Brunch has fallen on tough times. Not financially, of course. For restaurants, it remains a grass-fed cash cow.
In public record, however, brunch has taken a hit in recent years. Countless authors have professed hate for this b-word. Their pieces range from expressing mild disdain to likening it to the circles of hell.
“Brunch contributes nothing to the culinary landscape… Brunch is a bastard; a poisonous freak,” Adrien Chen wrote in a 2010 Gawker takedown titled, “Brunch Sucks.” A few years later, The New York Times ran an op-ed, “Brunch Is for Jerks.” One disgruntled New Yorker caused a big stir in 2017 when he filed a lawsuit against bottomless brunch. Even today, a website called 86brunch.com sells $20 T’s with the words “Fuck Brunch” silk-screened across them.
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While some brunch detractors make valid points, the bulk of these hit pieces read like temper tantrums from people who simply like to complain. As a purveyor of truth and justice, I am here to campaign for your vote in favor of brunch.
First, let’s clarify what we’re referring to when we talk about brunch. In its simplest form, brunch is a weekend meal that spans the dishes and operational hours of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The dining activity can take many forms: post-church, gay (with or without drag queens), club, black, at-home, and — my favorite— boozy. These character traits aren’t mutually exclusive. They are a complex Venn diagram intersecting in myriad ways. (I am a black, gay, church-going man, and I’ve personally experienced some of brunch’s more esoteric iterations.) Of all the variables, boozy brunch tends to get the worst rap.
Yet booze and brunch have always been related. The term was first introduced by English writer Guy Berringer in an 1895 essay, “Brunch: A Plea.” In the interests of “Saturday-night carousers” who were a little bit worse for wear, Berringer proposed a meal of pastries followed by heavier dishes, ideal for soothing hungover stomachs.
“Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling,” Berringer added.
Modern translation? Brunch is the best place to relive the night before, debate the plotline of your favorite TV show, or get advice on your next career move. Add a few Mimosas, Bloody Marys, or similarly “talk-compelling” agents to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a grand old time.
As with most activities, I believe your brunch will only be as enjoyable as the people you’re with. Are your friends the types who prefer their Mimosas light on the orange juice and order another round as soon as the server finishes handing out the flutes? Mine are. We know how to have a good time and will happily rope the waitstaff and any surrounding tables into it. (Being nice to your server can also lead to an extra bottle of Champagne if you play your cards right.)
Conviviality is as essential to the meal as eggs and potatoes. Those seeking a quiet, contemplative meal should probably avoid places advertising “bottomless” drink specials, filled with people clinking glasses with their bartenders.
Speaking of restaurant employees, I feel that I can (at least partially) speak on their behalf. I spent a year as a line cook at a popular brunch spot in Manhattan’s East Village where I worked every single weekend shift except for maybe one — literally. I’ve also taken on the occasional host shift and have staffed corporate gigs, and I’m here to tell you that boozy brunches are beneficial for everyone in the tip pool.
In addition, the margins on brunch dishes tend to be much better when compared to dinner items, because eggs and potatoes are pretty affordable compared to lamb chops. Tack on increased beverage sales and a busy brunch restaurant has incredible earning potential. According to one server friend of mine, “It’s like an extended dinner period where people drink more.”
Establishments going the extra-boozy route with bottomless drink specials are no doubt pouring the cheapest Champagne — or, let’s be honest, sparkling wine — in your Mimosas and Bellinis. We are talking a cost of maybe $2 or $3 a bottle. When else does a good time come this easy?
On a recent excursion, a.k.a. “research,” I took two busses and walked 20-plus blocks to meet seven friends, new and old, for brunch in Hamilton Heights. We discussed one’s move back to the city after finishing grad school out of town. We wished happy birthday to the woman celebrating at the table next to us. We laughed, bonded, and experienced the joy of simply spending time together. After we paid our brunch tab we gallivanted from early afternoon long into evening, soaking in the positive energy along with the last of the sun’s rays.
No, I didn’t adult at all that day. Sometimes that’s necessary. We live in a crazy world that seems to be getting more chaotic with each day. There’s enough time for stress during the work week. I relish the moments when I allow myself to be joyful and carefree. You should, too.
At a time when things like self-care and mental health are so en vogue, I view boozy brunch as a way to live those principles. “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present,” writes Psychology Today. Brunch is a time to be present, with a drink in your hand, discussing the latest plot twist in “Westworld.”
This upcoming weekend, I urge you to have the booziest brunch you can imagine. Don’t fret about not being “productive” for an entire day — you’ll have fun.
Don’t overthink it. Go to brunch.