Brunch is the most crowd-pleasing, versatile meal of all, and that’s why we love it. There’s something to suit every taste, no matter where you fall on the sweet to savory spectrum and the breakfast-y to lunch-y one. Looking for eggs Benedict, dim sum, brunch paella or barbecue with a side of razzle-dazzle?
We’ve got that covered and more. These local spots, some new to the scene and all offering weekend brunch, will satisfy any craving.
Drag Brunch: All Set Restaurant & Bar
All Set is a total drag, at least at brunch on the third Saturday of every month.
That’s when emcee Queen Citrine (pictured at left) and other members of the Haus of Stone put on a rollicking drag show featuring fabulous costumes, lip-synch performances and general merriment.
“We tell guests that there may be a little adult language, but there is no age requirement to join us for drag brunch,” says Jennifer Meltzer, who opened the restaurant with her husband, chef Ed Reavis, in 2015. “We’re proud to support this form of expression.”
On our January visit, the 140-seat restaurant is packed with people of all ages, including families reveling in the fun. Citrine informs the crowd of her three A’s: applause! (clap for the queens), always tip! (with cash or via app) and amen! “Just like a battery, a show needs juice to get it started,” she says. She and fellow performers Logan Stone, Vagenesis, Venus Valhalla and Echinacea Monroe have people in the palms of their hands, which are soon filled with dollars.
“We don’t expect to turn the tables because it is a full two-hour show—I mean, these queens really pull out all the stops—so pace yourself,” Meltzer says. “You don’t have to rush through the meal.” To that end, it’s not a bad idea to go for the All You Can Enjoy Drinks for $48 per person (sodas; juices; coffee; tea; rail drinks; orange, pineapple or cranberry mimosas; bloody marys; house wine; and certain beers) or mimosa pitchers for $48.
Food-wise, Reavis does tried-and-true brunch dishes superbly, such as blackened ribeye steak and eggs ($39), and classic, crabcake or avocado eggs Benedict ($16/$25/$17), but we curate our own brunch with his top-notch barbecue: a third of a rack of ribs ($13), a side of breakfast potatoes ($6.50), a side of scrambled eggs ($6.50) and a skillet of extra buttery cornbread ($9).
Drag brunch sells out, so reserve on Tock ($10) well ahead of time. The show starts at noon, DQT (Drag Queen Time, so noonish).
8630 Fenton St., Silver Spring; 301-495-8800; allsetrestaurant.com
Seafood Brunch: Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge
Brunch is spectacular at Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge even before tasting a morsel of food. Its setting, within a 21-acre nature preserve in Rockville, already sets it apart from other restaurants, but the decor of the 20,000-square-foot log-and-steel structure, designed to resemble a Gilded Age Great Camp in the Adirondacks, makes a meal there feel like a special occasion. The restaurant, which opened in 2002, seats a jaw-dropping 755 people in several rooms—the Tack Room, the Saranac Room, the Boathouse Bar, the Great Room—with beamed cathedral ceilings, extensive cherry and pine paneling, wooden booths, a Tiffany-esque chandelier and mounted moose heads all contributing to the rustic embrace. Clyde’s serves brunch fare one expects at an American tavern—a great burger ($14.99), eggs Benedict (traditional, $17.99, crabcake, $25.99), challah French toast ($15.99)—but this is where we head when we hanker for seafood, settling in with a bloody mary ($10.29) and plundering their top-quality raw bar with a Saranac platter No. 2 ($29.99) of six oysters (Belle du Jour from New Brunswick; Pemaquid from Maine; Kusshi from British Columbia), two jumbo shrimp and six littleneck clams on the half shell. Clyde’s offers platters of various sizes for one to four people, ranging from $17.99 to $92.99.
The restaurant also has an extensive selection of tinned seafood ($18 to $28) in olive oil (Güeyu Mar grilled Spanish sardine tails, Portuguese mackerel, Spanish anchovies, Portuguese tuna), served with crusty bread, whipped butter, piquillo peppers, pickled vegetables and Maldon salt.
For entrees, we’re partial to the crab omelet ($19.99). “We take 2 1/2 ounces of Venezuelan lump crabmeat and fold crème fraiche, chives and a pinch of Old Bay into it and place it on the almost-set eggs in the pan. Then it goes under the broiler for a few seconds and then gets rolled onto the plate and topped with hollandaise sauce, chives and a sprinkle of paprika,” explains executive chef Chad Medina. “It’s all about the crab.” The omelet is surrounded with little piles of frisée, radicchio and seasonal vegetable (perhaps zucchini or asparagus) salad dressed with lemon or truffle vinaigrette.
2 Preserve Parkway, Rockville; 301-294-0200; clydes.com
Tapas Brunch: El Mercat Bar de Tapas
At El Mercat in Rockville Town Square, married owners and Rockville residents Wanessa Alves and George Rodrigues—he’s the chef—have created a menu that seamlessly adapts quintessentially Spanish dishes to a concept that’s entirely not Spanish: brunch. Alongside traditional tapas such as tortilla Española ($9), ham croquetas ($13) and gambas al ajillo ($16) are clever offerings such as shredded duck confit and potato hash topped with poached eggs, saffron hollandaise sauce and smoked paprika ($18), and the traditionally American chicken and waffles jazzed up with truffle honey butter ($15).
For the dish that wins our heart at this 60-seat charmer, Rodrigues has taken a dinner menu staple—his chicken paella montaña—and transformed it with a simple hack: crowning it with two sunny-side up eggs. The paella (small, $18; large, $32) is made by slowly cooking bomba rice with sofrito (a flavor bomb of sauteed onions, garlic and tomatoes that have been pureed and then reduced) until it forms a socarrat, the crunchy layer of rice in the bottom of the pan. A chicken leg and thigh (the bird was smeared with a puree of duck fat and herbs before roasting to render the skin ultra-crispy) are slathered with salsa verde and placed atop the rice with dollops of aioli, half a lemon and the eggs. The melding of the broken yolks, aioli, salsa and rice pushes the paella into overdrive.
Start brunch at El Mercat with a bocadillo and cocktail sampler ($16), which includes three biscuits with different fillings (chorizo and manchego cheese, quail eggs and piquillo peppers, and crispy serrano ham and manchego), and three drink samplings (mimosa, bloody mary, sangria). They also offer bottomless bloody marys, sangria and mimosas (orange, pineapple and grapefruit) for $25 for two hours.
101 Gibbs St., Unit C, Rockville (Rockville Town Square); 240-403-7436; elmercatbardetapas.com
Bottomless Mimosa Brunch: Barking Mad Cafe
If there’s anything better than a mimosa during a leisurely brunch, it’s an unlimited number of mimosas. As many restaurants do, Barking Mad Cafe offers the bottomless quaff, made with cava and orange or cranberry juice ($20 per person for 90 minutes). But there’s much more to like about this Gaithersburg hangout, which Peter and Leigh Henry opened in 2016.
In addition to brunch standbys such as waffles ($12), buttermilk pancakes ($10) and eggs Benedict ($14), Venezuelan chef Monica Vasquez includes plenty of Latin-inspired dishes on her menu. Morning tacos ($13.75), two flour tortillas stuffed with soft-scrambled eggs, pico de gallo, guacamole, queso fresco and arugula, and dressed in chipotle cream, are sublime. Other noteworthy options are huevos rancheros ($14) and Rancherito ($17), consisting of breakfast potatoes and flank steak carnitas topped with black beans, guacamole, queso fresco, ranchero sauce and a sunny-side up egg. Barking Mad also offers pies from its wood-burning pizza oven, including pancetta, dried fig, mozzarella, blue cheese and arugula ($18); Margherita ($15); and sausage, mozzarella and scrambled egg ($13).
Barking Mad Cafe seats 100 inside and 120 outside, abutting Spectrum Town Center’s Performers Park and large stage. The patio is a great place for people-watching and to let the kids frolic while the grown-ups try to find the bottom of their mimosas.
239 Spectrum Ave., Gaithersburg; 240-690-7003; barkingmadcafe.com
Michelin Chef Brunch, Venezuela-Style: Joy by Seven Reasons
In 2019, Venezuelan chef Enrique Limardo took the DMV by storm. That’s the year Limardo, the original executive chef at Baltimore’s still-thriving Alma Cocina Latina, decamped to Washington to open (with partners) Seven Reasons, which Esquire magazine crowned the best new restaurant in the country. Limardo followed that up with Imperfecto in D.C.’s West End in 2021, and it earned a Michelin star in 2022.
Last October, Limardo brought his high-powered flair to Montgomery County, taking over the former Little Beet Table space in The Collection at Chevy Chase and opening Joy by Seven Reasons. He replaced his predecessor’s beige decor palette with cheerful hues in the form of boldly patterned wallpaper, red furniture and fringed yarn panels in pastel colors of the rainbow hanging from the ceiling. Executive chef José Ignacio Useche, another Alma Cocina Latina alum, helms the kitchen.
Our brunch blue ribbon goes to the Joy Breakfast ($69) for two or three. Limardo explains his inspiration for it: “In some parts of Venezuela, deep in the country where there are big farms, they serve a super massive breakfast so they can keep going through the day.” The feast includes carne mechada (slow-braised, then shredded, beef); a slab of pork chicharrón (skin-on pork belly that has been cured, cooked sous vide, then deep-fried, making the meat tender and its skin super crispy); sliced avocado; sauteed plantains; refried black beans; crispy, griddled Guayanés cheese, a soft cow’s-milk cheese from Venezuela; two sunny-side up eggs cooked Latin-style with crispy edges; and suero picante, a spicy sour creamlike condiment. The meal comes with a panoply of breads: cachapas (corn pancakes), crunchy garlic-and-herb cassava bread and arepas (cornmeal cakes).
The clickbait showstopper here is the “colossal” sandwich made with a 16-hour-braised and deboned short rib. It’s served on ciabatta with smoked cheddar cheese, plantain butter, lettuce, tomatoes, fried shallots and pickled onions ($65). The behemoth, so drippy with veal demi-glace that it’s served with protective gloves, is enough for three or four to share. Grab a pick-me-up from beverage director Carlos Boada’s superlative cocktail list. The Passion Over Perfection (tequila, mezcal, passion fruit, lime, rosemary and chile de arbol, $19) is divine.
5471 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase (The Collection at Chevy Chase); 202-417-8968; joybysevenreasons.com
Brunch Every Day: The Breakfast Club
When chef and restaurateur Jason Miskiri set out to open a third business in Silver Spring—he owns The Angry Jerk and co-owns The Society Restaurant & Lounge—he originally planned on opening a vegan establishment. But as COVID-19 dragged on and delayed his buildout, he decided that the neighborhood lacked a nice place to have breakfast. The Chevy Chase resident opened The Breakfast Club in December at the Fenton Silver Spring apartments.
Miskiri offers a wide-ranging breakfast menu Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a more extensive brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday until 3 p.m. Certain brunch favorites are offered all day and all week, among them chicken and waffles ($23), vanilla bean French toast with cream cheese frosting ($18) and an all-American breakfast sampler of eggs, potato hash and breakfast meats ($16). Another—seafood grits ($32)—is a real standout. To make it, Miskiri sautes shrimp, onions, garlic and bell peppers with thyme, a touch of fiery Scotch bonnet pepper and his proprietary Cajun seasoning blend, then adds jumbo lump crabmeat, chunks of lobster, and cream. Once the sauce has been reduced, he pours the seafood over grits decadently enriched with butter and Gouda, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. It’s the stuff of dreams.
The Breakfast Club, which also serves dinner, has an excellent cocktail program. Try the Cab Calloway ($16), a delightful mix of reposado tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, sorrel and rosé sparkling wine garnished with a brown sugar rim, a blackberry and a raspberry. At brunch, bottomless orange, pineapple or grapefruit juice mimosas are $35 (90-minute limit).
8240 Fenton St., Silver Spring; 240-531-2133; thebreakfastclubdmv.com
Greek Brunch: Melina
When Montgomery County natives and power restaurateurs Dimitri Moshovitis, Ted Xenohristos and Ike Grigoropoulos (who also own Cava, Cava Mezze and Julii) opened Melina at Pike & Rose in November 2021, chef Aris Tsekouras garnered rave reviews for his sophisticated, innovative rendition of Greek fare. It’s no surprise, then, that he hits it out of the park at brunch.
Tsekouras takes a Jewish deli staple, the smoked salmon platter, and puts a Greek twist on it with a mezze platter ($25) featuring bowls of smoked salmon, soft-boiled eggs, tarama (fish roe) cream, pickled carrots and pickled cucumbers served on a gold tray. (Ask for some of the pickled red onions that accompany the fab open-faced lamb pita topped with a fried egg, $23.) On the side are two warm sesame-crusted sourdough koulouri (like bagels, but fluffier inside) right out of the oven. The platter is great for sharing as a first course, say, before indulging in a lamb burger topped with zesty roasted tomatoes, pickles, manouri cheese and a fried egg ($25), or pancakes with vanilla custard, orange compote, toasted almonds and crispy phyllo ($18).
Tsekouras is a whiz at bread-making, so don’t overlook the tartine section, especially the “steak and egg” ($20) of grilled spelt sourdough toast spread with beef tartare and sous vide creamy egg yolk, and sprinkled with capers and dill sprigs.
Melina’s bloody mary ($15), made with basil-infused vodka and Greek herbs, is excellent, as are the Honey Bee Bellini with prosecco, peach, cranberry, rosemary and bee pollen ($13), and the Little Vince with prosecco, spiced pear liqueur, pineapple shrub and lemon ($13).
905 Rose Ave. (Pike & Rose), North Bethesda; 301-818-9090; melinagreek.com
Vegan Brunch: Planta
How do you make an egg dish without eggs? For shakshuka ($15.75), the North African dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce, Toronto-based chef David Lee, co-founder of the fine-dining vegan restaurant chain Planta, subs yellow split-pea fritters for the ovoids. The inspiration for the dish comes from his childhood. “Split-pea fritters are one of our national dishes in Mauritius,” he says. “There could be 20 stores selling them in a variety of ways. My mother made them all the time.” At Planta, the split peas are soaked overnight, drained, coarsely ground and mixed with cilantro, chopped scallions and chili peppers before being formed into patties. Once deep fried, the fritters are baked briefly in a small skillet of cumin-laced tomato sauce, then glazed with tahini sauce and served with a half-moon of puffy flatbread baked to order.
Eight dishes comprise the weekend brunch menu at Planta as an addendum to its regular menu. Among them are a quiche ($17.25) made with spinach, cashew cheese and “bacon” fashioned from tempeh and mushrooms; banana waffles with roasted pecans ($16.50); a cinnamon bun ($10.25) and a mushroom bacon BLT ($16.95).
Planta opened on Bethesda Row in February 2022. Its vibe—referred to as “Japan-meets-midcentury-modern-meets-Miami” in Bethesda Magazine’s May/June 2022 review—really lends itself to brunch, especially in good weather when the folding glass doors at the front of the space are fully open.
Planta offers endless mimosas or sake sangria for $25 in addition to its strong cocktail and cold-pressed juice program. What better on the weekend than Saturday Morning Cartoons ($11), a refreshing spirit-free libation made with Seedlip Grove 42, strawberry, pineapple, coconut milk and vanilla?
4910 Elm St., Bethesda (Bethesda Row); 301-407-2447; plantarestaurants.com
Dim Sum Brunch: Wang Dynasty
Fans of the Taiwanese and Shanghai-style cuisine at Michael’s Noodles, which closed after a 15-year run in Rockville in 2017, were delighted when that restaurant’s team—Rockville residents Wai Wang and David Wang (not related)—opened Wang Dynasty in Bethesda in May 2019. Even more thrilling is that they revived their weekend dim sum brunch, available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., along with the restaurant’s regular menu.
Don’t expect carts here; the 90-seat restaurant is too small to navigate them. Instead, there is a small menu of about 30 items that range in price from $3.50 (baked sesame roll, jumbo fried bread stick, sweet soybean milk) to $10.95 (braised beef). For one dish, pork belly is braised for several hours until tender, then steeped in a broth flavored with onions, garlic, Shaoxing wine, star anise and dark and light soy sauces. It’s finely minced and served on top of steamed rice with chopped sour cabbage, pickled radish and a brown-hued hard-boiled egg cooked in soy sauce. For another, verdant soybeans, red peppers and chopped mustard greens are stir-fried with ginger and ribbons of bean curd. Pan-fried pork buns and flaky griddled pancakes stuffed with braised beef or pork are de rigueur. (Also order soup dumplings from the regular menu.)
One cold dish, drunken chicken, is particularly intriguing: The chef intricately debones skin-on chicken legs, rolls them into cylindrical logs and poaches them in a broth flavored with Chinese rice wine. Slices of it are served bathed in wine. For a sweet ending, try Eight Treasure Sweet Rice, a molded glutinous rice pudding stuffed with red bean paste and topped with dried fruit, such as peaches, goji berries, raisins, kiwi and pineapple.
4929 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda; 301-654-1188; wangdynastybethesda.com
Eyepoppers: The Hot Blooded Bloody Mary at Old Town Pour House
This stunner is a tall glass rimmed with Tajin chili-lime seasoning salt and filled with an 18-ounce spicy bloody mary garnished with (deep breath) lemon and lime wedges, a celery stalk, a skewered green olive, a cheese curd, a housemade pickle, a pickled jalapeño slice, a wedge of hard-boiled egg and a slice of candied bacon. Fried onions gild the liquid lily ($15).
Old Town Pour House, 212 Ellington Blvd. (Downtown Crown), Gaithersburg; 301-963-6281; oldtownpourhouse.com
Eyepoppers: Giant Panko Fried Chicken Sandwich at Mosaic Cuisine
Mosaic Cuisine in Rockville specializes in Belgian waffles used in a variety of ways, such as the bread for sandwiches. (“Dare to waffle?” the menu asks. Yes, we dare!) The Waffleissimo is a towering clublike waffle sandwich made with crispy panko-crusted chicken cutlets, lettuce, tomatoes, crunchy ginger slaw and chipotle mayo sauce. We weren’t convinced of the waffle-as-bread hack at first; now we’re all in.
186 Halpine Road (The Shops at Congressional Village), Rockville; 301-468-0682; mosaiccuisine.com
Eyepoppers: Apple Pie-Stuffed French Toast at Silver Diner
Hats off to Ype Von Hengst, the co-founder and executive chef of Silver Diner, for creating this seasonal favorite, which has no rivals. First, Von Hengst dredges the tops of two thick slices of griddled challah French toast with cinnamon sugar and tops one of them with vanilla crème (like cream cheese frosting) and an abundance of roasted, sliced, thyme-flecked apples. Then he puts the second slice on top (turned at a 90-degree angle from the bottom slice) and finishes the dish with more roasted apples, a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds and drizzles of salted caramel.
12276 Rockville Pike (Federal Plaza), Rockville; 301-770-2828; silverdiner.com
Eyepoppers: Meet the Benedicts at Botanero
Botanero in King Farm serves 250 to 300 diners at a busy weekend brunch with the patio open, says co-owner Ken Skidmore. About a third of them order executive chef Jaime Planas’ eggs Benedict ($15 to $17), poached eggs on toasted English muffins served one of four ways: with prosciutto, smoked salmon, Maryland crabcakes, or spinach and piquillo peppers. Some also have arugula on them. All are topped with hollandaise sauce and come with home fries. Here’s what goes into preparing them.
Clarifying butter: Planas cooks 2 pounds of butter until its water content evaporates and its milk solids coagulate and sink to the bottom of the pot, leaving a clear golden liquid. Removing the water helps prevent the hollandaise sauce from breaking.
Making the hollaindaise: Planas whisks 32 egg yolks (pasteurized for stability), salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice and cayenne pepper together in a large stainless-steel bowl set over simmering water. When the mixture thickens into a light-yellow foam, he slowly adds clarified butter with one hand while whisking with the other. (He doubles the sauce on a busy day.)
Poaching the eggs: Planas brings a large pot of water to a simmer. He adds a few tablespoons of vinegar, which helps set the whites around the yolk instead of dispersing them. To poach, he stirs the water to create a small whirlpool and drops in an egg, which had been cracked into a ramekin. After a few minutes, when the white is set and yolk cooked to request, he removes it with a slotted spoon and blots it on a towel to prevent soggy Benedicts.
A note on pre-poaching: Poached eggs can be made ahead of time by poaching them until they are just set (but not fully cooked) and plunging them into ice water to stop the cooking process. When ready to serve, they can be reheated to desired doneness in simmering water. Planas does this during the rush so he doesn’t fall behind.
Assembling: Planas tops egg setups with hollandaise and smoked paprika and serves them with brunch potatoes.
800 Pleasant Drive, Ste. 160, Rockville; 240-474-5461; botanerorockville.com