July 5, 2018
Category: DT Advantage Summer 2018
Let’s Do Brunch!
Brunch is that sweet spot between breakfast and lunch.
And its popularity is on the rise. Diners love the idea of a leisurely weekend meal with friends and family. And restaurateurs love what brunch adds to their bottom line. Sandra Sperounes checks out three of Downtown’s popular brunch spots and brings us this story.
Nestled in the basement of The Starlite Room is one of Downtown Edmonton’s newest eateries — River City Revival House. Dinner and late-nights are the restaurant’s main bread and butter, feeding off the crowds who attend the metal, rock, and punk concerts upstairs.
But when Felicia Winston signed on as Revival’s chef, she knew she also wanted to offer brunch. “It’s my favourite meal of the day, so it was really important to us that we include it, even if it’s a slow start at first,” she says. “I’m the brunch lady.”
Revival, which opened in May, boasts soul and comfort food — morning, noon and night. Winston’s weekend brunch menu includes Cajun shrimp and grits, poutine with holiday stuffing, and deep-fried wings alongside classic oatmeal and berry compote, avocado toast, and poached eggs with smoked pulled pork or chicken. Menu items boast clever music references such as Rage Against the Poutine and Domo Arigato Mr. Avocado.
“I just find a lot of people want to go for brunch, but they don’t want to eat breakfast,” says Winston. “I think a lot of people just aren’t into eggs. Plus, there’s the vegan and vegetarian communities, so you’ve got to figure out options for them.”
So far, brunch makes up 15 to 20 percent of Revival’s business. Artists and music fans are the restaurant’s main customers, but she says she’s starting to see a lot of twentysomethings from the neighbouring apartment buildings.
Winston thinks Downtown Edmonton could use more brunch options — and businesses in general — to encourage more foot traffic and make people feel safer. “If you’re on Whyte Avenue, there’s six brunch places on one block,” she says. “Downtown, they’re so spread out. We need more options.”
At least 15 restaurants in and around Jasper Avenue offer brunch — from the Hotel Macdonald’s Sunday buffet in its stately Empire Ballroom to The Common’s bi-annual Hip-Hop Brunch, which sees hundreds of people line up outside the 109th Street eatery. OBE, a breakfast/brunch spot, is also set to open in the Kelly Ramsey building this year.
The Blue Plate Diner, on 104th Street, is one of the city’s oldest and hottest brunch destinations — hosting everyone from young families to empty-nesters to Connor McDavid’s parents to pop stars Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.
John Williams, one of Blue Plate’s co-owners, says weekends are Blue Plate’s busiest times, thanks in part to Saturday’s City Market. Last fall, the diner started offering breakfast/brunch on weekdays, too. He estimates brunch makes up almost a quarter of Blue Plate’s sales: its Breakfast Enchilada, Pancakes and Eggs Beneduckt, with BBQ duck eggs, are the most popular dishes.
While Williams doesn’t like to tinker with his restaurant’s menu, he still keeps an eye on brunch trends. “More restaurants are doing brunch — Rostizado did one for Mother’s Day,” he says. “Chicken and waffles were really big for a while, but that’s died down. I see a little more introduction of world cuisine infusions like shakshukas — Israeli egg dishes — or breakfast empanadas.”
Over at District Café on 109th Street, owner Nate Box says the top brunch items are its Coddled Egg, Waffle Benny, and Breakfast Bowl with roast potatoes, sunflower sprouts, cherry tomatoes, a poached egg, and hollandaise.
The café recently added new items to its weekend/holiday brunch menu, including bagels and Mexi steak & eggs with corn tortillas. Box says customers are moving away from heavy, greasy, gluttonous portions to lighter, fresher options.
Regardless of trends, he thinks brunch will never lose its appeal. “The psychology behind it is: ‘You worked hard all week, you deserve it,’” says Box.
“I think it’s this idea that we all have — after a long, hard week, the least we can do is treat ourselves to sleeping in and letting someone else look after breakfast.”
Cradle To The Gravlax courtesy of River City Revival House
Yield: 1 fillet Serving size: 2 oz
1 salmon fillet, sushi grade or flash frozen
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup coarse black pepper
Fresh dill, enough to cover entire fillet
Fresh bagels with cream cheese, one per person
Red onions, tomatoes, capers for garnish
1. Using the back of your chef knife, scrape the salmon skin to remove any remaining scales. Rinse salmon and pat dry
2. Make a rub by mixing together all the spices except for the dill. Coat the skin side evenly with the rub. Flip the fish over onto Saran Wrap. Coat the flesh side evenly with the rub. Cover the flesh side with the fresh dill.
3. Tightly wrap the fillet. Place it skin-side up in a non-reactive container (glass or stainless steel). Place a second pan on top and add weight. Large jars or cans work well. Place in the fridge and allow to sit for 72 hours.
4. Remove from wrappings and lightly rinse off seasonings. Slice thinly on a bias towards the skin. Slice so the flesh comes off the skin, but the skin remains behind.
5. Toast bagel and spread with cream cheese. Top with gravlax and garnish with red onion, tomato and capers!
Mexi Steak and Eggs courtesy of District Café
Nate Box says if you’re not buying flank steak, get on it — because it’s cheap, flavourful, and versatile. He recommends grilling it off for tacos or sandwiches one night, then using leftovers for this brunch recipe, which just happens to be gluten free!
6 corn tortillas, sliced into thin strips
4 oz flank steak, cooked medium rare, then sliced thin against the grain
2 vine tomatoes, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 zucchini, seeded and diced
4 eggs, scrambled
2 Tbsp (or more to taste) grated cheese, such as queso fresco, feta, or cheddar
Avocado, cilantro, radish, crema, hot sauce for garnish
1. Toss tortilla strips with canola oil and a pinch of salt. In large non-stick skillet, fry until crispy. Remove and set aside until later.
2. Add 1 Tbsp canola oil to skillet, toss in onion, tomato, and zucchini. When onions soften and moisture leaves the pan, toss in the steak. Add in tortilla strips, and toss to incorporate.
3. Scramble the eggs in a bowl and pour into the pan. Mix to evenly cook. When eggs just begin to set, sprinkle in cheese. Serve piled high. Garnish with sliced avocado, cilantro, radish, crema, and hot sauce. Top with a pinch of Maldon salt.
Lemon Curd courtesy of the Blue Plate Diner
Yield: 2 cups
250 g white sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 16 lemons)
1 Tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
200g butter, unsalted
125 g white sugar
1. Whisk together the first four ingredients in a double boiler until hot.
2. While heating, whisk eggs and the remaining white sugar in separate bowl until dissolved.
3. Once the lemon-butter mixture is hot, slowly whisk in the egg-sugar mixture.
4. Continue mixing and heating until thick and temperature has reached 165 F.
5. While still warm, pour through a fine strainer to create a smooth texture.
6. Serve on pancakes, waffles, or fresh fruit.