Brunch: Buyer Beware
David Coggins ponders the perils of brunch
Upon waking on a given weekend morning and feeling the reverberations of the night before, it’s perfectly understandable to want to leave the cooking to others. That’s why people make their way to diners and bistros, coffee shops and brasseries. In New York in particular, there’s a bleary-eyed pilgrimage to get strong coffee, eggs Benedict, and, you know what, maybe a Bloody Mary, too.
But let’s be clear, except for a precious few restaurants, brunch is a ritual that strikes a perilous balance. A late lunch at Balthazar of, say, roast chicken and a glass of Burgundy is one thing, waiting in line to sit elbow to elbow in a West Village restaurant is decidedly another.
On the merits of the menu, brunch leaves much to be desired. In the nether region between an invigorating breakfast and an indulgent late lunch, brunch (the very word is an unappetizing mouthful) is often comfort food that’s a little too comfortable. Once it’s over you want to go back to bed. There is a consensus among chefs that brunch is not the pinnacle of the culinary craft (perhaps none more so than Anthony Bourdain, who dealt with the matter directly: ‘Cooks hate brunch.’).
But it’s not simply the meal. It’s being surrounded by people trying to recover from the night before or trying to relive it, and not all exploits stand up to scrutiny in the clear light of day. And it seems like every brunch joint has tables so close together that you’re in closer quarters than the bar you fled the night before. In search of ease, brunch becomes far more demanding than it needs to be.
It’s enough to make you want to stay in bed.
DAVID COGGINS is a regular contributor to Art in America and Artnet. His work has also appeared in Interview, Modern Painters, The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He is currently working on a book for Taschen. This holiday season, Mr Coggins will be elaborating upon the perilous art of gift giving with his weekly Gifts Most Welcome series here on 5th/58th. In addition, he’s our in-house scribe and usual tumblr contributor.