In the beginning, there was breakfast. Then breakfast begat brunch. But then brunch went crazy, and getting some poached eggs and Hollandaise for a laid back weekend meal somehow became a half-day affair of crowd control, waiting lists and self-serve Bloody Mary stations.
Even with the boom in new breakfast joints around New Orleans, many places remain packed and quite often backed up. We may accept this as a modern reality some of the time, but during football season, with noon kickoffs looming, the wait time endemic to casual brunch spots in the city is just a nonstarter.
For the more upscale brunch destinations, you can often make a reservation. But that sort of advance planning isn’t always in play when the need for brunch arises, and even with a reservation, you may still find a wait at the most popular places.
Fortunately, the evermore diverse landscape of New Orleans restaurants puts many different calls in your playbook. I spent the last few weekends scouting potential flex options, restaurants that aren’t necessarily known for, or marketed as, brunch spots but that can fill the same role without the crowds. Broaden your idea of what brunch can be just a bit, and you’ll have a good meal under your belt well before game time.
The proliferation of Vietnamese restaurants around town supplies a whole roster of ready brunch replacement dishes. Bo ne is a leading contender. Often called sizzling beef, it is essentially steak with eggs. At Uptown’s new Mint Modern Vietnamese Bistro, it arrives with all the snap, crackle and steam of a fajita plate with over-easy eggs bubbling on top, a crusty banh mi-style baguette on the side and a ramekin of pâté. Mix and match these components just like you would any plate of steak and eggs, wash it down with a Sriracha Bloody Mary and you’re well on your way. Game day bonus: Mint’s location on Freret Street puts you in close proximity to Tulane University’s new Yulman Stadium.
The three locations of Pho Orchid have also made a specialty of sizzling steak with French bread and pâté. Of course, all of these restaurants also serve pho, the ambrosial beef and rice noodle soup. Made ahead in large batches, it can be served quickly and can be restorative in more ways than one on a football weekend.
“Pho is really our breakfast anyway; Vietnamese people eat it in the morning,” said Le Thu Nguyen, a manager of the Pho Orchid restaurants. “And if people drank too much Saturday night, pho on Sunday can help get them to the game. It’s a hangover cure. We have no scientific proof, but everyone knows it is.”
South of the Border breakfast
Huevos rancheros and similar Mexican egg dishes have become as common on brunch menus as eggs Benedict. Naturally, they’re also staples at actual Mexican restaurants, and this opens another under-the-radar brunch option. Panchita’s Mexican Criolla Cuisine in the Carrollton area has the standard dishes and also dives a little deeper into regional Mexican specialties. Entomadas is one example that hits all the hallmarks of a well-rounded brunch platter. It’s built on a foundation of folded corn tortilla cakes soaked down with a mild red sauce and drizzled with crema and joined by slices of avocado, a small, thin, griddle-crisp steak and a pair of eggs over easy. Get this with a michelada, which is like a beer-based Bloody Mary served in a voluminous schooner glass rimmed with salt and pepper, for a piquant start to game day.
In Mid-City, Taqueria Guerrero is a reliable spot for huevos rancheros, chilaquiles and a multitude of dishes with eggs, chorizo, rice and beans, and it opens early, 8:30 a.m., to serve this niche.
It’s no surprise that a culture famous for its whiskey, beer and enthusiastic embrace of both also should produce a hearty, traditional breakfast for the morning after.
The Irish breakfast at Irish House is a straightforward, fully loaded vehicle for eggs and breakfast meats, in this case, rashers (thick-cut Irish bacon), Irish sausage and black and white puddings (think boudin without the rice and spice) plus the baked beans, roasted mushrooms and grilled tomato that for some reason are requirements for the dish. Then there’s a “gravy boat,” a messy, thoroughly hearty hash of potatoes, roast beef gravy and eggs.
A two-story, multifaceted spot, Irish House splits the difference between Irish pub and family-friendly Irish restaurant, and its location within walking distance to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome makes it a good candidate for starting a home game day.
This season, chef Matt Murphy has streamlined the brunch menu, focusing on dishes that are faster to turn around. But the Irish breakfast was never in question.
“That’s always on,” he said. “We have that anytime we’re open. People even come in after work sometimes on a Friday to get their Irish breakfast. It’s incredible.”
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.
Mint Modern Vietnamese Bistro
5100 Freret St., New Orleans PHONE: (504) 218-5534
HOURS: Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday mintmodernbistro.com
Pho Orchid Metairie
3117 Houma Blvd., Metairie PHONE: (504) 457-4188
Pho Orchid Express
1401 Airline Dr., Metairie
PHONE: (504) 301-3368
HOURS: Open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Pho Orchid Uptown
2135 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans PHONE: (504) 609-3710
HOURS: 11 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Tuesday
Panchita’s Mexican Criolla Cuisine
1434 S. Carrollton Ave., New Orleans
PHONE: (504) 281-4127
HOURS: Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
208 N. Carrollton Ave., New Orleans PHONE: (504) 484-6959
HOURS: 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
1432 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans
PHONE: (504) 595-6755
HOURS: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday