Table for One

I Think We Can All Agree That This Is the Worst Meal to Pay For

This week, our Table for One columnist is staying in.

September 27, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop Stylist: Sophie Strangio.

Table for One is a weekly column by Senior Editor Eric Kim, who loves brunching alone and seeks to celebrate the beauty of solitude in its many forms.

I have a proposition: Let’s cancel brunch. Or at least, what it’s become: waking up before noon on the weekend, followed by an hour-long wait for overpriced food and sugary cocktails at a crowded restaurant.

Who ever said this was a good idea?

There’s always that one friend who suggests it first. Let’s meet at 11 a.m. on a Sunday, 50 minutes outside of where we all live.

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“Yes, yes it does. ”
— Hannah

I’m always that friend who casually inches the meeting time closer to 2 to 3 p.m. Everyone agrees (for the most part).

The thing is, brunch was meant to be fun. Most sources concur that Guy Beringer coined the word first, in an 1895 Hunter’s Weekly essay titled “Brunch: A Plea,” as an antidote to having to wake up early for no reason. According to Beringer, the “world would be kinder and more charitable if” we all slept in on Sunday, skipping breakfast and opting instead for a late meal no sooner than noon.

Brunch is, he asserted, "cheerful, sociable, and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper; it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow-beings. It sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.” Not only would such a meal allow for more revelry into Saturday evening, it would also omit the need for breakfast, which is, in Beringer’s words, “consoling, but not exhilarating.”

I’ve never been much of a breakfast person myself: I prefer a single six-minute egg most mornings, if only to stave off the black coffee from burning a hole into my stomach, maybe a crunchy salad on the weekend (if I happen to wake up early enough).

But a late breakfast, early lunch? Blunch? I can get down with that.

This doesn’t solve the issue of going out for it, which is, I think, what makes brunch so terrible these days. The brunch menu at a restaurant is often the chef’s afterthought. As William Grimes reported for The New York Times, “Chefs hate brunch.”

According to celebrity chef Bobby Flay, “They hate cooking it and they hate thinking about it. Saturday night tends to be the busiest of the week, and they've probably gone out to have a few drinks afterwards. Suddenly it's Sunday morning and they have to come in and cook eggs.”

“Brunch is total garbage,” our test kitchen director Josh Cohen agrees. “There’s nothing more disappointing than going to a restaurant you’re excited about on a Sunday, only to realize they’ve switched out the menu for a selection of dumb eggs.”

“It’s rare that chefs put as much love into their brunch menu as they do their dinner menu,” food stylist and recipe developer Amelia Rampe tells me. “The servers are usually lower quality, too.”

“Hungover,” Cohen chuckles.

Three words: carbohydrates. Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop Stylist: Sophie Strangio.

One way to solve this problem is to just cook your own brunch. For me, that’s the perfect medium: a way for me to enjoy the food—which is always varied and bountiful at brunch—without all the people, the commute, and most importantly, the cost.

"Brunch is just a reminder that I’m not rich or a model," food editor Jesse Szewczyk laments.⠀

On Sundays, anyway, I want nothing more than to sleep in as late as possible and, of course, to putter about my kitchen slowly and leisurely.

Brunch puts you in a good temper; it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow-beings. It sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.
Guy Beringer

The keyword here is "leisurely": Eggs are for breakfast on the go. Brunch, on the other hand, is for the things you don’t have time to make Monday through Friday: French toast, grits, maple-candied bacon, etc.

Brunch is the kind of food you make not just because you want to eat it, but because you want to relish in the cooking of it, as well.

There’s nothing more satisfying than composing a plate of your favorite foods, each part perfected exactly how you like—then taking it to bed to eat alone, curled up with a good book.

What's your stance on brunch? Let us know in the comments below.
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Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.


Megan April 25, 2020
What was said about chefs hating cooking brunch is sooo true! The chefs at the restaurant I used to stage at really did not enjoy being at work for brunch on weekends (especially since yes, Saturday evening was typically the busiest time).
I love your writing, and judging from the amount of comments you get, so do many others! Thank you for also providing much needed Asian American perspective to the food world.
Bella95 March 6, 2020
Well that makes sense now. I was looking at the photo thinking, "Dang l WOULD pay for that". Lol.
Maybe here in NZ our chefs are less jaded or maybe it's because competition for the dining out dollar is fiercer but, brunch is usually lovely. Although, not eating eggs limits my choices enormously, my local cafe's mushroom Benedict with lime hollandaise although hardly avant garde, IS very very good and a welcome treat. That said l would laugh at anyone who suggested brunch as early as 11. On a Sunday that's firmly in the breakfast time slot.
Nancy December 9, 2019
My experiences and sentiments are similar to yours, Eric. Why pay exorbitant prices to be treated often with indifferent cooking and service?
It might be more interesting for diners and chefs to have a Sunday afternoon or evening pot luck or table de hote meal, using up leftovers in new dishes before the restaurant closes down for a day or two.
HK October 5, 2019
I love brunch. We live in a brunch desert, so brunch is a potluck breakfast bonanza with booze and friends at home. I am too old to stay out late Saturday night, but Sunday is a great opportunity to visit friends eat and have a boozy cocktail.
M October 1, 2019
I don't understand the hate for brunch. If a place is too packed and you don't want to go, avoid it. There are many places with less, if any, waits. If you don't want to wake up, sleep in and cook for yourself.

But there's nothing more leisurely on the weekend than throwing something on whenever you happen to wake up, hopping over to a local good brunch spot, having them make you something that would take you a few hours and much dishwashing to do. (Eggs benny, piles of homefries, fresh-baked pastries....) Let alone a mimosa without cracking open a huge bottle, maybe killer fresh-squeezed oj, or a cappuccino instead of the usual black coffee. And as long as the line isn't long, I'd take a little reading or extra conversation with friends in line over a pile of dishes.
Noreen F. September 30, 2019
I'm a dedicated breakfast-eater, and I love going out for either breakfast or brunch. I think I've had fewer disappointing brunches than dinners out. Thanks Stephanie B for the shout out to Wisconsin! Some of the brunch-haters might change their minds if they tried brunch on the patio at The Waterfront in La Crosse, overlooking the Mississippi.
Stephanie B. September 30, 2019
Midwest is best! Nothing beats a hefty WI bloody mary.
Author Comment
Eric K. October 1, 2019
Wait. Tell me about this Wisconsin Bloody Mary.
Stephanie B. December 2, 2019
I don't think they're that distinctive except that I just like them? They typically have an almost obnoxious amount of things in them. There's one place that managed to balance what looked like a whole chicken over a glass of bloody mary (no thanks, it looked gross). But a more reasonable garnish is bacon, lots of pickles, and cubes of good quality cheddar, and no celery. Tons of black pepper in the mix, spicy, and should always be served with little miller high life chaser. Even if you don't drink the chaser (someone will). It should keep your bloody mary company at least. I'm not describing this well, but I don't normally like bloody marys or tomato juice based things - but I swear every place I've gone to brunch in southeastern WI has had a good bloody mary.
tia September 30, 2019
I hate brunch, largely because by then I've been up for hours (I don't work weekends, but I still have cats who lie, and cry that they're hungry despite being fed by the kibblebot 15 minutes before). So brunch is much too late for actual breakfast. And if it's late enough for lunch, well, I have other things to do on Sunday.

I do love going out for breakfast, though. Usually at 8:30 or 9 on Saturday, at a restaurant that just does breakfast and lunch. Better yet, a Mexican place, so I can get chilequiles or something.

I don't actually like cooking breakfast for myself. It feels like too much effort and just adds to the dishes I'll need to do later that day. If I'm not going out, i usually just don't eat until lunchtime, right before I go grocery shopping for the week.
Sherry E. September 30, 2019
brunch bliss for me would include the best cup of joe, meaning freshly made, dark, and HOT
and a plate of wholewheat or buckwheat pancakes. PLAIN!!! not a maple syrup kind of gal...oh a plate of fresh fruit a necessary item...and good friend or two to join me
Author Comment
Eric K. September 30, 2019
Sounds lovely, Sherry.
cosmiccook September 29, 2019
Almost every F&%#@ restaurant in New Orleans serves SHRIMP & GRITS as its star dish. Most of the dishes mediocre at best, and count on the cost $26-30 (mostly to bring in the tourists) and you're lucky if you get 6 shrimp! Brunch is better as a party in someone's home!
Author Comment
Eric K. September 29, 2019
Couldn't agree more!
sf-dre September 28, 2019
SF has its share of overpriced brunch too. I opt for family owned Mexican restaurants on Saturday mornings for scrambled eggs and vegetables, beans and homemade tortillas.
Author Comment
Eric K. September 28, 2019
Huevos rancheros really hit the spot.
Stephanie B. September 28, 2019
First of all, this brunch meal looks fantastic and I plan on trying it.

Secondly, yeah...going out for brunch is blah for the most part. Overpriced and underwhelming. (I exclude the wonderful land of Wisconsin from this criticism). I can see the appeal of meeting up with friends for a meal and day drinking, but the meh factor of every brunch I've gone out to lately kills it. I think it's because unlike Eric, I love breakfast food, and I love having a luxurious, "treat yourself" kind of breakfast on weekends to make up for so many fast-paced workday breakfasts. So when I go out for brunch and it's bad, it's disappointing. Even more so because when I make brunch/late breakfast at home on weekends it's so good - to think I paid $20-30 for sad eggs benedict and an overly sweet cocktail when I could have made myself something like pumpkin bacon pecan pancakes for a fraction of the cost makes me sad.
Author Comment
Eric K. September 28, 2019
I love that, Stephanie. And yes, bad $20 eggs are very sad.
Stephanie B. December 2, 2019
Eric I'm trying to make #neverbruncher happen...not sure it's taking but I get a kick out of it.
Jewel M. September 27, 2019
I couldn’t disagree more with you. Brunch is intended to be a meal where you enjoy the relaxed company of those around you. Furthermore, the concept behind it— in the minds of many who partake— know that brunch is also intended to be a lengthy meal with a variety of courses (and alcoholic beverages) intended to slowly reintroduce food after your Saturday evening indiscretions.

Brunch in less than an hour isn’t brunch.
Adam P. September 28, 2019
He's not saying an hour for brunch is bad, he's saying the hour long commute and/or wait is bad.

Brunch stinks now because I have a choice of some vaguely southern inspired biscuit that isn't any good covered in something else that is okay for $22, or a $40 buffet that's basically no better than cafeteria food. But hey, it's all great because bottomless mimosas, right? Millenials have ruined brunch because it's no longer about good food or even good company, it's about eating trendy things to post on your Instagram and an excuse to drink before noon.
Stephanie B. September 28, 2019
Author Comment
Eric K. September 28, 2019
"some vaguely southern inspired biscuit that isn't any good covered in something else that is okay for $22"

Nailed it.
J October 2, 2019
Really don't think it has anything to do with millennials. We don't have $40 to spend on a lousy omelet and a mostly-juice mimosa.
ELLE September 27, 2019
Looks yummy but does it have to be loaded with carbs?
Hannah September 27, 2019
Yes, yes it does.
wendyg September 27, 2019
It is French Toast. Carbs are pretty much the point 😁
Author Comment
Eric K. September 27, 2019
And I made it worse by breading it. :)

To answer your question, Elle, you could always just make the bacon and grits? I am equally passionate about those:
Cheryl M. September 29, 2019
“And I made it worse by breading it. :)”

I think you misspelled better. 😊
Author Comment
Eric K. September 29, 2019
Aw. Thank you, Cheryl.
cosmiccook September 29, 2019
How about pecan praline bacon? Its a must for brunch. Heat over to 325. Have a sheet pan covered in foil w a cookie rack (spray rack w oil for easy clean up) on top ready. Mix pecan meal 1 cup (ground pecans) and 2/3 cup brown sugar together on a large piece of wax or parchment. Using about 4-6 slices of thick quality bacon lay it on the mix press in and turn over ensuring full coverage on both sides, lay on the rack. bake for 15 mins (ish--my oven is quick). Serve w Grits and brandy punch, or whatever your head and stomach can manage. It IS the day after Saturday night.
Author Comment
Eric K. September 29, 2019
Damn, that sounds good. Thanks for the recipe.