Our 99 Essential Restaurants issue dropped earlier this month, and in celebration, we're making a few lists to help you narrow down which essential restaurants you ought to hit up. We already pointed out 10 essential restaurants where you can eat for under $10, and 10 essential places that are great for vegetarian diners. Today, we're on the hunt for essential brunch spots. Here are 10 restaurants that made the 99 Essentials list and also happen to have great weekend game.
Think it's hard to get into Gjelina on a regular day? Try brunch, when the wait can be brutal. But there's reason for that madness: the beautiful patio, the crispy eggs with artichoke, asparagus and pea tendrils, the nine grain pancakes. Brunch served Sat. & Sun., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Read Gjelina's full 99 Essentials entry here.
Dim sum in the SGV: It’s not just brunch, it’s a lifestyle. At Lunasia, the modernized Alhambra banquet hall with an interminably long waiting list and a thick tome filled with dishes, the most iconic item is probably the jumbo shiu mai, a roe-crowned dumpling the size of a child’s fist, which requires two bites minimum, though it’s hard to imagine sipping your chrysanthemum tea without at least one order of everything else: slippery shrimp-stuffed har gow, flaky yellow egg tarts or the stellar pan-fried turnip cakes, which achieve a level of crispiness rivaled only by diner hashbrowns. Weekend hours: Sat.-Sun., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5-9 p.m. Read Lunasia's full 99 Essentials entry here.
8. The Tasting Kitchen
Another Abbot Kinney brunch mainstay, the Tasting Kitchen provides seriously good daytime drinks and eats for the breeziest Venice weekend. From roasted grapefruit to short rib hash to multiple egg preparations, there's something on this menu for the lightest appetite or to wipe out the most serious hangover. Brunch, Sat. & Sun., 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Read The Tasting Kitchen's full 99 Essentials entry here.
7. Bar Ama
Whether you want a heaping plate of enchiladas for brunch or cauliflower with cilantro and cashews, Bar Ama has you covered. There's also breakfast tacos, biscuits and gravy, French toast, and all kinds of eggs. Or just load up up queso and guac, with a side of mezcal. Brunch served Sat. & Sun., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Read Bar Ama's full 99 Essentials entry here.
At brunch, chef Evan Funke presents some of the same dishes from the dinner menu, and some of them he tweaks just slightly to make them more brunchy. The wonderful pesto Genovese that at night coats gnocchetti is used at brunch for Bucato's take on green eggs and ham — two sunnyside eggs on house-made English muffins with a pile of delicately piggy prosciutto and a smattering of arugula. It's like a breakfast you'd make at home, but taken up about five notches. Brunch: Sun. only, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Read Bucato's full 99 Essentials entry here.
5. The Hungry Cat
It's possible you'll want to start your Sunday off right with an oyster shooter — if so, The Hungry Cat can provide just such a brunch treat, made with vodka, tequila or sake. A seafood platter, caviar by the ounce, and crab cakes benedict are also available, as well as The Hungry Cat's famous raw bar, lobster roll and burger. Brunch: Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Read The Hungry Cat's full 99 Essentials entry here.
4. Superba Food & Bread
Restaurateur Paul Hibler’s second restaurant in the Superba family is one of those places that embodies the personality and carefree style of Venice so perfectly, it became that city’s de facto living room (or maybe breakfast nook) as soon as it opened. It would make sense then, that the place excels at brunch, with house made everything: granola, gravlax, pastries and more. Brunch Sat. & Sun., 9:30 a.m-3 p.m. Read Superba Food & Bread's full 99 Essentials entry here.
It’s quite a trick that Walter and Margarita Manzke have pulled off at République, a kind of sophisticated elasticity that allows the restaurant to be whatever you need at any given moment. On the weekend, stop by for brunch, when the light streams in through the front windows and the bowls of shakshouka and kimchi fried rice are devoured by happy diners at long wooden tables. Brunch menu offered Sat. & Sun., 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (Some brunch dishes only available after 11 a.m.) Read République's full 99 Essentials entry here.
2. Salt's Cure
There's a friendly bustle and clamor to the room at Salt's Cure on Sundays during brunch, a welcoming din that somehow comforts you: This is how brunch is supposed to feel. The menu isn't long or overly fancy — there are thick, oatmeal griddle cakes; a ham, egg and cheese sandwich; and a bacon cheeseburger. The smoked fish on toast — very good fish, very good bread, bitter greens, thin slices of red onion — is just about exactly what we'd make at home if we had the time and foresight, but thanks to Salt's Cure we don't have to. Brunch, Sat. & Sun., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Read Salt's Cure's full 99 Essentials entry here.
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Sqirl was basically invented for brunch, and in fact the cafe acts as a kind of perpetual brunch spot serving breakfast and lunch items every day that translate to the brunch of your dreams, any time you want it (before 4 p.m.) If there's a more perfect midday weekend meal than chef Jessica Koslow's sorrel pesto rice bowl with feta and radishes we've yet to find it, and the baked goods and stellar coffee set our hearts aflutter. Be forewarned: The lines on weekends can stretch out the door, around the corner and into the next block. Brunch-type dishes served all week, Mon.-Fri., 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Read Sqirl's full 99 Essentials entry here.