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.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“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.
Listen Now

On our new weekly podcast, two friends separated by the Atlantic take questions and compare notes on everything from charcuterie trends to scone etiquette.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lisa London
    Lisa London
  • Amber
  • rmtthunder
  • FrugalCat
  • Dpb
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.


Lisa L. July 9, 2023
Sounds more like you're complaining about your friends and their suggestions than about the actual act of having brunch. Have your friends over at a reasonable hour (for you) and prepare something that appeals to all of you. If you stand on line for an hour or more to get into a restaurant where the chef doesn't want to be cooking brunch and then you order sickly sweet drinks to go with sugary, candied meats and carbs, what do you expect? Good company makes a good meal. Take some appealing food to a park and enjoy your friends, the great outdoors and some fine fare.
Amber May 1, 2023
Breakfast is my very favorite meal no matter what it is called. However, where I live, finding a truly high quality brunch is next to impossible. But I do wish brunch was not just a weekend offer - too many people.
rmtthunder April 29, 2023
I work seven days a week, but the idea of sitting down to an amazing brunch strongly appeals to me. I'm up at 3 a.m. Dinners here, are mostly offered by rustic western restaurants. They are so disappointing. Given the chance, breakfast is the only meal I eat out. Although, I have been to some absolutely gross brunches. If I was doing a brunch event, it would be more like a prefix dinner. It would also be nontypical. I love eggs, but for a special event ... Those had better be some amazing eggs. As for the drinks, I would hope for something either show stopping or light as a feather, depending on the menu. For now, sleepy Saturday mornings are home with my workaholic besties whipping up our individual specialties, Etta James in the background, breakfast on the deck and strong coffee with a little something in it. We love the Panko French Toast suggestion.
FrugalCat April 28, 2023
For me, the last straw was the Bloody Marys. Years ago, the Girlfriends insisted on going to the In brunch spot, which, big surprise, featured Bloody Marys. At the time, they were like $9 each, and they were always trying to get you to upgrade to a double, or Grey Goose, or something for even more. Sure, they were good, but I could not understand why my friends went crazy for them. I'd ask about the mix and the waiter was always evasive.
Once I needed change for the parking meter and had to go to a satellite bar to get it. There, the bartender was mixing Skol vodka with Spicy Hot V-8 juice. I asked if that was the "secret recipe". She shrugged. I looked around the bar. Not a bottle of Grey Goose in sight.
Lesson Learned!
Dpb April 28, 2023
I opened a place in Bozeman.
A brunch place based on a very popular Denver based am eatery.
That place in Denver spawned many copycats across the country.
People went brunch crazy just like so many other trends through the years.
It’s all a bell curve.

LindiFox April 26, 2023
As a foodie and mother of two I quite agree. I also live in a town where there are a number of restaurants strictly for brunch… and while some of them have great food, the idea of waking up and starving myself while getting myself AND my children ready is making me cranky just thinking about it.

Brunch at home is my favorite. We often invite other friends with children! A gazillion times more relaxing than brunch out.
cosmiccook April 26, 2023
Y'all aren't from New Orleans. Brunch is extravagantly embraced here--unless its 98 degrees and 100% humidity. The best brunches though are often private affairs during the holidays (Mardi Gras & Jazz Fest).
Danacalicchio April 26, 2023
A true chef, would never feel that way. You feed people and make their life better if only for an hour or two. It’s what we do. Feed people and make them happy. With friends. Enjoy while you can. Friends come and go. So does great food. Brunch is my favorite and I do it very well.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
jude1 April 25, 2023
They ruined brunch? Why don’t YOU just make it about good food and good company. You don’t have to post it online. You don’t have to drink alcohol at brunch. Biscuits or a cafe? What, there are only two types of restaurants serving brunch in your city?