Brunch, the dining ritual that offers the best excuse to day-drink, is blowing up. Not in the way brunch reigns at Mother’s Day or Easter. That’s lowercase brunch, demure, post-church meals. There’s never dancing on tables at brunch. But sometimes there is dancing on tables at Brunch.
This Brunch is epic. Thanks to the magic that happens when millennials meet bottomless mimosas, Brunch is the new happy hour, the new “Sunday Funday” main meal as the bloody mary brigade ranks grow across the county.
Take a stroll any Sunday (or Saturday) midday along any of the dining hubs – Clematis in West Palm Beach, Atlantic Avenue and Pineapple Grove in Delray Beach, PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens, Mizner Park area in Boca – and you’ll witness the phenomenon: young Brunchers toasting at tables, quaffing DIY bloodies between eggs-benny bites.
At Brunch, there’s likely to be a DJ involved, or maybe a live band. Or, in the case of The Wine Dive in downtown West Palm Beach, bouncers.
The Brunchers are joined by young families, intergenerational parties, girlfriends catching up, and daylight dates, all soaking up the tropical vibes of a Palm Beach County weekend.
Brunch is as generous as it is grand: The food is decadent. Portions tend to be ample. (Sometimes, there’s a buffet.) There’s bottomless booze. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. And you don’t have to dress up.
Does dinner treat us like that? It doesn’t.
Shana Overhulser knows this. She’s more than a brunch aficionado – she’s a brunch pro.
“I’m a big foodie and one of my favorite meals happens to be brunch. One of my favorite foods to eat is eggs Benedict,” says Overhulser, a former Delray Beach area resident who blogs at BocaLocals.com.
She considers brunch a celebration, so much so that last year she started a group called Girls Gone Brunching. The group regularly sends out open invitations to brunches across South Florida on its Facebook community page. In early April, a group of about 10 women brunched at Apeiro Kitchen and Bar in suburban Delray Beach, later posting oozy poached-egg photos on social media.
“Brunch does impart some feeling of ‘we’re ending the weekend on a good note,’” says Overhulser. “It’s celebratory.”
It’s that festive mood that attracts young brunchers, says Chef Julien Gremaud, whose eatery, Avocado Grill, hosts one of the liveliest Sunday brunches in downtown West Palm Beach.
“Brunch is a great way for people to relax. I think the elements of great food and great entertainment are what makes the younger crowd enjoy it so much,” says Gremaud, whose Sunday brunch is often punctuated by a bar-top performance by musician “Mister Trombone” Wayne Perry. (Bar-top dancing is as much of a brunch specialty as Gremaud’s poached egg-topped avocado and crab toast, or his bottomless Zestos Rosado rosé wine.)
At Tryst gastro pub in downtown Delray Beach, some of the brunch specialties skew as young as their brunchers and the hipster saxophonist who plays to DJ-spun music on Sundays. Entering its seventh year on bustling Atlantic Avenue, the popular pub serves crispy French toast that’s encrusted with Rice Krispies and served with cinnamon-orange custard and bananas.
“Being innovative and putting your twist on traditional favorites is what makes brunch so fun,” said general manager, Bryan Ralph, through Tryst’s publicist. “Our younger guests enjoy the atmosphere, entertainment, and of course endless bloody marys and mimosas.”
Yep, endless cocktails are a huge attraction. Just ask the pro at Girls Gone Brunching.
“We always look for places that have bottomless mimosas and bloody marys, or cocktail specials. Lately, we’re seeing a lot of bottomless Bellinis,” says Overhulser.
But she’s quick to point out that a party-hearty vibe is not mandatory. In fact, it’s sometimes a distraction, says Overhulser.
“I don’t want brunch to have so much of a party atmosphere, but one where we’re connecting and meeting new people,” she says. “For us, it’s all about the food. If it’s a rowdy place, but it has great food, we’ll go there, too.”
Local restaurateur Piper Quinn says rowdy is exactly what his restaurant did not want to do at Sunday brunch.
“There’s a lot of places that promote the party atmosphere. We wanted to be a multi-generational place that could be a little more mellow. It’s more of a food-driven experience instead of a scene,” says Quinn, co-owner of Grato in West Palm Beach (and its sister eatery Buccan, Palm Beach).
A great lure for the food-driven local crowd is Grato’s nationally acclaimed executive chef, Clay Conley. Not only is he a local superstar, he’s a brunch fanatic. And, like chef Gremaud, he’s living proof that brunch is a big enough phenomenon to lure even star chefs to the kitchen on a weekend morning.
“Clay has always enjoyed making brunch food. It really makes him happy to make that kind of food, and to see parents out with their children, enjoying Sunday brunch,” says Quinn. “He really loves the creative side of brunch. When that kind of passion is there, brunch becomes an experience.”
But one doesn’t always need table-top dancing to tap into brunch’s underlying festive notes, he says.
“Brunch can be whimsical, can be different, can be playful,” says Quinn. “It’s a cultural thing in South Florida.”