Brunch elicits strong opinions. The late chef turned writer turned TV personality Anthony Bourdain famously called it a “horrible, cynical way of unloading leftovers and charging three times as much as you ordinarily charge for breakfast.” But the sentiment of the anti-brunch crowd is dwarfed by the fervor of those who love it. One recent Sunday morning, three 25-year-old Sac State students discussed their passion for brunch while waiting outside Mimosa House in East Sac for a table. “I could eat it all day every day,” said a young woman named Esmeralda. “I love mimosas,” piped up the second, a guy named Devin. “I have brunch probably once a week,” offered a third, named Jenni, who was planning to return to Mimosa House two days later to celebrate a friend’s birthday over—you guessed it—brunch.
A Meetup group called Sacramento Saturday Gay Brunch—with close to 400 members, predominantly gay men—has been getting together every other Saturday since 2011 to brunch at area restaurants. The group took a yearlong hiatus during the pandemic. But as soon as people started getting vaccinated and the governor lifted indoor dining restrictions, they were back at it, brunching like it was 1999. “It’s a great bunch of guys who like to talk, eat and celebrate,” said Leland Bartalini, the group’s organizer.
Here’s a look at three of Sacramento’s most popular brunch spots:
The Morning Fork
Jennifer and Keith Swiryn opened The Morning Fork in mid-2019, less than a year before COVID-19 almost brought a crashing halt to their long-held dream to operate a breakfast restaurant. Located on 21st Street, it was a hip reimagining of the venerable Lucky Cafe, whose space the Swiryns had taken over. The couple kept Lucky’s Cafe’s original layout, with its long diner counter and old-timey booths, but gave the menu an updated, artisanal sensibility. Everything is made from scratch, from the lemony hollandaise that blankets the crab-and-shrimp Benedict to the house-whipped butters, which come in flavors such as salted maple. During the pandemic, the Swiryns did takeout and sidewalk dining, but now they’re totally—and happily—back to business as normal. You won’t be mad if you order the blueberry waffle, topped with wild blueberry sugar, marshmallow whipped butter and blueberry syrup. (Kick it up a notch with a side of maple-sage fried chicken and sausage gravy.) Mimosas here are anything but basic and come in five eye-popping flavors, including That’s Pretty (lemon grass peach syrup, ginger beer and edible glitter) and It’s Green (jalapeño, sage, mint and kiwi puree). 1111 21st St.; (916) 476-6765; themorningfork.com
This plant-based restaurant closed for about three weeks at the beginning of the pandemic before pivoting to a takeout model. But brunch was off the menu for quite a while as owner Suleka Sun-Lindley concentrated on lunch and dinner. VEG Cafe is now back open for weekend brunch, which accounts for about 30 percent of the restaurant’s total business. Sun-Lindley, who also owns Thai Basil on the ground floor beneath the cafe, caters to a diverse crowd that includes vegans, young people who want to try something new, the environmentally conscious and people experimenting with healthier dining alternatives. The menu focuses on inventive, plant-based versions of classic dishes from around the world. For Chik’n & Waffles, a waffle is topped with fried oyster mushrooms, along with sour cream and pickled jalapeños. Tofu subs for egg, and avocado for bacon, in a vegan eggs Benedict. And a Maryland-style “crab cake” is made from artichoke hearts and banana blossoms and served with remoulade. 2431 J St. (second floor); (916) 448-8768; vegsacramento.com
The Mimosa House
Brunch has been very, very good to the Dedier family. The clan operates six restaurants across the Sacramento region, all named The Mimosa House. The name should give you a clue what this place is all about. “We specialize in creating that brunch atmosphere,” said patriarch Lou Dedier, whose five offspring help run the business. At any one time, there are about 45 different mimosas on the menu, including a sno-cone mimosa in the summer. The food selection is equally inclusive. “The thing about brunch is everybody wants something different,” said Dedier. “We mix it up so there’s something for something for everybody at the table.” The encyclopedic seven-page menu includes omelettes, Benedicts, pancakes, Belgian waffles, crepes (both savory and sweet), skillets, breakfast burritos and “South of the Border” specialties such as chilaquiles and morning nachos. Multiple locations; mimosahouseca.com