lobster on breakfast potatoes and salsa
What to drink: Orange You Glad: Mandarin vodka with Champagne, blood orange and orange juices
Special for mom: A three-course meal with watermelon salad, lobster eggs Benedict and double-chocolate croissant pudding.
Where to sit: Catch the morning light in the front room with its soaring medieval arches or the kitchen-adjacent atrium corridor
What to order: The steroid-fed pastry basket (almond croissants, ginger scones, pecan coffee cake); brisket hash with poached eggs
What to drink: Berthelot Champagne is the perfect light tipple.
Special for mom: M-Day brunch has been booked since early May; if you get in, go for the apple-cranberry cobbler with fresh cream for a finale.

Memphis Jar
Hungry Cat
Memphis
6541 Hollywood Blvd.
(323) 465-8600
Jar
8225 Beverly Blvd.
(323) 655-6566
Hungry Cat
535 Vine St.
(323) 462-2155
Where to sit: If there’s a DJ on the front porch, stay on the patio; he can make the walls of the 1903 home vibrate. (Who needs to be that hip first thing in the morning?)
What to order: Crab cakes Benedict were terrific; warm homemade biscuits at the table are a nice touch.
What to drink: Bloody Marys are made with cucumber-infused vodka.
Special for mom: “We’re not sure yet,” a receptionist said Tuesday. “But we think we will (do something special).”
Where to sit: An all-brown dining room is made for hangovers; or, ask for a table by the windows that face Beverly Boulevard.
What to order: Apple and celery salad with poached eggs; Jar chopped salad is great any time of day.
What to drink: Roederer Anderson Valley sparkling wine or Mionetto Brut Prosecco
Special for mom: Same menu, but save room for Jar’s chocolate pudding.
Where to sit: Don’t feel bad if you’re not ready to face the sun; the courtyard looks better at night, anyway.<
br>What to order: Freshly fried beignets dusted with powdered sugar, served in a brown paper bag with a side of blackberry compote
What to drink: One of their eight fresh-tomato Bloody Marys
Special for mom: Chef David Lentz is still recovering from the James Beard awards, but he’ll probably do a prix fixe menu.

Joe’s
1023 Abbot Kinney
Venice
(310) 399-5811
Where to sit: If it’s sunny, grab the patio in the back.
What to order: Rosti potatoes with scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, crème fraiche and caviar
What to drink: Tequila Sun Tan: Orendian tequila, mango, ginger and lime served up
Special for mom: A three-course prix fixe menu with Loma ham and frissee salad with piquillo peppers, grapefruit caviar and watermelon foam — and that’s a starter.

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