If the point of dining out is to order something that you can’t make at home, then brunch is a consistently underwhelming endeavor. Eggs and french toast can be whipped up in an instant in any kitchen. Moreover, they can tend to become overpriced and underwhelming in the hands of chefs and restaurant groups. Bottomless mimosas aren’t the hair of the dog, they’re an express ticket to another painful headache, and waiting for late friends to show up anywhere is its own special hell. You could easily argue that the classic brunch model has always been overrated.
The good news is it’s not all farmer’s market quiche and vintage waffle irons here in Los Angeles, where a number of spots are going the extra mile on a Sunday morning to serve up something new and interesting. If you’re embarking on a late-morning meal with friends, consider these great restaurants that offer slightly different and delicious takes on an exhausted institution.
Piccalilli is fusion that focuses on flavor, quality, and a lot of Southeast Asian ingredients. The spicy crispy rice salad is, for all intents and purposes, fried rice. It’s a shrewd way to make you feel better about ordering fried rice at 11 a.m., but this dish is joyous. Crispy grains of rice are mixed with seared pork meatballs, blistered chunks of umami-rich king oyster mushrooms that look and taste like lardon, and sambal. The mixture of chili paste and vinegar that permeates every grain makes for a delightfully piquant dish. The nam prik wings have a lasting, pleasant spiciness to them. You’ll actually want to delay having a sip of water to savor the heat, and the lime wedge feels right at home with this American-comfort/Thai mashup. The chicken katsu is juicy and hearty; you can scrape a knife on the cutlet and hear the scratch of the perfectly fried breading. Expect a lot of herbs; mint and cilantro find their way into a lot of the side salads and fixings. Brunch hours: Sunday, noon-2 p.m.; 3850 Main St., Culver City.
Big Boi makes the list for their ube butter waffles alone. You’ve probably seen this purple yam make its way into an ice cream or your halo-halo, but here Big Boi puts ube not only in their waffle batter, they make a damn butter with it. There’s a creaminess and mellow nuttiness to ube that’s a lot like taro. The eye-popping purple delights need to be tried at least once. Currently, you can get these on Sundays. Brunch hours: Ube Waffles are available Sundays starting at 11 a.m.; 2027 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A.
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As far as vegan brunch is concerned, Gracias Madre may do it best. Everything on the menu has extra flavor, from the pimento potato flautas to some of the best damn chilaquiles you’ve ever had. Their food hums with energy, popping you in the mouth with bright, acidic flavors, and the gorditas made with stewed black beans, avocado, crema, and salsa verde oozes with a spectacular creaminess. Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; 8905 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood.
République, in many ways the consummate brunch restaurant, is unconventional because it’s a fine dining-esque version of brunch that’s actually worth the money you’re paying. You’ll see a ton of classic items, like brioche French toast and quiche, but then some of République’s dishes just abruptly whack you across the face with decadent ingredients. Take the humble potato pancake, which is loaded with smoked salmon, salmon roe, hollandaise, and a poached egg. Another otherwise meek dish, mushroom toast, marries into royalty with house-cured ham, a red wine demi-glace, hollandaise, spinach, and scrambled eggs. What’s great about this place is that they just fully lean into indulgence. République will baptize your baby in hollandaise if you ask them to, and we love them for it. Breakfast served daily from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., lunch begins at 11 a.m.; 624 S. La Brea Ave., Hancock Park.
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OK, so technically Kusina Filipina doesn’t serve a special menu for brunch, but they do open at 10 a.m. every day and they have a consistently slept-on breakfast menu. Plus, a mound of sizzling and succulent pork topped with onions, chiles, and a fried egg is about as brunchy as it gets. For breakfast they do Longganisa, a spicy and aromatic Fiipino sausage, with fried eggs. They serve an eggplant omelette, as well as cured chicken and eggs, and all of their breakfast items come with garlic fried rice. There’s no French toast or pancakes, but to hit that sweet spot, you still get the benefit of indulging in the eternally chaotic halo-halo or some delicious flan. Also, instead of charging you $12 for a bloody Mary, they sell buckets of beer. Although it doesn’t explicitly say brunch, this family-owned-and-operated restaurant has been serving brunch seven days a week. No lines, plenty of alcohol, and big portions of delightful Filipino classics. This is the place to eat you’ve been overlooking. Open daily at 10 a.m.; 4157 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock.
Tree of Wishes opened in February of 2020, but was immediately stifled by the pandemic. Now, they’re back, and chef Alex Guzauski is serving coastal Mediterranean food. The founders of the restaurant, Esra Firatli and Faith Ozkara, are both from the Aegean part of Turkey, where their influence also resides. The dinner menu features tinkered-with classics like marinated anchovies on grilled sourdough, grilled octopus and potatoes, and grilled salmon skewers wrapped in grape leaves. Brunch will have more of the same sensibilities when it launches in August. Menemen (think like a Turkish shakshuka) slides sunny-side-up eggs over a stew of tomatoes and peppers that comes with grilled sourdough and herbs. They will also feature a burger with the same regional affect: muhammara, spiced labneh, marinated tomatoes, and an aegean salad round out a thick patty of ground meat. Eating at Tree of Wishes feels like dining in an elegant neighborhood alley, so when this brunch becomes available next month, you’ll want to check it out. Brunch hours: TBA; 7469 Melrose Ave., Fairfax.
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