Brunch Every Day
Or at least every Sunday
By Billy Eye
My weaknesses have always been food and men – in that order.
— Dolly Parton
Sunday Brunch is back! Over the last month, the lovely and talented Lauren Quinn and I have been crashing Sunday brunches at various local venues, genuinely gobsmacked at the savory-licious dishes awaiting us.
And so it was that one recent Sunday, Lauren and I sat down at Freeman’s Grub & Pub for Brunch No. 1. Despite the fact that Eye can’t recall ever having had a satisfactory experience with this peculiar combination, I ordered the steak-and-eggs. Here, I was pleasantly surprised. Freeman’s plated a sizzling and delectable sirloin, topped with two eggs fried to perfection and the crowning touch, the deep, nutty magic of brown butter.
In addition to being a superb photographer and artist, Lauren Quinn is a multifaceted bartender and manager, which is why I wanted her point of view alongside mine. She ordered the brisket omelet, infused with pimento cheese and brisket sauce, plus a side of gouda grits. In her words, the combo was “divinely inspired.” She was equally pleased sampling her friend’s Black + Blue Omelet, stuffed with chopped filet, bacon, tomato and, of course, smoked blue cheese.
Located at the corner of Spring Garden and Elam in what was originally Freeman’s Grocery in the 1920s, the pub has a bit of an Al Capone vibe. So one doesn’t get drunk there, don’t you know, just mildly inebriated. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sit inside or on the shaded patio, where you can order cocktails from a full bar augmented with house-made creations like rosemary-and-garlic Pinnacle Vodka (a house-blended liquor used as the basis for their Bloody Marys) and cranberry-and-lemongrass Beefeater Gin (just add tonic). Yum!
The following week, we moseyed over to The Sage Mule for Brunch No. 2, where Lauren and I were immediately struck by its young, attractive and engaging staff. Although the Mule’s brunch specialties looked amazing as they whisked by us — chicken-and-waffles, frittata du jour and avocado toast — they were out of my first choice, the short rib Benedict. We both chose from the daily breakfast menu, served Wednesdays through Sundays from 8 a.m until closing, at 3 p.m.
Lauren dug into “The Sandwich” (cheddar omelet snuggled in a fresh baked brioche roll).
“Unbelievably delicious,” she managed between bites.
I happily grazed over their daily blue plate special — eggs with buttered toast, Neese’s sausage and light, crispy hash browns — simple is sometimes simply delicious. Judging by how packed the place was, it seems The Sage Mule has become the go-to morning spot following the 2020 closing of nearby Smith Street Diner. It’s a considerable upgrade. Everything they plate is made fresh in-house — pastries, cheesecakes, muffins, biscuits, bagels, as well as all of their breads, right down to the English Muffins.
And don’t think for a second that we didn’t try the Bloody Marys, which are served in glasses ringed not with salt, but a proprietary rub that Lauren suspects is some combination of lemon, garlic and turmeric, although they wouldn’t divulge the recipe. If you’re imbibing on The Sage Mule’s shaded patio, notice the fetchingly elaborate Gothic Revival house across Wharton Street that was built around 1888 for the gatekeeper of Green Hill Cemetery, just a headstone’s throw away. Recently serving as the offices for Samet Properties, the lot now displays a “For Sale” sign, which we noticed upon leaving.
Brunch No. 3? Chez Genèse, “The place of beginnings,” where Lauren and Eye dug into the ambrosial Eggs Benedict. Imagine three perfectly poached eggs atop layers of smoked salmon over homemade brioche and the most delicious Hollandaise sauce to have ever passed our lips. So what if we had to sit in the window? Being exceptionally good-looking individuals, it had to be great for business, which was brisk at 12:30, to say the least. This charming French bistro closes at 2 p.m. daily but offers brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays.
Chez Genèse is back and better than ever. In fact, we both agreed, if this was the only place in town open for brunch, we’d be perfectly happy.
Next Sunday the two of us plan to dine at the elegant Double Oaks Inn on Mendenhall, the newest site for Sunday Brunch that we know of. Featuring scratch-made delicacies — like sweet brioche with bourbon-praline filling topped with a sweet-and-salty orange bourbon glaze from Black Magnolia Southern Patisserie — refreshments from Borough Coffee (also local) and a kitchen and bar that serves breakfast fare and mimosas, what’s not to look forward to? In my experience, the food is exquisite here. They don’t take reservations, but the surroundings are spectacular and the staff, super friendly.
Built as a private home in 1906, Double Oaks is a stunningly beautiful Colonial Revival house fronted by a breathtaking two-story, Ionic portico with a wrap-around front-to-back porch and a lush, bucolic backyard. Did you know the two oak trees on the front lawn are over 200 years old? Looking forward to studying them over my Bloody Mary. OH
For someone who likes eating so much, it’s odd that Billy Eye weighs the same as he did when he attended Page High School. Photo by Lauren Quinn (told ya she was talented).