Did you see the 2013 Best & Worst of the Year list? Today we drill down into the brunch menus and give you the best places to find specific dishes. Bloody Mary fan? How about the best Benny? Here’s where to find them.
Best Pancakes: 2013 was a great year for pancakes, with three restaurants serving up hot cakes so good we couldn’t just pick one. Palena’s fall-inspired buttermilk pancakes are layered with sour cream, cooked cinnamon apples, and garnished with cranberries and a delicious cinnamon-flavored syrup. Lavagna makes enormous, buttermilk cakes covered in a Nutella ricotta sauce. Last but not least, Sixth Engine’s humongous chocolate-chip pancakes are covered in whipped cream and can be shared with no fewer than four people.
Best French Toast: Daikaya‘s French toast is soaked overnight in cream and soy milk and dusted with kinako. It was moist, rich, and decadent with a hard, sugar-coated shell and topped with whipped cream. This was pure heaven, or as they say in Japanese, tengoku. The best classic French toast we had this year was at Cashion’s Eat Place. The doughy pieces of toast were so thick they nearly toppled over.
Best Waffle: B Too knows Belgian waffles, serving up a creative variety you can’t get anywhere else, such as cornbread waffles with pulled pork and avocado or the phenomenal lobster waffles. They were sweet and soft—and they set the bar for other local attempts at waffles.
Best Crepes: The Crepes Suzette at Et Voila was pure perfection: folded warm crepes covered in a sauce of caramelized sugar, butter, and orange. The best thing about Belgian/French cuisine is that there’s always plenty of butter and sugar involved—and presented in their purest form.
Best Doughnuts: Ovvio Osteria has ricotta donut holes that are served up with a variety of dipping sauces, such as a tart jam that cuts straight through the donuts’ sugar. They’re served up piping hot, and we wanted to pop half a dozen in our mouths before we even ordered our entrees.
Best Cinnamon Roll: The decadent rolls at Ripple are sweet sticky buns that are so rich you have to share. Made fresh in house by a phonemonal pastry chef, the cinnamon and pecan rolls are covered in thick creamy glazes and the dough is moist, fresh, and warm. These baked goods are the best of the best. Nopa Bar + Kitchen’s sticky pecan roll, served with icecream, comes in a close second.
Best Bread Basket: It’s not exactly a “basket” that’s served up at brunch at Table, but the pastries that arrive have plenty of charm and flavor. We got a honey-baked danish, a slice of fruit tea bread, and a fluffy brioche pastry filled with Nutella, which was our favorite. Each of them were just sweet enough to get us started and left us wanting more.
Best Pastries: The sugar high starts before you even step inside Ted’s Bulletin. Pastry chefs are mixing enormous bowls of dough, spreading sugary icing on cinnamon rolls, pouring sprinkles on doughnuts and pop tarts. And then you walk in and smell it. Like an old fashioned cake shop, the smell is of heavenly pastries.
Best Dessert: Le Diplomate had the most stunning desserts, served up with flourish, like dusted gold and chocolate artwork. Plus they were melt-in-your-mouth amazing, too, such as the lemon compote dessert and the chocolate pastry filled with hazelnut mousse. Le Grenier’s Nutella crepe comes in a close second.
Best Coffee: Lyon Hall in Clarendon serves up great coffee in enormous french presses (we’re talking nearly a gallon), which is how we like our coffee—in excess. Plus, the cappuccino impressed Becca’s mum, which means it was a great cappuccino indeed.
Best Mimosa: A girl likes her options, and when it comes to mimosas, Ripple has them. You can select from various fresh juices—either orange, grapefruit, peach, or raspberry—to pair with your bubbly. The champagne pours were not stingy, either.
Best Bloody Mary: The Bloody Marys at Nopa Bar + Kitchen are phenomenal. The mix is made in house and is full of flavor, with a hint of mustard and pickled radish. A very nice touch.
Best Brunch Cocktail: Maple, a charming Italian spot in Columbia Heights, makes fabulous cocktails for brunch. We loved the Sloe Cider, made with sloe gin, St. Germain, muddled orange, grenadine-soaked cherries. In second place, The Libertine in Adams Morgan is known for its love of absinthe. It serves up great brunch cocktails with a green fairy punch.
Best Yogurt Parfait: Wit & Wisdom at the Four Seasons in Baltimore serves a charming Greek yogurt parfait in an adorable mason jar. The yogurt was whipped perfectly, the granola was just sweet enough, and the fruit was exceptionally fresh and cold. The entire thing was a work of art.
Best Veggie Dish: Daikaya’s cucumbers. Cori Sue gets so unbelievably excited about these cucumbers, served all day long at this Japanese restaurant in Chinatown, that we had to add this new brunch dish category this year just for them!
Best Breakfast Potatoes: Lavagna stepped up its potato game this year. Its home fries are now fried in truffle oil and covered in Parmesan cheese. Nothing beats truffle oil, especially on loads of delicious carbs.
Best Breakfast Sandwich: The breakfast sandwich at Quench will set the standard for all future breakfast sandwiches. It’s the grilled cheese, made with brie, slow-roasted herbed tomatoes, and truffled mayo, but with caramelized onions and a fried egg. There is nothing about this that isn’t perfect.
Best Cheese Lover Brunch: The Curious Grape served up cheese and champagne pairings at brunch, as well as delicious cheese souffles—a goat cheese and thyme and farmhouse cheddar and shallot—plus cheesy, truffle potato croquettes. Fromage to die for.
Best Bacon: Kangaroo Boxing Club serves up house-cured, caramelized bacon that Becca still dreams about. It was thick, crispy, and covered in sugary goodness. We were told it was a family recipe, and the owner had to convince his sister to come in and make it. Great call.
Best Tacos: The lightly battered mahi mahi fish tacos at Fuego Cocina & Tequileria will make any California girl proud, but the ahi tuna tacos are phenomenal. Thrilled these are on the brunch menu.
Best Pizza: Piola‘s pizza is good, but not amazing. However, it’s the endless options and (endless ordering) of personal-size pizzas that win us over. From the Carbonara pizza to the Malta pizza to the Nutella pizza, there’s something for everyone.
Best Indian: The Brixton, a British pub, simply had to serve up endless Indian dishes for brunch. Becca, our resident Brit with far too much Indian food under her belt, loved it all, from the samosas to the curry.
Best Steak: Flat Iron Steak & Saloon in Old Town is where cowboys go for a brunch menu that is made for the carnivorous. The steaks, in any cut you’d like and served with eggs, are excellent.
Best Barbecue: Smoke & Barrel’s buffet is perfect to cure hangovers, mostly because it’s loaded with amazing barbecued meat, like brisket and juicy pulled pork.
Best Chicken and Waffles: Quench‘s chicken and waffle sandwich is one of the most phenomenal brunch bites, ever (so it landed in the Best Breakfast Sandwiches category, too). American Tap Room‘s traditional chicken and waffles is enormous and hits the spot.
Best Bagel and Lox: DGS Delicatessen is an authentic Jewish deli, and it serves up the best gourmet smoked salmon around. The smoked salmon benedict is also fantastic.
Best Shrimp and Grits: The Curious Grape‘s shrimp n’ grits with bacon and scallions packed oodles of rich, flavor and the warm, thick cheesy grits were the best we’ve ever had.