It seems that the intent of brunch hasn't changed much since the word first appeared in print in 1895, when British author Guy Beringer wrote: “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.''
All the better if you can order ricotta pancakes and drink fancy cocktails before noon.
This weekend, skip your go-to brunch spot and make a reservation off your radar: at a hotel. Picture expansive views of the ocean or Hollywood Hills. It’s like an instant vacation, but cheaper. From Santa Monica to DTLA, hotel restaurants offer stellar service and at least one dish that’s worth the trip by itself, from bacon waffles to pancake lasagna to a fried, buttermilk-brined half chicken.
Fig at Fairmont Miramar
You might be impressed by Fig's huevos rancheros, anchored by pureed beans and graced with bits of cured pork and queso fresco, or the lemon ricotta pancakes, served with homemade blueberry butter. But it’s the bacon waffle — with strips of crispy (but not crumbly) bacon layered in the batter — that’ll make you swoon. Instead of ordering a fluffy waffle and a side of bacon to dip in syrup, your work is done for you. One of Fig’s seasonal specials, the corn-ucopia, is like an ear of Mexican corn poured into a glass; resident mixologists infuse tequila with sweet corn for three days and boil down the cobs into simple syrup, adding lime and a frothy egg white. Ask to sit on the European-style patio for a view through the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass windows at the palm trees and blue skies. 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 576-7777, fairmont.com/santa-monica/dining/figrestaurant.
Viviane at Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills
Lucille Ball used to call this place home. Once a residence for the rich and famous, the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills now hosts chic travelers and local brunch crowds at Viviane, where chef Michael Hung (Faith & Flower) calls the shots in the smallish kitchen. Step inside the shiny glass doors of the hotel for a trip back in time. The midcentury California décor and vintage furniture from the 1950s and ‘60s harks back to classic Hollywood (or Palm Springs). Like the murals splashing bright colors on the wall, the food at Viviane is artsy and appealing. The slab of brioche French toast with dark chocolate ganache and cranberry compote, for instance, is an elegant take on a brunch staple. While impressive for their sheer size and spectacle, the lemon ricotta pancakes reign supreme for their fresh flavor. On the other side of the sweet/savory spectrum, there's a fried, buttermilk-brined fried chicken, buttermilk and scallion biscuits with white cheddar cheese sauce and pastrami-cured salmon tartine with ricotta cheese and spice-pickled squash. Request patio seating by the curvaceous pool, preferably in one of the cabanas to shield the sun, and try the trio of Manhattans — traditional, Rob Roy and Cuban — for a lesson on how these classic cocktails were served in the grand ol’ days. 9400 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 407-7791, vivianerestaurant.com.
Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
One of everything, please. That’s not an unusual request at the famous Four Seasons brunch, served only on Sundays, which has three rooms filled with 10 different food stations and two bars, one with freshly squeezed fruit juice and the other with make-your-own Bloody Marys. Multiple trips are the norm, and it’s not uncommon for people to break their meal into categories: sushi, dim sum and seafood, bagels and lox, eggs benedict and waffles, and meats from the carving table along with other hot entrees, including a chef who makes corn tortillas for tacos on the spot. There's dessert, one for every type of sweet tooth, and a kids’ station with tater tots and mac and cheese. The appeal of this brunch is obviously the insane array of options, but the crowning achievement of the experience is the make-your-own-doughnut bar, where freshly made doughnuts, plain and sugar, fall off an old-fashioned machine for you to decorate with chocolate and/or caramel sauce, chocolate pearls, almonds and sprinkles. Where to sit at the Four Seasons isn’t really an issue since each room is stately. You’ll be treated like royalty (some people actually are), and the people-watching is awesome from every angle. Go early when the setup is freshest. 300 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 273-2222, fourseasons.com/losangeles.
Ford's Filling Station at JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live
Chef Ben Ford’s specialty is all things smoked, especially pork, which is one thing you’ll find plenty of on Ford's Filling Station menus, from bacon-wrapped dates to maple-glazed pork belly. But there’s one porcine incarnation in particular worth your attention: candied bacon, made on site. It’s in the Bloody Mary and also lies across a creamy butterscotch pudding. The fluffy, white cheddar–bacon biscuits need nothing more than more butter sprinkled with sea salt. Another one of Ford’s standout smoked meats can be found in the juicy, tender brisket hash. Although midday can be hectic, especially when there’s a Lakers, Clippers, Kings or USC home game, brunch time is likely to be mellow at Ford's Filling Station (the later the better). The high ceilings and TVs on the wall suggest a sports bar atmosphere, but since shifting locales from Culver City to L.A. Live, Ford's Filling Station now serves a wider variety of brunch eaters, from families on their way to Kidz Bop concerts and Frozen sing-alongs to Lakers, Clippers and Kings (and away team) athletes to JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton guests to folks who find themselves downtown on a weekend afternoon. 900 W. Olympic Blvd., downtown; (213) 765-8630, lalive.com/concierge/detail/fords-filling-station-la-live.
The Roof on Wilshire
There aren't a lot of tables at the Roof on Wilshire and most are outside (which typically isn’t a problem in L.A.). The space is intimate, with tables and cabanas circling a quick-dip pool and a small indoor seating area, which makes the Roof a romantic setting perfect for celebrations, with the Hollywood Sign and Hills visible in one direction and the distant downtown skyline in another. Eric Greenspan (the Foundry) runs the Roof (he calls it “L.A.’s best-kept secret”) and, as expected, cheese is one of the star ingredients on his menu. He serves up the Wilshire grilled cheese with Gruyère, roasted peppers and a date puree (a nod to his Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese on Melrose), and a popular dish that's so wrong it's right: pancake lasagna, which Greenspan created one Sunday when he was cooking breakfast for his football-watching buddies. Greenspan advises, “Have your morning sex first,” because this dish is heavy-duty — layers of sausage, bacon, pancake, cheddar cheese and a maple béchamel sauce. Not in the mood? Try the Wilshire Burger on challah ("the brioche of my people,” jokes Greenspan) with a mix of sweet and kosher pickles and a cheddar skirt, which is made by melting enough cheese on top so it melts down to the grill and hardens into a crisp around the burger. It’s crunchy and tasty, as are the fries on the side. 6317 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Grove; (323) 852-6002, theroofonwilshire.com.
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Terrazza Lounge at Casa del Mar
At Terrazza Lounge at Casa del Mar, the golden sand and vast ocean are hard to miss, especially if you request a window seat. Any time of year, the beach is a glorious sight, with the addition here of the bike path below, packed with skaters, pedalers, runners and walkers, and the Santa Monica Pier to the north. Chef Alberico Nunziata, from Sorrento via Rome, has been the head chef since January 2015, and he’s debuting a new menu for 2016. The lobster club sandwich, though, will remain. It’s been a brunch favorite for at least 13 years, with slight variations. Seafood is king at Terrazza, from the fresh, plump shrimp cocktail to sushi. It feels fitting to eat it all while staring at the deep blue sea. For a zesty detour at any point in your meal, order the caramelized ruby grapefruit. Crack the sugary shell and dip into the tart sweetness of the grapefruit with a dollop of lime crème fraîche on top. It’s the perfect beachside treat. 1910 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 581-5533, hotelcasadelmar.com/dining/terrazza-lounge.