We can thank the golden age of transcontinental train travel for the popularity of brunch. At least, that’s the theory espoused by Evan Jones in his American Food: The Gastronomic Story.
According to Jones, luxury trains zipping from New York to Los Angeles in the 1930s would stop in Chicago, allowing the high rollers of the day to detrain and enjoy a leisurely brunch in the Windy City.
Although the custom itself is said to have originated in Victorian England, it became entrenched here during the late ’40s and early ’50s. It’s still among the most popular of weekend pleasures.
Menus have changed over the years, but there are brunch classics — from eggs Benedict and French toast to mimosas and Bellinis — that have stood the test of time.
Following are eight interesting metro Detroit brunch options to tempt your Sunday-morning appetite — all of them a la carte. Buffet-style brunch is something that’s more and more reserved for such special occasions as Easter and Mother’s Day.
2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543, cliffbells.com.
Luxury train travelers in the early decades of the last century would have felt right at home at this Art Deco gem in the heart of downtown. It glows with vintage charm. Elements include a coved ceiling, burnished wood, and mellow lighting — even in the morning. The brunch menu follows the retro theme, with items such as shrimp and grits, steak and eggs with béarnaise, fruit salad with mint and vanilla-bean crème fraîche, and eggs Benedict — or a variation on the theme the chef calls eggs Benedict du jour.
> WILD MUSHROOM OMELET with goat cheese, chives, microgreens, and balsamic reduction.
Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub
612 Woodward, Detroit; 313-961-3043, grandtrunkpub.com.
The name comes from the setting: The historic downtown building, which dates to 1879 and boasts a 25-foot vaulted ceiling, original plaster, and carved-wood trim, served as the Grand Trunk railroad ticket office for many years. Despite the antiquities, this is a casual spot with a tavern atmosphere and a menu of corned-beef hash, potatoes O’Brien, Monte Cristo and Grand Trunk Reuben sandwiches, and one signature item: a lobster omelet with portobello mushrooms, leeks, Swiss cheese, and hollandaise.
> LOBSTER OMELET (top)
Foran’s signature omelet filled with lobster, portobello mushrooms, sautéed leeks,
and Swiss cheese, topped with hollandaise.
> LOBSTER BENEDICT (bottom)
Warmed spinach, tomato, lobster, egg, and hollandaise on an English muffin.
Beverly Hills Grill
31471 Southfield Rd., Beverly Hills; 248-642-2355, beverlyhillsgrill.com.
Relaxed and laid-back as it has been since it opened in 1988, the 80-seat restaurant still doesn’t take reservations and it’s one of the few places where patrons accept a wait. Breakfast is served daily, but Sundays get special emphasis with such dishes as bananas-Foster French toast with candied pecans, pan-seared trout, jumbo-lump crab cake Benedict, and specials chalked on the board above the kitchen window.
> POTATO LATKE ‘SANDWICH’
Canadian bacon, Brie, over-easy egg, and sweet onion.
La Dolce Vita
17546 Woodward, Detroit; 313-865-0331, ldvdetroit.com.
Hands down, this is the most romantic brunch spot in town, with its leafy courtyard patio shaded by garden umbrellas and the large arched windows in the dining room offering a garden view for those who prefer to stay indoors. The brunch menu, which has a bit of an Italian spin, offers a pasta of the day (such as fettuccine Florentine or cheese ravioli), mascarpone-stuffed French toast, steak and eggs, and the elegant artichoke-and-salmon dish called eggs Sardou.
> FRENCH TOAST
Three extra-thick slices of homemade bread stuffed with mascarpone and served with maple syrup and sautéed bananas.
Brookshire at the Royal Park Hotel
600 E. University, Rochester; 248-453-8732, royalparkhotel.net.
Although the restaurant in this boutique hotel once served a lavish buffet, brunch is now ordered from an a la carte menu with a surprisingly contemporary spin, given the Old World elegance of the chandeliered dining room. Brunch guests choose from among such offerings as Thai-style chocolate-and-banana crêpes with mango, papaya, and mint salad; Asian-spiced crispy pressed pork belly; aged white cheddar-and-pear panini; and smoked duck-breast salad. Quite a change from the days of carved roast beef.
> THAI-STYLE CHOCOLATE & BANANA CREPES (top)
Thin crêpes with chocolate, bananas, toasted coconut, and sweet condensed milk, accompanied by a mango, papaya, and mint salad.
> BREAKFAST PIZZA MAISON (bottom)
Prosciutto, Gruyère, heirloom tomatoes, crème fraîche, and fried eggs.
The Rugby Grille at The Townsend Hotel
100 Townsend St., Birmingham; 248-642-5999, townsendhotel.com.
Something of an oasis with its English country-house elegance, luxe linens, and attentive service, this clubby restaurant allows diners to choose from among such breakfast items as Belgian waffles and apple-crisp French toast or the more solid bangers and mash, Angus sirloin burgers, and grilled-chicken and green-chile burrito.
> TUSCAN ‘BREAKFAST’ BOWL
Grilled sourdough bruschetta tossed with tomatoes, applewood bacon,
arugula, ricotta, and poached eggs.
6407 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield township; 248-626-8585, ordershangrila.com.
Dim sum — an array of pan-fried and steamed dumplings, barbecued pork-stuffed buns, sticky rice, garlic-chive pancakes, sesame balls, and much more — is trundled through the elaborately decorated dining rooms via cart, making brunch Asian style a special treat. There’s no need to order from the menu; just point at the savory or sweet items that appeal. Many are served in multiples of three and are meant for sharing. The restaurant, with its interior awash in etched glass, painted mirrors, and carvings, has been serving dim sum since 1996.
> DIM SUM
Parsley and scallop kau (top left), curry chicken pastry (top middle), baked cream bun (top right), shiu mai (middle left), shark-fin kau (middle right), egg tart (bottom left), pan-fried dumplings (bottom right).
236 S. Main St., Clawson; 248-280-2552.
Breakfast and lunch are a way of life at this cozy 35-seat spot set back from sidewalk in a modest strip of shops. It’s all they do, adding specials and sometimes live acoustic music on Sundays as a backdrop to a menu of three-egg Italian omelets ranging from shrimp and feta to salmon, asparagus, and crabmeat. Other options include cinnamon French toast and an array of sandwiches and salads — all prettily dished up.
> CHICKEN MARIE FRITTATA
Roasted chicken in a sun-dried tomato-and-basil frittata, baked with an asiago
bread-crumb crust and finished with a sauté of sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts,
basil, and roasted garlic, in beurre-blanc sauce.