I used to resent brunch. Why crowd out diner breakfasts—over-easy yolk spilling into crisp hash browns—or a predawn pancake stack savored in the stillness of a winter morning? Why render redundant the lazy joy of a weekend lunch, one ideally involving wine, a wedge of Camembert, and the sense of inhabiting some more civilized country?
This position shifted around 2012 when I left Seattle for a bit to work as a restaurant reviewer in Washington, DC. To deliver dining tips to this megapolis of six million, our team carved up long lists of eateries across the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. We’d then spend days eating our way through them, eventually arriving at final recommendations. Scouting the area’s brunches, then, could require three syrup-soaked meals in one day. So I started early.
The get-there-when-it-opens brunch crowd lives at the fringes of society’s schedule. Parents of swaddled infants share banquettes with stoned stumble-ins and retiree tourists fueling up for a day of bucket-listing. And, occasionally, the solo restaurant reporter, ordering half the menu then asking for 80 percent of it to go.
After a marathon of dining this way, brunch’s in-betweenness—sweet or savory, first meal or last, hair-of-the-dog or just getting started—began to seem not so much intrusive as inclusive. I was navigating a divorce at the time, and as the facade of success crumbled around me, the bleary weirdness became an unexpected source of hope. This is America, after all. Our lunches may not always include a cheese course, but we’ve got reinvention on lock. Where else can you create a whole new meal and a new word, and pretty soon diners will queue up outside to pay $12 for half a glass of Prosecco with orange juice splashed on top. In fact, keep them coming.
Today, ask me about a brunch spot in Seattle and I’ll point you to Fat’s Chicken and Waffles at the corner of Cherry Street and MLK. This bustling black-owned business serves rich, Southern-style brunch dishes to guests who reflect the shifting demographic of the neighborhood and of the city too. Young families, twentysomething day-drinkers, construction workers, writer buddies, church groups, they’re all here.
It’s noisy, it’s crowded, sometimes you stand on the sidewalk for 30 minutes before getting to eat. But roll with it, and you’ll get both a great meal and a reminder of why you live in this city in the first place. Both are worth the wait.