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Chef Ortega at Backstreet
A Bloody Mary at Triniti, where a Bloody Molly with whiskey instead of vodka is also available.
Frittata with turkey, collard greens, candied bacon and glazed pearl onions at Triniti
A burger with a michelada shot on the side at Saint Genevieve
A sing-along-savvy crowd at Saint Genevieve
The festive atmosphere at Triniti
Recovering from Saturday night with a party late Sunday morning is signature Houston. Here’s where the in-crowd is brunching now.
Holly Crawford | Photo: Debora Smail | May 28, 2013
Any Houstonian worth the salt on her margarita knows that Sunday Funday is an institution in H-Town—equal parts social, culinary and medicinal. Hair of the dog, yes? And the tradition is thriving, with newbies vying for brunch-bunch supremacy with storied haunts.
For a frolicking good time that rivals the glory days of Lower Westheimer’s long-shuttered La Strada—it died for good in 2009 after a couple closings and comebacks—the swank new Saint Genevieve in West Ave (713.524.2441) is the place. “It definitely has a party feel and a lot of energy,” says co-owner Darren Van Delden, who was “adamant” about hosting Sunday brunch from Day One. “By 2pm, we’ve got a full house with a lot of momentum.”
And thanks to the DJ, who plays a range of Top 40, ’80s and “old-school party music,” sing-alongs are part of the atmosphere. “Multiple times a random song has people dancing in their seats,” Van Delden says. In fact, spontaneous conga lines—and co-mingling at other people’s tables—are not infrequent.
The scene draws a large crowd to match—beautiful folks of all ages—which prompted Van Delden and his partner and brother Jeff to institute a policy of allowing for only three reserved seating slots at 11am, 1pm and 3pm; walk-in’s are welcome, but getting a table without a wait isn’t guaranteed. “We didn’t take reservations, but now we have to… people were waiting two hours to dine,” Darren says.
As for food, the burger, topped with tequila cheese and served with a zesty michelada shot, will cure what ails just about anyone—if Saint Genevieve’s infamous Bloody Mary bar with five different flavors and a huge variety of housemade accoutrements such as zippy pickles and cubes of cheese hasn’t already done the trick. New menu additions include kale crisps with roasted garbanzo beans and pulled pork sliders with hoisin sauce.
Want to linger over a kiwi-basil mimosa for more than the allotted two hours? Move the party outside or to the large marble bar at the center of the action. But, it’s party over at 6pm, when the kitchen closes.
Meanwhile, Backstreet Cafe (1103 S. Shepherd Drive, 713.521.2239) proves that a resto needn’t be new to be hip. As it hits a milestone 30 years in Houston this October, the venue—in a charming two-story 1930s house—is also celebrating the success of its longstanding Sunday brunch.
“Brunch is serious for us, and it’s been the busiest it’s ever been in the last two years,” says sommelier/mixologist Sean Beck. “We see 500 to 600 people on a Sunday, and often a table of 10 turns to a table of 16 as guests drink a little more and talk a little more.”
And the diverse crowd, from families to “the usual brunch revelers who want to have a good time,” pours onto the front patio and brick-paved back courtyard as early as 10am for Chef Hugo Ortega’s dishes like shrimp and grits, gingerbread waffles and short ribs with sweet potato hash. Not to mention wild-berry mimosas, sangria and Nutella iced coffee.
And to rival the medicinal punch of a Bloody Mary, Beck concocted a hangover remedy with kiwi, grapefruit and bitters. “The ‘Green is Good’ is loaded with vitamin C, and it’s not too sweet, which is key when your stomach is loopy,” he says. The mellow sounds of jazz music by the Bob Chadwick Trio may also have a curative effect from 11am to 2pm.
“We’ve created that environment,” Beck says. “It’s a respite from the workweek, a relaxing place to decompress, hang with friends and catch up with family.”
A few blocks away in a modern, steel-encased building, brunch newcomer Triniti (2815 S. Shepherd Dr., 713.527.9090) is proving its since introducing its Sunday menu in February, with a gourmet take on classics and an emphasis on local and seasonal grub by Executive Chef Ryan Hildebrand. Think monkey-bread French toast with lavender mascarpone cream. “There’s something for everyone,” says the chef of his menu, outfitted with steak, eggs, grains and fruits.
There’s also a selection of culinary cocktails crafted by bartender Jessica Luckay, whose signature trio Bloody Mary sampler—with a traditional vodka Mary, a Bloody Maria with tequila, and a Bloody Molly with Irish whiskey—will knock your socks off. “She’s a bloody Mary aficionado,” General Manager Brett Story says of Luckay’s kitchen-cooked creations dressed with asparagus, onions, olives and cheese. “It’s not a labor for her; it’s love.” Then there’s also the unlimited (yep) mimosas and carafes of any cocktail on the menu.
For the Sunday sweet tooth, buzzy pastry chef Samantha Mendoza proffers treats like chocolate sponge cake accompanied by pistachio brittle ice cream. Story says the dessert plates come back to the kitchen spotless.
It took a year for Triniti to choose to open for Funday, but “brunch was the natural progression… a way for us to introduce the restaurant to an audience that might not venture in otherwise,” Hildebrand says. “It’s a casual day, a good way for people to come in and realize that it’s a comfortable, approachable setting.”