Brunch and booze: Do you need more of an intro? Yes? Then let’s shamelessly self-promote our annual Fresh Toast brunch festival, happening March 25 at Newport Dunes—buy your tickets TODAY!
You’ll find many of the restaurants on this list there, serving dishes to entice you to visit them and get your drink on. So why are we doing our Brunch issue nearly a month before Fresh Toast?
BREAK OF DAWN
Dee Nguyen’s Asian/Latino/French/whatever-the-fuck-he-wants brunches have ruled Orange County for more than a decade, but his booze game deserves love: a tangy passion-fruit mimosa and a spicy bacon Asian Mary, soju that makes regular Bloody Marys taste like the water that pools on the roof of old buildings. Drink two or eight, and remember: Those are church pews that Dee uses for people waiting outside because it’s time for service in the Lord’s house. 24291 Avenida de la Carlota, Laguna Hills, (949) 587-9418; breakofdawnrestaurant.com.
SEALEGS WINE BAR
Come to SeaLegs any Saturday morning, and you’re liable to be met at the door with a crowd of people carrying bridal-shower gifts and balloons. For everyone else, SeaLegs is a brunch Mecca not for the omelets, which taste more like frittatas, but rather for the prospect of endless mimosas. The best drink, though, has to be the Instant Breakfast Mason Jar, an iced mixture of vodka,
WHAT A DISH CAFE
While its wedding side business is called “It’s All About the Cake,” for What a Dish Cafe, it’s all about the Benedicts. Nearly everyone who brunches here gets bennies, especially the one with crab cakes. So should you. To wash it down, most will opt for the Bloody Mason, which is poured into a gigantic 32-ounce Mason jar. So should you. And since the drink also includes bacon and enough garnish for a salad, you might as well pay a little more to upgrade it so that an actual slider is thrown in there to make it a meal. 24921 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Ste. B100, Dana Point, (949) 427-9904; www.whatadishoc.com.
When you’re looking for a no-nonsense Bloody Mary that won’t cost as much as your meal, go to JT Schmid’s. The drink comes with the requisite garnishes—olives, a celery stalk, lime and a salt-rimmed glass—and it’s all you need to complement its spicy tang and vodka burn. Because there’s really only a fine line between a Bloody Mary and a big glass of boozed-up salsa, it’ll go really well with the rich, runny yolks of the huevos rancheros. 2415 Park Ave., Tustin, (714) 258-0333; www.jtschmidsrestaurants.com.
A giant green chalkboard is scribbled with cartoons, and there are teacups and painted chairs nailed to the wall. The coffee is free from a pour-it-yourself station, and the Bloody Marys are especially stiff and spicy, garnished with microgreens and a snow-crab claw gripping a lemon wedge. But these aren’t the only reasons why Starling Diner is a darling of the Belmont Heights brunch scene. The French toast, broiled baguettes soaked in crème Anglaise and injected with mascarpone, is arguably the best of its kind in Southern California. 4114 E. Third St., Long Beach, (562) 433-2041; www.starlingdiner.info.
Say it with us: “Frosé all day!” Your margarita-meets-rosé treat awaits at this dockside destination. Dive into chef Deborah Schneider’s Baja-inspired cuisine, featuring chilaquiles
ALTA BAJA MARKET
Alta Baja owner Delilah Snell (wife of our Mexican-in-Chief) has the elixir to our
Noah Blom, a chef who has a Luddite-like aversion to gas or electrical appliances, cooks rustic all-day breakfasts using a wood fire, including a greaseless, golden-fried chicken breast drenched with gravy that’s served over a gigantic biscuit and topped with a perfectly fried egg. And since you can eat pancakes and bacon here any time of day, the Bloody Mary or mimosa (here called Trinidad Sunrise) can also be had after sundown to start off your night right. 3321 Hyland Ave., Ste. G, Costa Mesa, (949) 402-3974; www.restaurantmarin.com.
When the server at the main restaurant for the Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club asks, "Would you like a mimosa or Champagne?” as soon as you’re seated, respond in the affirmative. The bottomless flute adds only a nominal fee to the nearly $40 charge you’re about to incur, so why not? Here, it’s not the dinners or the discounted happy hours that’s the
MAMA’S ON 39
The Sunday brunch here is known for two things: long-ass waits and big-ass Bloody Marys. The Mama Mary is a 32-ounce behemoth served cold in a giant Mason jar and punctuated with a celery stalk and pickled veggies. It’s available in a half-size for the weak, or if the $16 price tag is too steep for your tastes. Bottomless Champagne is available for $12.99 (or
Anepalco’s cocktail game is strong seven days a week, but the weekends bring its Brunch Punch: a refreshing cocktail that changes weekly yet is always perfect for enjoying in the morning hours. A recent incarnation was a delightful St.-Germain-based cocktail with a Champagne float and sprig of fresh rosemary. The punch was easily the most-ordered cocktail of the day, flying off the bar with assembly-line frequency. Of course, the michelada is worth ordering, too: Pick from the six beers on tap for your mix and enjoy the fizzy but filling beverage served with house-made Tajin rim and lemon wheel. Don’t dilly-dally, though—Anepalco closes at 2:30 p.m. to prep for dinner. 3737 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 456-9642; www.anepalco.com.
Exclusive to its weekend brunch is this spot’s Bloody Maria, a secret blend of
You know it’s going to be a Sunday
CHAPTER ONE: THE MODERN LOCAL
The Sunday brunches were so popular here owner Jeff Jensen had to add a Saturday service—not that anyone is complaining. Chef Jason Montelibano’s return to Chapter One’s kitchen translated to turkey-chorizo-wrapped Scotch eggs, perfectly medium-rare steak with chimichurri sauce, and divine shrimp with feta chilaquiles. Its dedicated boozy brunch list includes rosemary-infused syrup in a popular Madame Bovary blend, plus a quirky Uncommon Grounds (Cold Fashioned) featuring chocolate bitters, Rittenhouse
THE PUBLIC HOUSE BY EVANS BREWING CO.
Downtown Fullerton’s all-weekend brunch should be mandatory for hangover cures (and those seeking a hangover). Relish the ample parking and get nostalgic over big hair while the TVs rock videos from the ’80s. We dig the McEgg, a hot mess with white Cheddar and honey ham inside a buttery brioche. And the breakfast potatoes are fork-tender, colorful coins. A refreshing Dandy Shandy beer cocktail includes muddled berries in a Pollen Nation Honey Blonde. But our preferred sip is Public House’s Japanese whiskey sour, Rising Sun, containing L’orgeat almond syrup, Angostura
BOSSCAT KITCHEN AND LIBATIONS
Lines around Bosscat every Sunday morning are all the proof we need regarding its brunch devotion—plus there’s the Fruity Pebbles French toast with extra syrup for staging a Boomerang. (Post a picture-perfect Instagram and tag @bckitchen, and you might just win a prize!) Housing one of the largest selections of whiskey around, ease into your meal with a bubbly Aperol Spritz as your first round. 4647 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 333-0917; www.bosscatkitchen.com.
OLD VINE CAFÉ
Old Vine doesn’t need a full liquor license to get you sauced up at brunch thanks to its extensive selection of wine, Champagne,
THE BREAKFAST BAR
The signature omelet casserole is neither an omelet nor a casserole. Since it dissipates like an eggy cloud in your mouth, it most closely resembles a cheese soufflé. It’s just one of the Breakfast Bar’s many food epiphanies, including an Everest of hot fries smothered with cut-up sausage, gravy, pico de gallo and cheese-laced scrambled eggs called "Hung Over.” In spite of (or is it because of?) its name, the dish goes especially well with an invigorating glass of cucumber lemonade spiked with soju. 70 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, (562) 726-1700; www.the-breakfast-bar.com.
Sure, you can order a mimosa or margarita here, but the main attraction is the build-your-own Bloody Mary. Pick your poison from a variety of gin and vodka; if you’re feeling extra-sinful, there’s the "Meaty Man Bloody Mary” (a
Here is the ultimate
Brunching on Sundays became even better when
The recently retooled menu has a thoughtfully plated crab Benedict that’s all about a citrus hollandaise. Chef Michael Pham knows folks are seeking the perfect yolk porn. Pair your indulgence with the bar’s New York sour; whiskey always plays well with others. 27741 Crown Valley Pkwy., Mission Viejo, (949) 226-8949; eatanchorhitch.com.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: This is where Mexican moms take their family whenever they don’t want to cook on weekends, with all the regular items they’d probably do at home:
EL MERCADO MODERN CUISINE
We voted bar manager Cesar Cerrudo Best Bartender of 2016 for his consciously curated and inventive cocktails. His full menu is offered during breakfast, but start off with Cerrudo’s Chasqui. A combination of pisco Capurro Moscatel and citrusy Calisaya liqueur makes a refreshing honeyed aromatic cocktail. Be sure to order the buttermilk pancakes as you make your way down the cocktail list—these burnt piloncillo flapjacks are ridiculously fluffy and have a caramelized crust. 301 N. Spurgeon St., Santa Ana, (714) 338-2446; www.mercadomodern.com.
Chef Carlos Salgado was recently named a semifinalst for the James Beard Award’s Best Chef In the West category for the second year in a row—congrats! That means the wait for a brunch spot will only be longer and the anticipation for his spectacular alta cocina cuisine that much better. When you finally sit down, immediately order Taco María’s michelada: a deep, savory, slightly spicy elixir that combines perfectly with the can of Modelo you’ll be given. 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 538-8444; www.tacomaria.com.
KELLY’S KORNER TAVERN
Beer for brunch? Kelly’s has weekend bottomless mimosas, but take advantage of the ever-rotating selection of taps to wash down one of the best pub brunches in North OC: strong steak and eggs, a Morning Glory (Sriracha ketchup, bacon and a fried egg on an Angus patty) breakfast burger and a carnitas omelet so paisa it should be sold from a front lawn off Standard in
ORANGE COUNTY MINING CO.
This rustic-yet-ritzy, buffet-style brunch in the Orange hills is as close to a brunch on the Knott’s Berry Farm mining ride as you can find. Their Miner’s Style Buffet Brunch offers a carving station of prime rib and ham, a build-your-own omelet bar, iced shrimp and snow crab legs, even a soft-serve ice cream station as dessert. The brunch fare includes bottomless mimosas, and the cocktail menu veers toward the traditional with pisco sours, Singapore Slings, Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. It also offers, for an additional fee, pitchers of cocktails such as mojitos and margaritas. 10000 Crawford Canyon Rd., Orange, (714) 997-7411; www.orangecountyminingco.com.
Be sure to pace yourself with the three flavors of bottomless mimosas you can choose from. Not into mimosas? Try the mango shots, flavored margaritas and micheladas with tamarindo served in hefty Mason jars. After el chupe, sober up with homemade tamales, chilaquiles, menudo, machaca, huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, tortas de huevo, decadent tres leches French toast or banana pancakes—all freshly cooked by a matriarch proudly hailing from Jalisco. 11125 S. First Ave., Whittier, (562) 902-1000. Instagram: @tacolyfela.
CROW BAR & KITCHEN
While neighboring coastal eateries have long waits out the door for bottomless mimosas, the Crow Bar & Kitchen is a local’s walk-in Sunday brunch. Comfort food and stiff cocktails are the game here. Gorge on the breakfast hangover burger, as you sip its modern take on an Old Fashioned: the Basil Hayden, a light and spicy bourbon, infused with citrusy grapefruit bitters. 2325 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Corona Del Mar, (949) 675-0070; www.crowbarcdm.com.
Easily the best-looking dining space to open last year, we dig the lounge, indoor bar, even the oyster bar at South Coast Plaza’s newest star. While an extensive menu is always available at brunch, its weekend offerings comfortably cover your cravings. Quiche Lorraine and lemon ricotta pancakes feed savory and sweet tendencies. Salmon rillettes also impress, complemented by a Ramos gin fizz with hints of citrus. Of course, there’s also a fanciful Prosecco flight to imbibe. Afterward, you can cross the bridge for some retail therapy. 3300 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (949) 208-7060; www.watergrill.com.
WHO SONG AND LARRY’S
Who Song and Larry’s #HangoverBrunch is an effervescent buffet so large that hostesses are more than happy to offer a tour. There’s the ice-chilled seafood bar complete with snow crab legs and oysters on the half-shell. There’s the outdoor taco stand, with tacos and decorated elote made to order, as well as an expansive salsa bar to garnish each. Beyond that is the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. The cost of admission ($29.99 for adults, $12.50 for children) includes all-you-can-drink mimosas—and the staff make good on that offer: On a recent trip, our server left us a glass of Champagne with which we could freshen up our mimosas at a writer’s pace. Now that’s service! 1535 W. Katella Ave., Orange, (714) 639-9550; www.whosongandlarrys.com.
TAPS FISH HOUSE & BREWERY
This place calls its Sunday festivities "TAPS Brunch Extravaganza,” and the name ain’t hyperbole. The buffet-style glut-fest is a smorgasbord of high-quality meats, seafoods and desserts. There’s an omelet bar and the crepes are made to order, even a chocolate fountain with strawberries and other fresh fruits available for your dipping pleasure. There’s almost enough decadence here to distract you from the bountiful drink menu—almost. Your ticket to ride includes bottomless mimosas or two of TAPS’s house-brewed craft beers. The cocktail selection changes seasonally (and is in addition to the cost of brunch), but there’s always the Bloody Mary, garnished with veggies and bacon and served with a cream ale back. 101 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 257-0101; also at 13390 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (714) 619-0404; www.tapsfishhouse.com.
Titans and other denizens of downtown Fullerton gather at the Matador Cantina each Sunday for a brunch that’s as delicious as it is affordable. While most restaurants do the $10 bottomless mimosa deal, Matador opts for a $12 option that’s still affordable considering the generous Champagne pours and the $6 cocktail specials. A Lincoln and a Washington will get you a Screwdriver, Greyhound, Bloody Mary or Bloody Maria. Mimosas ain’t your thing? Order a Manmosa, which is a mixture of Blue Moon and Svedka clementine vodka for $7 per pint or $25 per pitcher. The booze game is so strong here we only have two words left to describe the food: chorizo ravioli. 111 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 871-8226; thematador.com.
Fresh Toast at Newport Dunes, 1131 Back Bay Dr., Newport Beach. March 25, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. $35-$60; purchase tickets at bit.do/freshtoast. .