And the awards go to…..
It’s my most favorite thing to write all year — it is time for the 2019 Brunchies, my annual BRUNCH AWARDS! It has been another stellar year of decadent mid-morning meals, Benedicts, toasts, Bloody Marys and much more. In 2020, I vow to continue to bring you the best Brunch-related content over at @HollywoodBrunch and look forward to the relaunch of my long-lost newsletter for the subject. (I know, I’ve said this before but you gotta keep trying, right?)
BEST BENEDICT: Rossoblu, City Market South, 1124 San Julian St, Los Angeles, 90015
I first tried Rossoblu because I’d heard incredible things about their pasta and that did not disappoint, so I was excited to return for Brunch, which did not disappoint either. They put such a wonderful Italian spin on traditional brunch dishes. The “Crostone Benedetto” was obviously a standout. Of course, I think any dish is improved with fresh prosciutto. And while it appears to be a very simple side salad, they dress it in such a wonderful, homemade vinagarette, I could just pack that lettuce in all day.
BEST BAGEL: Black Market Liquor Bar, 11915 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, 91604
I previously felt that ordering a bagel with lox for brunch was silly. Why spend so much money on something I could very easily assemble in my own kitchen? But on one visit to BMLB, believe it or not, I just didn’t feel all the brunch vibes and wanted something simple and easy. So I gave into their Gravlax platter — and now that is the only thing I will ever order there. How does Gravlax differ from lox? The salmon is sliced super thin and cured in salt, sugar and dill. I like to pile that on my cream cheesed everything bagel with some capers. Maybe squeeze a little lemon. It is perfect. With lesson learned, I’ve gone onto ordering lox plates at other restaurants — nothing comes close to this. So I stand by that ordering any kind of bagel plate at a restaurant is silly. Except here.
BEST TOAST: Bondi Harvest, The Platform, 8820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 90232
It’s important to point out that I’ve only been to Bondi’s Culver location because I’m told it differs a bit from their Venice spot. And when you go, allow some time to stroll through all the cute boutiques at The Platform. They have a lovely patio besides. I was totally blown away by their Sweet Halloumi Toast which is grilled sweet halloumi, avocado, pistachio dukkah and honey on a thick slice of sourdough. Halloumi, for those who don’t know (I had to google it at the time), it is a semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk. It has a high melting point and so can easily be fried or grilled. I’d liken it to a string cheese texture. It’s a little salty and with the honey over it, amazing. If you’re burnt out on avocado toast, this is going to be your thing. If you’re NOT burnt out on avocado toast, this is till going to be your thing.
HONORABLE MENTION: All Time, 2040 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, 90027
All Time is quirky (for example, if you’re gonna have a salad, you have to order the “good ass salad” and it is aptly named) and I must clarify that this particular dish is not even on the Brunch menu; it is actually a dinnertime appetizer and only served seasonally, but it is so, so GOOD I could not overlook it here.
BEST POTATO + BEST COCKTAIL PROGRAM: Akasha, 9543 Culver Blvd, Culver City, 90232
Akasha makes me sad I do not live closer to Culver City because it’s a place where I’d like to be a brunch regular. When I went with a friend, we shared several yummy dishes but really, the homemade latkes and cocktails were all we needed. They serve the latkes the ol’ fashioned way but you oughta get them with sour cream, chives and smoked salmon, too. And if you do find yourself with more room in your tummy and a total lack of self control, get a side of onion rings, too. These are so good they’ve twice been featured on the Food Network’s show “Best Thing I Ever Ate” (one of my favorite shows)!
Oh hey, take an Uber while you’re at it. Because if you find yourself with all of these on the table, you’ll want to finish them…. That’s a boozy, ginger lemonade, a classic bloody mary, and a coffee drink that made this non-coffee drinker obsessed with coffee for 20 minutes.
It’s not easy to get into Mizlala because the press got hip to it and now it’s trendy, but try, I beg you. And order the latkes (photo on the right), which are super unique with potato and sauerkraut, apple chutney, horseradish and pecorino cheese. Ingo’s is fantastic all-around and is one of only a dozen or so LA brunch spots to offer live jazz. They’ve managed to take the diner experience to the next level with dishes like their hash brown skillet (HELLO SOUR CREAM!!!) while still maintaining a “local hangout” vibe I really loved.
BEST SANDWICH: Five Leaves, 4845 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles, 90029
If Five Leaves could get their shit together and provide better service, I’d eat there a lot more often and give them a lot more “Brunchies” but after two visits with horrendous service, I am not sure I’ll ever return. However, to be fair, pushing that aside, I cannot overlook how amazing their “five leaves burger” with grass fed beef, grilled pineapple, house-pickled beets, harissa mayo and a sunny up egg on sesame brioche. I dream about that burger.
HONORABLE MENTION: Crack Shack (multiple locations)
Is it a brunch spot, per se? No. But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it on the occasional Saturday or Sunday. What’s not to love about honey butter-dipped fried chicken on a giant, fresh biscuit with a fried egg and their special red eye aioli?
BEST BLOODY MARY + BEST FRENCH TOAST: Hamptons 818, 14917 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, 91403
Consider this my formal apology to the droves of friends who told me I would love Hamptons 818 because I could not imagine loving a restaurant that went into a tiny building, formerly a wine shop and hot dog stand. Now it is easily one of my most favorite places for brunch. The space is bigger than it looks from the outside; the patio is bustling and crowded – especially if football is on. They also, oddly enough, have a whole hookah thing there, if you’re into that (I am not). The menu is huge so take your time going through it but my solid recommendation, whatever you order, is to get a French Toast plate for the table to share. Their Corn Flake batter makes it and then to top it off, they drizzle lemon ricotta cream over it with syrup and butter. My god, it is decadent. The Bloody Mary also wins at all the things — whatever they use in their homemade mix is gold and they seal the deal by adding bacon and shrimp to it.
HONORABLE MENTION (Bloody Mary): Ingo’s Tasty Diner
Delightfully, their Blood Marys are served in vintage Wonder Woman glasses. Ingo’s also pickles their own veggies – purchased at the local farmers market. As such, no two Marys are the same. It is $2 to add bacon and you absolutely should.
HONORABLE MENTION (French Toast): On the Thirty, 14622 Ventura Blvd #112, Sherman Oaks, 91403
How has Sherman Oaks become a hotbed of Brunch glory? On The Thirty also coats their French toast in a cereal-better. Here it is Captain Crunch. It makes it pretty sweet but also the perfect thing to share with the rest of the table.
BEST NEWCOMER: Eleven City Diner, 5400 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, 90036
Eleven City is one of those places where everything on the menu is good. And then some. In fact, my favorite dish there isn’t even really a brunch item and it isn’t even really on the menu but you can ask for it — it’s the open-faced pastrami/corned-beef combo sandwich. They will be around a long time, I think, as they have taken such great care with the menu and aesthetic.
HONORABLE MENTION: Alice, 8490 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, 90069
Amazingly, Alice is a hotel restaurant. It is based at the 1 Hotel but doesn’t for a second feel like a hotel restaurant. They have set it up with a charming pastry shop up front and a classic art deco vibe in the main restaurant. The food is all wonderful and I’m rather partial to enjoying a grilled cheese and iced tea there. They also have a lovely patio but I’ll be getting to that….
BEST FOR GROUPS: Preux & Proper, 840 South Spring St, Los Angeles, 90014
Where do I begin? I could have given P&P ALL the Brunchies but that felt a little extreme. But I fell so in love with this restaurant this year. Not just because the food is great and the cocktails are amazing and the setting is lovely. I fell in love with it because I swear to you, you’ve just never encountered a more wonderful team of people. They have created a little slice of New Orleans and heaven here so I recommend gathering up a big group of friends and heading there for some shrimp and grits, pate a choux beignets, pork neck gravy poutine, shakshuka… Noticing there aren’t a lot of egg dishes on the menu? That is intentional and it’s a cool way to distinguish themselves from all the hundreds and hundreds of other brunch spots.
HONORABLE MENTION: Hamptons 818
Hamptons has a boisterous patio so don’t plan to enjoy a peaceful, leisurely brunch here but, as mentioned, it’s just an all-around treat and would be a ton of fun for groups!
BEST AESTHETIC: Santuari, 6711 Forest Lawn Dr, Los Angeles (Toluca Lake) 90068
How has this restaurant, mere minutes from where I live, gotten by me for so long? Perhaps because it’s on a sort of off-street, by Warner Brothers and Forest Lawn Cemetery, adjacent to the Toluca Lake Tennis and Fitness Club. But it is gorgeous inside and the food is equally gorgeous – plus it’s delicious. It’s become the place I take people to when I want to impress and have no need to drive into the city. It’s earned me a lot of compliments for doing so and I was a little hesitant to reveal it to y’all but you’re welcome.
HONORABLE MENTION: Le Petit Paris, 418 S Spring St, Los Angeles, 90013
In the same way Preux & Proper has brought a little piece of Louisiana to Downtown LA, so has Le Petit Paris brought us all a little Parisian flare. It’s a stunning, sprawling space. You may see it among the 2020 honorees as well if I can get myself down there for the Sunday brunch buffet sometime, as well.
BEST PATIO: Alice
Yes, here we are with Alice again, because despite being right on Sunset Blvd., they have achieved a blissful oasis with their patio. They impressed me with comfortable chairs and couches, greenery, shady spots (I’m a delicate vampire, guys) and a not-annoying water feature. It never ceases to amaze me how we live in a city known for great weather and how hard it is to find a great dining patio, so rejoice in this one.
HONORABLE MENTION: The Front Yard, 4222 Vineland Ave, Studio City, 91602
The Front Yard has also managed to be a hotel restaurant that doesn’t feel like a hotel restaurant, over at The Garland. It’s a lovely mix of chairs, booths, lounge space, fireplaces and so forth.
BEST BUFFET: The Smoke House, 4420 Lakeside Dr, Burbank, CA 91505
Come for the cheesy garlic bread. Stay for the cheesy garlic bread. The Smoke House was built at the end of WWII, in 1946 (73 years ago!), and is one of very few restaurants of that era to survive to today. It also still has the decor of that age — aged red leather booths, tables and chairs — but so be it. It’s part of the charm. The brunch buffet has everything from Oysters to Churros (which is not to say I recommend eating those two items together at all). It’s also priced on the lower side of LA’s brunch buffet spectrum – $37 for adults, $18 for kids (ages five and under are free). If you feeling especially motivated, they’ll even give you $7 off between 9 and 10 AM.
HONORABLE MENTION: Circa 55, 9876 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, 90210
Circa has you covered if you crave something a little more upscale. Keep an eye on sites like TravelZoo and Groupon for can’t-miss deals on their brunch buffet. I do have to call out, though, because it’s been mentioned with others, that this is a hotel restaurant that does feel like a hotel restaurant. But sitting outside by the pool in gorgeous weather, that’s not so bad.
BEST ALT BRUNCH: Ma’am Sir, 4330 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, 90029
I don’t know if I ever imagined I’d enjoy a Filipino brunch but this was astonishingly good. I think we went through three orders of “pan de sal” (photo on the right) and went to town on the various spreads it came with. There was shrimp lumpia, pork burgers, porridge and sizzling sisig (that would be a Filipino dish made from parts of pig head and chicken liver)… You could order something a little more usual like pancakes or a smoked salmon benedict, but why would you?
THOUGHTS? FEELINGS? CRAVINGS?
Let us know what you think about the 2019 Brunchies in the comments!
Brunches I Want to Try in 2020
- Lincoln (Pasadena)
- Jacks N’ Joe’s (DTLA)
- Terra at Eataly (Century City)
- Margot (Culver City)
- Atrium (Los Feliz)
- Los Balcones (Studio City)
Brunches Recommended to me by Others for 2020*:
- Huckleberry (Santa Monica)
- AOC (Mid-city)
- Here’s Looking at You (Koreatown)
- Ms. Chi Cafe (Culver City)
- The Local Peasant (Sherman Oaks)
* Via informal poll on Facebook in the Eater LA group.
These were the Brunches on my “to try” lists this year that I got to:
Thus concludes the 2019 Brunchies, everybody. We really need to get on some little trophies next year, don’t you think? Want to look at all the mouth-watering photos on their own? Click here for the album. In any case, thank you for joining me. Please make sure you’re following my brunch adventures on Instagram.
Ever your servant and ever Brunch’s biggest fan, here’s to many more delicious, decadent meals in 2020!