Sunday Morning Brunch

BY ALEX SUNDSTROM

After a long night of bar-hopping and alcohol consumption, it’s quite possible that you’ll wake up beside someone on a Sunday morning and end up taking that person to brunch. Every weekend afternoon across Cambridge and Boston, restaurants teem with bleary eyed couples eating greasy food and sipping coffee. Whether your brunch is one of love and affection or bitter regret, here are some good places to try, sorted by your attitude towards your fellow bruncher.

You never want to see the person again

One good choice for one-shot brunches is the Blue Room. Its $21 buffet includes a broad array of dozens of grilled meats, breakfast and dessert items; the best bets are usually the ceviche, grilled lamb, the homemade pork sausage and the unexpectedly good buttermilk pancakes. Salmon and flank steak are tough, and all the food gets replaced too seldom except at peak hours. The main knock against the Blue Room is not the food, which is a good value, but the culinary logistics a buffet of that size creates. Trying everything requires a lot of concentration and winding trips to the buffet around cramped tables, which means that you and your fellow diner will frequently be apart from each other for long periods during brunch, and when you finally reunite you won’t have the mental energy required for conversation. If you want an awkward meal that will deter future brunch invitations, this is the place to do it.

You don’t want to kiss them goodbye

The spicy food at the East Coast Grill will deter any furtive post-brunch kissing attempts. Tortillas rellenos ($11.75) are glorified quesadillas – the generous amount of moist roast duck soaks up the fatty cheese, and cilantro and seared greens provide a nice counterpoint. Another good way of blunting a hangover is the huevos rancheros ($9.75), which stand out from normal renditions of this dish with succulent house-smoked pulled pork. The pork is far closer to the Southern ideal than anything available at dedicated Boston area barbeque places.

They are saving themselves for marriage

If your companion argues that marriage is worth waiting for, a trip for brunch to blu is a convincing rejoinder. A throbbingly trendy space on the 4th floor of the LA Sports Club, abutting the Ritz-Carlton, blu – yes, it has no capital letters – is full of well-coiffed blonde women in their forties ostentatiously eating very small amounts of food and commiserating with each other, uncomforted by their wedding rings. Their influence means that blu’s portion sizes tend to the ridiculous: $8 buys you a very small, if fluffy and well-seared, crab cake that vanishes in two bites. A $9 dessert billed as “grapefruit crPme brulee” ended up being just half a grapefruit with caramelized sugar blow-torched on top, although the waiter was properly ashamed when this was brought to his attention.

The food quality is outstanding, however; it’s worth doling out $18 for steak frites, with watercress and a sauce with a generous amount of black truffle. The steak is impossibly beefy and tender, and the fries are a bit too salty but sliced into perfectly thin strands. Eggs with basil and spinach ($10) are also delicious. The view is also airy and expansive. blu is closed for brunch in September, and will reopen in October.

You want to go back for more after eating

The close proximity of the West Side Lounge to HLS makes it a strong brunch choice, with prices for everything hovering around $7-9. The breakfast tacos – stuffed with eggs, sausage, and topped with an acidic tomato/cilantro/onion salsa – have a very balanced flavor and can be wolfed down quickly. The Monte Cristo, a homemade croissant breaded and stuffed with swiss cheese and a thick, savory piece of ham, served with raspberry maple syrup and fried potatoes, is overwhelmingly rich, and harkens back to the first time you tried a grilled cheese sandwich as a kid. The ubiquitous fruit salad served with everything is heavy on bland melon and cantaloupe, but the fried potatoes go well with most brunch items. The atmosphere is pleasant, swaddling customers in plush booths and relaxing indie rock music.

You actually like the person

If your brunch companion adores you enough to make a trip to Jamaica Plain – change from the Red Line to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing, then take it south to Green Street – then he or she deserves the platonic ideal of brunch at the Centre Street café. Served from 9-3 on Saturdays as well as Sundays, you’ll have to arrive early or late or face long lines outside. Oatmeal-cornmeal waffles ($12.75) induce violent convulsions of pleasure. They have the perfect nutty texture for a topping of maple whipped cream, wonderful strawberries and bananas, and local raspberries that equal those I have plucked from raspberry bushes on farms. The $13.75 “Baja Benny,” which tops homemade cornbread with impossibly fluffy scrambled eggs, fresh gulf shrimp and guacamole, is worth every penny.

The note on the menu that “mealtime is sacred – no cell phones, please” sums up the attitude of the staff, mixing a touch of well-deserved arrogance with a desire to shoo you out to make room for anybody waiting. Such an attitude would not feel out of place in New York, except that this brunch exceeds even that city’s vaunted standards. The nearby arboretum is a good place to calm down after riding the emotional rollercoaster of such extraordinary brunch food.

Details on these places:

The Blue Room
Brunch from 11-2:30 on Sunday
One Kendall Sq., Cambridge 617 494-9034

East Coast Grill
Brunch from 11-2:30 on Sunday
1271 Cambridge St,
Cambridge
617 491-6569

blu
Brunch from 11-2:30 on Sunday
LA Sports Club
4 Avery St, Boston
617 373-8550

West Side Lounge
Brunch from 10:30-2:30 on Sunday 1680 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
617 441-5556

Centre Street Café
Brunch from 9-3 Saturday and
Sunday
669A Centre St., Boston
617 524-9217

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