Brunch: the supreme goddess of meals. It’s not quite breakfast, not quite lunch and implies you’re in leisure mode. Going for brunch says, “No, there’s nowhere I have to be and yes, I’d love an extra plate so the warm au jus from my prime rib doesn’t run into my apple tarte tatin. Thank you!” Of course, brunch doesn’t have to be hoity-toity or even haute. It could mean a big ‘ol egg on top of corned beef hash, ready to loose its warm, runny yolk into the fray of your well-done home fries. It could mean an exotic scramble laden with cumin and tomatillo sauce and reminiscent of your last getaway to the Mayan Riviera. It could mean shrimp and grits or it could mean chicken and waffles. But whatever it means, it often involves vodka and/or champagne. In Orlando, lucky us, we’ve got almost as many brunch options as Disney has animal-shaped hedges. Craving something Mexican with a tequila sunrise chaser? Try Paxia Alta Cocina Mexicana & Tequila Lounge. Looking for something upscale but down-home? Cask & Larder may be right up your alley. And if you want straight-up posh, head to the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando and its Boheme Restaurant and luxuriate amid station after station of custom brunchery at its five-star best.
9 College Park Sunday Brunch Market
This fun, come-as-you-are weekly event takes the term "grand bohemian" and turns it on its ear. The College Park Sunday Brunch Market is ideal for brunch enthusiasts looking to multitask and get weekly shopping in whilst enjoying an open-air mimosa. Beyond the crisp, colorful fruits and veggies, other delightful wares abound: vintage clothing, handmade jewelry, gourmet goodies, food trucks, fresh fish and eggs.... One of the signature beauties of the marketplace is that you never know what you'll find. Held in the "yard" of College Park fixture Infusion Tea, live music emanates from the festivities and local purveyors Smiling Bison Foods serve up a handcrafted menu including shrimp and grits (roasted corn and mushrooms for the herbivores), French toast piled high with strawberries and peanuts and a delightful grapefruit brulee.
8 Ethos Vegan Kitchen
Think brunch is pointless without eggs, bacon, sausage and all things buttery? Think again. Ethos Vegan Kitchen packs them in for brunch -- on Saturdays AND Sundays -- from 9 am to 3 pm. Their breakfast burrito in particular -- smothered in creamy "sausage" gravy -- is a killer in the best way possible: satisfying, laden with cruelty-free protein and served with home fries. Decadent pancakes, biscuits and Canadian "bacon," and of course more expected items like fruit, oatmeal and yogurt round out a menu capped by a weekend-only special of discounted mimosas. Don't be surprised if there's a wait. Ethos' brunch is plenty popular with non-vegans, as well. (407-228-3898)
7 White Wolf Cafe
The White Wolf Café has been a staple in charming Ivanhoe Village for more than 20 years, a pioneer of sorts in a neighborhood that has caught up with its Bohemian, eclectic style, an easy place evocative of your Great Aunt's antique cluttered attic, where treasures from the past awaited discovery -- only with better lighting and a full bar. Outside, sidewalk seating allows diners to be part of the Ivanhoe scene, inside Tiffany-style lamps and warm surroundings make you want to stay awhile. And the menu doesn't hurt the prospects. The White Wolf Café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and hosts live music all the time, but weekends are for $3 mimosas and bloody Marys, decadent plates like steak and eggs, benedicts, pancakes (the kids breakfast menu is great, too) and always -- homemade cinnamon rolls. (407-895-9911, 407-895-5590)
6 Paxia Alta Cocina Mexicana & Tequila Lounge
Paxia's regular menu is upscale Mexican, a genre that -- for those used to more traditional Mexican venues -- can come with a bit of sticker shock, but with an average brunch price point around $8, its Sunday brunch (from 11-3) is a bit more forgiving to your wallet, particularly when paired with a tequila sunrise or another choice off the "Hair of the Dog" beverage menu. Paxia's south-of-the-border brunch offers wonderfully creative, but also forgiving in the lovely colors of fresh vegetables -- peppers, tomatillos, beans and the like -- that somehow make decadent runny egg yolks and hunks of chorizo seem healthier. It's a kinder, gentler brunch, if only a beautiful illusion. Sunnyside-up eggs over skirt steak and fries over refried beans (a dish called huevos montados/riding eggs), however delicious, does its best to shatter it. Have a mimosa. You won't mind at all. ((407) 420-1155)
5 Dexter's of Winter Park
Warm, house-made banana bread? Creamy cheddar-grits with savory Andouille sausage and shrimp? How about the aptly named "Hot Mess," a big 'ol plate of biscuits and fried chicken topped with fried eggs and sausage gravy? It's a plate you'll see servers toting all morning long as fans of Dexter's' brunch file in with little on their minds save good food and full glasses with family and friends. Of course, if you're the rare bird for who caramelized banana and nutella crepes hold no appeal, no worries. You can go the lighter route with honey-almond granola and fresh berries instead. Like every other art form, brunch is subjective. Average entree cost is about $10. (407-629-1150, 407-645-5006)
4 OLV Cafe
OLV Cafe is part of the burgeoning slice of real estate just south of downtown (SoDo), where progress, gentrification, call it what you will, has been transforming the landscape from relatively industrial into a thriving little slice of urban renewal. The OLV vibe: trendy and metropolitan but casual. The OLV brunch: quite liberally lauded. Why? It's a simple, well priced, unlimited buffet affair in a great little space -- with an even more inviting patio if the weather's just right -- where DJs spin and the mimosas flow freely in that refreshing, "Hey, I think I'll stay awhile..." all-you-can-drink fashion that's easy like Sunday morning. Servers pour the bubbly and diners amble to the self-serve bar to choose from an alluring array of juices with which to pair it. ((407) 722-5060)
3 Maxine's on Shine
One of the beauties of brunch is that it's something of a "Vulcan Meal Meld," giving foodies the option of cobbling together goodies they love for breakfast with fare they generally eat at lunch or dinner. Maxine's is no different -- offering selections like seasonal salads and blackened mahi in the same breath as omelets (the Parisian is stuffed with dill havarti, shrimp and asparagus -- nom!) and waffles. Though Maxine's on Shine is a delightful place for date night cocktails and dinner and live music, it retains its cozy, eclectic, neighborhood vibe -- not to mention gracious hosts and staff -- in broad daylight, as well. ((407) 674-6841)
2 The Boheme
Hotel: a delicious word that conjures crisp sheets, sleeping in, vacation. "Brunch" is another sleep-in kind of word. And when the accommodations in question are as top-tier as the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, then you know the brunch -- in this case a Jazz Brunch at its acclaimed Boheme restaurant -- is going to be something truly exceptional. Whether it's to linger in the last moments of your sumptuous weekend stay, in celebration of a special occasion or simply a decadent splurge, Sunday brunch at the Boheme will run you $39.95 per person ($9 for kids 6-12) and showcases all the hallmarks of high-end: a prime rib carving station, custom omelet station and fresh waffle station among them. Of course, brunch being what it is, it makes sense that you might want some snow crab legs, oysters or steamed shrimp to pair with that waffle. And did we mention the Kitchen Action Station, where seafood and meats are prepared to order? And that's not even the spread in its entirety. We're not sure how you'll save room for dessert, but we're sure you'll manage. Start strategizing now. (407-581-4700)
1 Cask & Larder
Brunch is a relatively new institution at this (also relatively new) Winter Park public house but it is indeed a match made in heaven. Cask & Larder is a SOUTHERN public house, you see, and the South slides as easily into brunch as your Maw-Maw into that creaky, old rocker on her porch. Down-homey flavors and textures -- pork belly, boiled peanut soup, grits, cornbread and the like -- may look a little dressed-up for church so artfully placed on the clean white plates, but stay true to where they come from. Brunch, of course, is as much a time for cocktails as it is Hollandaise sauce and C&L's creative cocktail menu -- the citrusy Sunday Morning Coming Down, the bubbly-infused Whiskey Smash -- is almost as fun to read out loud as it is to sample. ((321) 280-4200)
About A.D. Thompson
A.D. Thompson has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and roughly 15 as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.
A roller coaster enthusiast, A.D. readily admits there is fun to be had amid the madness of the theme parks, but has found there is magic, as well, in the outer-lying reaches of Mickey’s long shadow. She is delighted to share with you the spoils of her adopted city.
Visit her colorful compendium at www.amydrewthompson.com.
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