Food & Drink

How to Brunch Like an American Hero: The Definitive Guide

These are dark times for brunch, my fellow citizens. Just a few months ago, in a fiasco as absurd as it was frightening, this nation's mightiest city nearly lost its God-given right to drink bottomless mimosas while eating brioche-everything and talking about Coachella. Across the country, our fast-food overlords are horning in for a share of the morning hangover crowd, brunch's traditional constituent base. The specter of linner (lunch plus *shudder* dinner) looms ever closer.

American brunch needs American heroes, you guys. And we are them. They are us? Whatever, you get the point.

Or rather, you will get the point -- ALL OF THE POINTS -- once you've digested this totally official, critically important, extremely definitive guide to brunching with the vigor of Captain America himself. Its wisdom will deliver you -- unfettered by wait times, unruly waitstaff, and poorly mixed Bloody Marys -- to Flavor Country, a mythical All-American burgh whose population is composed of only the most dedicated disciples of our beloved weekend ritual. When the dust settles, you'll be a soldier of fortune/frittata, ready to deftly navigate the pitfalls of any early-afternoon egg encounter while keeping brunch's proud flame alight.

This, my comrades in corned beef hash, is how to brunch like an American hero.

Step 1: Pick your place

Like the wands in Harry Potter, your ideal brunch spot will choose you as much as you, it. (Or at least, that's how it was in the first couple books, after which I stopped reading because, y'know: the Internet!) But there are commonly coveted factors, and to ignore them in your vetting process is to risk spending your special day in the muggle equivalent of the Weasleys' disgusting hovel. (Do they ever end up getting a new house? Are any of these references accurate? Let me know.)

Once you locate a candidate with these crucial traits, do not hesitate to get a reservation, because waiting for brunch is for plebes:

  • Cool neighborhood. Pick an area edgy enough for cool Instagrams & hot Tinder right-swipes, but not so edgy you'll feel endangered gramming/swiping there. Density of viable post-brunch bars is critical. There should also be at least one convenience store nearby, at which to purchase a pack of cigarettes when you inevitably get not-sober enough to start smoking again "just for today."
  • Pet-friendly, kid-unfriendly. Nothing will make your weekend brunch more enjoyable than the presence of a puppy, and nothing can make it less so than a screaming child. Bars that do brunch are generally more welcoming to small, leashed animals, while remaining blessedly unappealing to the dastardly young parents out there trying to spoil your fun.
  • Outdoor seating. Sidewalk tables are good (people-watching!), but a back patio/deck is better (people-watching, plus less incentive to behave decently!). In dire circumstances, flung-open oversized windows will do. When brunching with undesirables (second cousins, former coworkers, former cousins, etc.), sit indoors to hasten the meal's conclusion -- a Pyrrhic victory, sure, but a victory nonetheless.
  • Parking. If you exist outside a bustling metropolitan center, you'll want a brunch destination with plentiful parking. Heroes don't spend precious minutes scouring side streets for a Pontiac Aztek-sized spot while the rest of their group crushes beignets.
  • Accepts credit cards. Nothing will imperil your post-brunch activity outlook faster than six separate trips to a down-the-block ATM. Plan ahead.

Step 2: Rally the troops

No man is an island, and, as such, no brunch can be either. But don't get overzealous with your invites. Though your friends are all (probably) great in their respective ways, they may not all be brunch material. Be selective! For maximal morning mealing, shoot for a crew of 8-10, peppered with the following personalities:

  • The loudmouth. He's annoying, he's incorrigible, and an unreasonable number of his stories revolve around this one time eight years ago when he met Ja Rule in a Meineke. But his narcissistic energy will be invaluable, especially in the grueling downtime between seat-taking & drink-receiving.
  • The industry drinker. She's a bartender, or she's banging a bartender -- or both. Thanks to her wisdom, you'll quench your thirst with unspoken shot-and-beer combos instead of watery mimosas. She'll also have stories about bathroom sex, which will fuel your motivation to hook up with her following this brunch. That said: she can drink more than you. Proceed with caution.
  • The petite girl. All good brunch plates must come to an end, unless you're this girl, in which case, you've never finished an entire plate of food in your life. Sit next to this bird-eating bird, and you're all-but guaranteed another half-meal when she taps out early.
  • The photographer. Someone needs to document this rabble-rousing, but it's not gonna be you. Let this social media zealot waste his phone battery on the festivities, while you crush waffles and conserve juice on airplane mode.
  • The bill-splitter. His incessant blithering about "fuh-nontz" is obnoxious in literally every other context, but in those irritating occasions where credit cards aren't accepted (or there's an arbitrary limit on how many they'll run), his self-important math skills will be your savior.


Pro-tip: Book a reservation before assembling your crew. This way, you control the numbers, instead of the other way around. Oh, Mike wants to bring his frumpy, mouthbreathing cousin along? The one who gets weirdly sweaty on his shoulders? You already tried to expand the table, but the restaurant wouldn't let you. Bummer, Mr. Sweat-Drenched Fun-Hater!

Step 3: Go hard the night before

As Spinoza once pondered: "If a brunch do be eaten without a hangover, dost it ever exist?" Obviously, the answer is no. For the proper combination of giddiness, desperation, and shampoo-effect boozing, hit the bricks -- and the bars that are built on those bricks! -- with a vengeance the night before. Unlike those carefully scripted day drink enthusiasts, you're not in this for the long haul. So in the nighttime hours preceding your triumphant outing, get intimate with the liquor. Hell, get intimate with another person, for that matter. Do some good-natured damage, you rascal. When the clock strikes noon the following morning, you'll be primed.

Heroes come bleary-eyed, messy-haired, and reflux-burping to brunch, or they don't come at all.

Step 4: Eat something the morning of

The day has arrived! In a few short hours, you'll be crushing eggs Benny and pour-over while politely demanding another six lager beers for your immediate consumption. It's going to be the best, which is why you must remember to feed yourself when you wake up. Like grocery shopping, brunching on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster. You'll be anxious, irritable, and uncomfortable, which will lead to bad decisions. Not the fun kind; the "calling your hostess a 'lumbering manatee' for not bringing a breadbasket" kind. Don't let this lugubrious catastrophe befall you. Cram a Luna bar or bagel into that gaping maw, kid, then bust a move over to your closet.

Step 5: Dress code: "tasteful buffoon"

Alright, are you at the closet yet? Hurry up and finish that Luna bar, my dude -- there are clothes to be donned. Yes, you have to wear them. Yes, you should try to look awesome. You're going for a saucy combination of "couch potato" and "gentleman heretic," so put down that extremely deep-V and get serious with American flag pants, throwback Luc Longley jerseys, Viking helmets, Minnesota Viking helmets, and the like. Telling people you "woke up like this" is recommended, but not required.

Important: Don't wear Google Glass, a tie, or anything this dude might rock. Grow up.

Step 6: You know that saying about marathons & sprints? This is the latter.

With a cautious eye towards sugar-high crashes, sluggish waitstaff, and heinous bottom-shelf liquors, the author of this guide to tableside heroism advises against "bottomless" brunches, though he acknowledges that they can be fantastic from time to time. Whether you choose to take your brunch booze a la carte or by the barrel, though, some rules apply.

Psych! That was a test! You're already wearing clothes; there are no other rules. Get after that booze like a hungry man on a ham, which, depending on your food order, you may very well be. Dance with high-ABV craft brews for a drinkability-to-price ratio that can't be beat, or select an intricate classic cocktail like the Old Fashioned to throw your stomach -- and the bartender, who now hates you -- a curveball. Ignore his darting eyes of fury, you! This is your time to shine like the champion hero you wish to be. Order a rosé just for the hell of it, should the mood strike.

Remember, this isn't day drinking, and you're not trying to conserve sobriety/energy -- go nuts. Think of brunch drinking like that scene from Gattaca: the man who wins is the one willing to lose. Well, and drown, but don't drown. Just win.

(Underrated movie, by the way. Watch it after brunch.)

Step 7: Eat what you know

You may feel tempted to choose your meal in the same cavalier spirit. Fight against that urge! Even the finest brunch establishments have a few red herrings lurking on their menus, waiting to ensnare the ambitious diner. They masquerade under fancy banners -- panko-crusted Arctic char Benedict, you say?! -- and command premium prices. Some might even be delicious. But you didn't come here to try some bougie fish served up in kids-menu portions, you came here to be a hero. Make a safer, cheaper bet on old favorites that'll fill you up instead of gambling on an untested prospect. After all, this may be the only real meal you eat all day (more on that in a second).

Step 8: Hit on everything

If you've followed this guide so far, you are well on your way to brunching like an American hero. But every hero gets the girl (or guy or sex doll or whatever you're into) at the end of the movie -- especially Gattaca, sort of! -- so you've gotta at least try to cozy up with something pretty. Unlike your romantic endeavors at Whole Foods, you probably won't hook up after this brunch. This is not the point.

The point is you rarely get the opportunity to flirt openly with this many somewhat-buzzed, fully-live humans in the light of day, and you should make the most of it. So get out there, you sexy beast! If you close the deal, good for you. If you don't, that's OK too, because you feel like you're going to burst anyway. Never fear, though, for no matter how much of an ass you make of yourself, you'll soon be rescued from the scene by brunch's final bell: the check.

Step 9: Split it evenly

When the final bill arrives, you will be faced with momentary panic. This is natural. Brunch is coming to a close, after all, and you are that much closer to its binary opposite: the workweek. But the American brunch hero meets his end with honor, so do that. Hopefully, you heeded Step 1 and confirmed that your chosen establishment accepts credit cards, in which case your move is simple: split it evenly. Equal shares for everyone. No haggling over an extra drink here, or an overpriced side there. If you played Step 2 properly, everyone at the table is a trusted accomplice; if you failed, you have only yourself to blame for their indiscretions. If your group is many, you may decide to run the check on fewer cards, and reimburse with Venmo amongst yourselves. For the sanity of your server, this is encouraged.

Please note: a hero always tips well.

Step 10: Go home

Unless there's been a horrible error in calculation, or you're in Iceland, daylight will greet your post-brunch face as you emerge. The whole day is ahead of you! Which is why you should go home. Now that you've conquered this midday meal, there's nothing left for you to accomplish today. Those in your group (especially Mr. Loudmouth and Ms. Industry Drinker) will push for a round of drinks at another bar. Ignore them. Return to your castle, settle into the couch, and watch Gattaca. You will probably heroically pass out at some point, as it is a subtle film. This will set up your transition into "confused awakening around sunset," a state quickly followed by "eat whatever's close at hand" and "figure out where all your friends who didn't brunch are hanging out." For unlike the Day Drinker, the American hero ties his fate to this second wind.

So there you have it. That's how you brunch. Invariably, there will be some regional nuances & points of contention, so if you have something to add, please do it in the comments. See you out there.  

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Dave Infante is a senior writer for Thrillist food & drink, and has never eaten brunch. Ever. This was all just an elaborate ruse. Love him longtime: @dinfontay.