The Brunch Bunch
Heavenly hash, Bloody Mary bars, and eggs six ways to Sunday
Going out for brunch is an established weekend ritual, and there are few places better for the practice of said ritual than Austin, Texas. We've got choices that range from fine-dining elegance – like the 65-year-old Green Pastures (811 W. Live Oak, www.greenpasturesrestaurant.com) and the lush Mexican hacienda, Fonda San Miguel (2330 North Loop, www.fondasanmiguel.com) – to street-food casual, and everything in between. We've put together two lists of brunches we love – one for Downtown Austin and another for neighborhood spots that might be more accessible this weekend.
Virginia B. Wood
Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden79 Rainey, 512/386-1656
Sunday brunch, 11am-3pm
Whether hungover or straight-up ravenous, Banger's brunch offers guests an exemplary selection of hearty menu items sure to cure the most fastidious of ills. The Manmosa – an entire liter of Champagne with a splash of orange or cranberry juice – and the build-your-own Michelada bar provide a perfect start to a stick-to-your-ribs meal. Enjoy the Irishman's Hangover Cure ($12) – white & black pudding, banger, potato hash, baked beans, two fried eggs, and a grilled tomato – or perhaps the Kitchen Sink ($17), with a mound of beef tongue hash, two fried eggs, two pieces of bacon "steak," sausage, a side of creamy grits, country ham, red-eye gravy, and toast.
The Bonneville202 W. Cesar Chavez, 512/428-4643
Sunday brunch, 10:30am-2:30pm
Brunch is the meal where the Bonneville truly shows its sterling quality. The menu features a range of innovative dishes created by chefs Jennifer Costello and Chris Hurley. Unforgettable entrées include bananas Foster French toast, chipotle-lime chicken hash, a smoked salmon plate with cream cheese and pumpernickel, and house-made popovers topped with spinach, ham, and poached egg, topped with Hollandaise. Side dishes include bacon tater tots, pecan sticky buns, and fresh coffee cake. Entrée prices range from $8-14, making brunch in this chic lakeside setting an incredible value.
Searsucker415 Colorado, 512/394-8000
Sunday brunch, 10am-3pm
Top Chef alum Brian Malarkey's high concept American bistro does it up right at brunch, which features a tantalizing selection of foodstuffs calculated to cure even the most persistent hangover. Excess is the word here where morning classics like eggs Benedict and potato hash are enhanced with praiseworthy piggy accoutrements. Searsucker's crisp, peppery bacon is practically a Sunday sacrament, while the shrimp with bacon grits ($14) have all the Southern charm of an authentic velvet Elvis. The cheddar biscuits with duck fat and sausage gravy won't let you down when you need to refuel.
Jo's Coffee Downtown242 W. Second, 512/469-9003
Breakfast, Mon.-Fri., 7-11am; Sat.-Sun., 8am-noon
From healthy to heavy duty, every diner can find a favorite at the younger sister of the famed SoCo original. Counter service and pushed-back weekend hours are friendly to both early birds and hungover souls, though seating inside or on the patio can be limited during peak hours. Highlights are the expert hot/cold coffee bar, huge made-to-order pancakes ($2.50-7.50), an egg white omelette ($8.75), and breakfast tacos like the black bean, potato, and cheese ($3.50).
Russian House307 E. Fifth, 512/428-5442
Sunday brunch, 11am-4pm
For $25, you can immerse yourself in Russian cuisine – the only place in town you can find it – inside a space outfitted to evoke a Russian grandma's house. Every week, chef Vladimir Gribkov reaches beyond the borders of the restaurant's already-encyclopedic menu to represent areas of Russian cuisine that might be unfamiliar to diners. Patrons can kickstart their day with a shot of infused vodka (with a pickled veggie chaser), then dive into an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of dumplings, soups, salads, and blinis. Don't miss the beet salad or pelmeni, if available.
Threadgill's301 W. Riverside, 512/472-9304
6416 N. Lamar, 512/451-5440
Sunday brunch, 10am-1pm
Threadgill's has two locations – one a little north, where Janis Joplin got her start, the other Downtown, where the Armadillo World Headquarters used to be – and both do a brunch buffet with live music (the North Lamar location has bluegrass, while the West Riverside one does gospel). The buffet is loaded with Southern goodness, with items like migas, sweet-potato pancakes, and garlic cheese grits. There's also a custom omelet station for the egg freaks, bulging with options. The bands change weekly, and with Eddie Wilson's music connections, you know they'll be great. Come early, stake out a stage table, get a drink, and wait for the breakfast bounty.
Swift's Attic315 Congress, 512/482-8842
Sunday brunch, 10:30am-2:30pm
If you're looking for outside-the-box brunch, here you can have chicken-fried Lockhart quail tenders with cheese biscuits and red eye gravy ($14), or black rice bibimbap topped with house-made kimchi ($11). We love the "Pragel & Trox" ($15) – freshly smoked trout, pickled onion, frisée, dill crème fraiche, and a poached egg inside a handmade pretzel bagel. For your sweet tooth, try the pecan cream cheese-stuffed French toast ($12) or decadent PB&J pancakes topped with blueberry compote and seared foie gras ($20). Wash it all down with $1 mimosas, or indulge in a complete Bloody Mary bar that includes crispy house-cured bacon and perfectly pickled veggies.
El Naranjo85 Rainey, 512/474-2776
Sunday brunch, 11am-3pm
El Naranjo is the quietly elegant brunch answer to Austin's ever-popular Mexican breakfast meme. Cocktails and brunch dishes are served at the bar, in the sleek and sun-dappled dining rooms, or on the enclosed patio. The menu offers a variety of classic egg preparations, braised beef and pork dishes, fish tacos, vegetable enchiladas, and excellent quesadillas of huitlacoche, roasted peppers, and mushrooms. Chef/owner Iliana de la Vega is justly feted for her exquisite salsas, and the fresh Mexican pastries by CIA-trained dessert chef Ana Torrealba are out of this world, especially when accompanied by chocolate or exceptionally delicious coffees.
Apothecary4800 Burnet Rd. #450, 512/371-1600
Sunday brunch, 10am-3pm
This off-the-beaten path watering hole, hidden in the central city's Rosedale neighborhood, is one of Austin's best-kept dining secrets, and Sunday brunch is well worth a midday migration. New chef Albert Gonzalez has recently redone the menu, studding it with an inventive collection of salacious bites that will make the morning after just as memorable as the night before. You'll recognize your favorite breakfast nibbles in deep-fried potato skins and French toast, but Apothecary gussies them up with thoughtful accessories. The Apothecary brunch is a perfectly decadent way to end a weekend of indulgences, or even as a reward for exercising hard-fought restraint.
Cherrywood Coffeehouse1400 E. 38th½, 512/538-1991
Weekend brunch, 10am-3pm
This casual joint is a beloved weekend haunt in its neighborhood. Folks stake out tables in the comfortable interior or on the sunny, kid and dog-friendly patio, refreshing themselves with a full complement of coffee drinks and fresh juices, not to mention draft beers. Highly regarded for their burgers, the Cherrywood kitchen turns out excellent, affordable brunch fare with both Southern and Tex-Mex influences. We're partial to the spicy shrimp and grits ($9.49) and the NOLA-inspired crawfish Benedict ($10.99), but the over-stuffed Sol Taco ($4.99) will start any day off right.
Lucy's Fried Chicken5408 Burnet Rd., 512/514-0664
Sunday brunch, 10am-3pm
The second location of this casual eatery from Olivia chef James Holmes, Lucy's maintains a diner feel with an upscale taste. During brunch, Lucy's offers hair-of-the-dog standards including $3 mimosas, salty dogs, and screwdrivers as well as $4.50 Bloody Marys. In addition to the Chicken N Waffles and the Lumberjack Hash, the brunch menu reimagines breakfast classics with dishes like the Burnet Benedict, which layers a jalapeño cornbread muffin with sausage, poached egg, and habanero Hollandaise, and the '42 Omelet, bursting with seasonal veggies, smoked Gouda, pumpernickel, and Sriracha yogurt.
Jack Allen's Kitchen7720 Hwy. 71 W., 512/852-8558
Sunday brunch, 10am-2pm
Jack Allen's has the well-deserved local reputation of producing handmade Southern and Southwestern food using fresh, local ingredients. The buffet ($16.99 per person) is a true groaning board, with four seasonal salads, chicken-fried meats with green chile gravy, "Mama's Sunday Chicken" (in mustard cream sauce with mushrooms), house-cured ham, green-chile-pork-and-egg casserole, layered enchiladas, pancakes, yard eggs to-order, local sausages, fruit, pastries, and much, much more. Drink specials include $3.50 hand-squeezed mimosas, Bloody Marys, and pomegranate sangria.
Cafe Malta3421 W. William Cannon, 512/853-9584
Weekend brunch, 11am-4pm
This neighborhood gem offers Mediterranean bistro fare in a tasteful, uplifting setting. Brunch goes long here, so it is a great place to go if you are getting a late start on the day. Full espresso bar and cocktail service are definite pluses, but the real draw is the food. Reliably well-executed dishes including croque madame, brisket ravioli, chicken tagine pot pie, steak and eggs, pain perdu, and French onion tart have earned Cafe Malta a following, and the prices are surprisingly low, ranging from $6-11.
Manuel's10201 Jollyville Rd., 512/345-1042
Sunday brunch, 10am-3pm
While it's billed as a "jazz brunch," the mood of Interior Mexico is perhaps more appropriately evoked with a traveling group of rootsy mariachis serenading your party as you enjoy tapas-style servings of filled potato tortas, quesadillas, and breakfast tacos. Hungry vegetarians will want to try the Flautas de Papa ($11), potato enchiladas that manage to be both light and filling; carnivores will love the Lomo de Res ($16), an upscale version of steak and eggs. Drink specials include $5 Mexican mimosas (orange juice, sparkling wine, and a splash of Bauchant orange liqueur) and serrano chile-spiked Bloody Marias. Those confined to the Downtown area will find another Manuel's within walking distance, on Congress Avenue.
Olivia2043 S. Lamar, 512/804-2700
Weekend brunch, 10am-2:30pm
Dishes here are elevated beyond eggs and pancakes to create something quite special – and playful, too. The MacDaddy ($16) is a delight with crisp pork belly and scrambled eggs on an English muffin with crispy fries. Other standouts include the Foieffle ($22), a delicate waffle with seared foie gras, and the Willie Nelson Chicken Fried Steak ($20), which is served with red-eye gravy, two fried eggs, smashed potatoes, and a green salad with buttermilk dressing. Even a simple stack of buttermilk pancakes ($9) is elevated with vanilla syrup, gorgeous berries, and fresh whipped cream. Be sure to add bacon.
El Mesón Taquería2038 S. Lamar, 512/442-4441
Breakfast served Mon.-Fri., 6:30-11am and Sat., 7am-noon; Sunday brunch, 10am-2pm
At this affordable brunch buffet in South Austin you will find something for everyone. Start with fresh fruit with granola and yogurt, eggs cooked to order, some chilaquiles verdes and refried beans, or try a cup or two of pozole with traditional trimmings. Then move to the fantastic ceviche, cochinita pibil, fresh paella, and spinach salad with pomegranate seeds, among many other authentic Interior Mexican dishes. Be adventurous and try the smoky Bloody Mary, made with mezcal and a spicy house-made mix, and save room for a visit to the dessert table, which includes a perfect flan, tres leches cake, classic natilla, and other delights.
Josephine House1601 Waterston, 512/477-5584
Saturday brunch, 11am-3pm; Sunday brunch, 11am-5pm
Following the house's charming makeover in 2013, waitstaff in crisp white waistcoats now serve lunches, drinks, and weekend brunches in the sweet little white dining room and sheltered outdoor nooks. Brunch includes impressive arrays of house-made pastries, cocktails, and menu items like gussied-up biscuits and gravy with a farm egg and sausage ($16), steak hash with sweet potato ($18), various vegetable and grain concoctions, and roasted chicken with panzanella ($15).