Food & Drink

The Terrible Truth About Bottomless Brunch

We are of the belief that everything should be enjoyed in moderation. We are also of the belief that a great deal is a great deal. Which is why all-you-can-drink brunch provides the ultimate dilemma.

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As anyone who has ever participated in an all-you-can-drink brunch will tell you, it can be a great idea when handled responsibly. But going bottomless is more charming in plan than it is in execution. Often, people forget that it wil completely hijack your day.

Sure, things start off just fine. "What a great price!" you might think to yourself, perusing the menu of a restaurant that offers the tempting deal. "It costs the same amount to order one drink and an entree as it does to order an ever-flowing supply of drinks and an entree!" Plus, the only plan you have for later is to go to a movie, which you will totally make.

From there, things escalate quickly. The notion of only having "a drink or two" fades fast, and soon you're making plans for the next bar rather than making that movie you so badly wanted to see.

In fact, any hope of making it to whatever responsible activity you were planning on doing later pretty much goes out the window. Who cares if you go grocery shopping every Sunday? You'll live without that for a week. No clean underwear left? No problem! You'll just go commando. You're always saying you want to live more in the moment, and trading laundry for lagers is a no brainer, right?

A few hours and destinations later, a nap is the only viable next option. So you go home, get into sweats (maybe) and fall into a sweet sleep on the couch. The nap is a crucial and obvious part of the deal, and when it starts, you'll think it's your best idea yet.

That is, of course, until you wake up in a pool of self-loathing and bloat, as you reach for the computer to order Seamless for dinner.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of La Condesa Where: Austin For brunch with a south-of-the-border twist, this James Beard Foundation nominee is the perfect stop. Austin-favorite La Condesa dishes out creative Mexican fare, perfect for diners looking for something unusual, in its minimalist, brightly lit dining room. Poached shrimp, wild boar chorizo, duck fat-braised potatoes, and quinoa croquettes pair with fresh vegetables and various salsas, while a white mountain yogurt parfait and a Spanish variation of French toast will satisfy any sweet tooth. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Austin Travel Guide
Photo Credit: David L. Reamer Where: Portland The recently remodeled Tasty n Sons is the quintessence of a casual neighborhood brunch place with a no-frills dining room and modern menu. Executive chef John Gorham uses his traveling experience to mesh global cuisine with American favorites, resulting in a tantalizing brunch line-up. You’ll find everything from a traditional English breakfast, to Burmese red pork stew, to Moroccan chicken hash on Gorham’s menu, also packed with reimagined favorites like a chocolate potato doughnut and sweet huckleberry biscuits. Six different Bloody Marys and a host of other breakfast cocktails round out the morning offerings. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Portland Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Cliff's Edge Where: Los Angeles Don’t let the unassuming exterior fool you; Cliff’s Edge is as much about the atmosphere as the food. Brunch is served every weekend al fresco on the restaurant’s lush, tiki-esque patio, designed by an illustrious local interior designer and urban developer. Chef Vartan Abgaryan’s “modern Californian” menu combines brunch staples with West Coast-inspired flavors. Lemon and ricotta pancakes and brioche “bread pudding” French toast are two of the more decadent options, while diners looking for something more savory can tuck into pork belly hash with feta and Brussels sprouts, or a breakfast rendition of pasta carbonara. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Los Angeles Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kingsbury Street Cafe Where: Chicago If you’re lucky enough to be in the Windy City on a sunny, warm day, there’s no better place to enjoy the pleasant weather while you eat than Kingsbury Street Cafe. Try a custom-made omelet or the always-decadent rotating French toast next to floor-to-ceiling windows, or opt for the more unusual breakfast quinoa or miso tofu scramble, and grab a seat on the patio along Kingsbury Street in the Near North neighborhood. Line too long? Grab one of the homemade pastries to go. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Colin Lacy Where: New Orleans Jazz music and brunch go hand-in-hand in the Big Easy, and Atchafalaya hits all the right notes with an indulgent New Orleans-style menu. Executive chef Chris Lynch whips up shrimp and grits, duck hash, and a variety of egg dishes plated alongside local favorites such as popcorn crawfish and alligator sausage. While a line at Atchafalaya is likely, a teeming Bloody Mary bar and a lively, bustling atmosphere will keep things interesting during the wait for this authentic NOLA brunch. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s New Orleans Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Andrea Behrends Where: Nashville With a bowling alley, bocce ball court, and outdoor pool, Nashville’s Pinewood Social begins to look more like a rec center than a restaurant, but the ultra-hip “social gathering place” is the ideal spot to start your day in Music City. Luckily, the slightly nutty concept has in no way hindered the menu, stocked with Southern-inspired favorites like fried green tomatoes, chicken and biscuits, and a smoked trout omelet. Diners should opt for the indulgent Crema Cuban, espresso mixed with sweetened condensed milk, to complement their brunch. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Nashville Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Birch & Barley Where: Washington, D.C. Carbs and cocktails dominate at this Logan Circle spot, where the $30 boozy brunch special gets you two cocktails, freshly fried donut holes, bottomless coffee, and any entrée. Choices range from fried chicken and waffles, to a fig and prosciutto flatbread, in addition to the usual brunch offerings. Enjoy the best of pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac’s offerings in Birch & Barley’s wood-accented dining room lit by twinkling exposed light bulbs. Grab a coffee at the upstairs Churchkey bar while you wait for your table. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Washington, D.C. Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Charlie Villyard Where: San Francisco Expect to make a dramatic entrance when you brunch at Foreign Cinema, whose entryway leads visitors down a red carpet into a sweeping indoor-outdoor dining room. The menu, prepared by San Francisco veteran chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark, is equally impressive. Look for organic fuji apple “pop tarts,” lavender warmed goat cheese served with toast, duck leg confit, and any of the fresh seafood offerings. Foreign Cinema is one of the elusive brunch restaurants that takes reservations, so plan ahead to avoid a long wait. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s San Francisco Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Anthony Leslie Where: New York City Picking one brunch spot in any city is tough, let alone in one as brunch-inclined as New York, but Buttermilk Channel is one of the best with a simply delicious, uncomplicated menu. Named after the nearby strait that runs between Brooklyn and Governors Island, the Carroll Gardens restaurant dishes out brunch every weekend to a crowd of tourists and locals alike in a refurbished Red Hook warehouse. Chef Ryan Angulo’s comfort food menu finds originality in its details: scrambled eggs come with house-cured lox, Bloody Marys are garnished with homemade pickles, and French toast is served “pecan pie” style with bourbon and molasses. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Squire Fox Where: Charleston Helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Robert Stehling, Hominy Grill delivers authentic, Low Country breakfast favorites served in a quaint, repurposed barbershop. Homemade sausage and locally sourced grits make Stehling’s menu stand out with impressively fresh flavors. While you’ll be spoiled for choice at Hominy Grill, with reimagined Southern favorites like salmon potato cakes and a fried green tomato B.L.T., the Charleston Nasty Biscuit—a flaky, buttery biscuit served with fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese, and sausage gravy—is a must-try. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Charleston Travel Guide