DC does brunch like no other city I've ever lived in (I have never lived in New York City, so shut up). It's a big deal these days. Although, it wasn't always like that. The DC brunch experience has devolved quite rapidly over the past ten or so years. It looks and feels nothing like it used to. Frankly, it's gotten stupid and somehow less enjoyable than it originally was, which I thought to be impossible.
Obviously "brunch" is the commingling of the words and the common offerings of "breakfast" and "lunch." I tend to think brunch is a meal where there's a half-assed attempt at serving both and drinking before noon is not frowned upon. It's not a relatively new concept in America, but it's definitely a regionally celebrated meal that is closely tied in with socio-economic status and race. So, what I'm saying is that it's something that rich white people do in big cities. The most annoying things on earth are the creation of rich white people - do not doubt that scientific fact.
(Note: sorry if that offends you, but I'm from Texas and I can guarantee you that nobody in the Segundo Barrio of El Paso is "brunching" anytime soon. Nor are they going to climb the tallest mountain in the world and risk certain death for "fun" and a rare photo-op. Seriously, rich white people are weird.)
In 2001, when I moved to DC, brunch was still pretty much exclusively a Sunday thing. Now there are no rules - you can probably get brunch somewhere in DC at midnight on a Tuesday and it will likely require a reservation. The demand for brunch has driven providers to do away with the constraints under which brunch could be served - namely late morning to early afternoon on Sundays. If you don't think that some places offering a brunch menu until 4:00 p.m. is ridiculous, stop reading here because you're not going to get my point at all.
Brunch was also a semi-dressy affair back in the day. My girlfriend at the time insisted we brunch every Sunday and that I look as if I might have emerged from a church before sitting down to eat. I hated this part because I hate being dressed up on the weekends. The girlfriend that finally made the cut (my current wife) insists that brunch hasn't always been a dressy affair as she puts on what looks like a prom dress to meet the girls at some Georgetown brunch hotspot. The fact is - people used to dress for brunch. Nowadays things are little different for the majority of brunch goers.
Maybe you have noticed the packs of spandex wearing women at brunch who give you the impression that a Body Pump class is about to start at any moment. They are fully made up so you know they haven't been to the gym and after pounding five mimosas they aren't going after they brunch. So... why are they in workout clothes? Workout clothes, mind you, that leave little to the imagination - and I have a quite the imagination. This is both a really good thing and in too many cases, a really bad thing.
What's the point of wearing workout clothes to gorge yourself with pastries and bacon? And when did the saying "nobody looks good in spandex" become advice not taken? I mean, the material of the form fitting pants they are wearing may no longer be called "spandex," but it is de facto the same thing with all the same embarrassments built into their design (the foot features of a middle eastern humpbacked horse anyone?). Am I supposed to get the impression that while these women are hogging down this week's newest riff on eggs benedict at the moment, they are actually top athletes who may bang out some wind sprints between trips to bloody mary bar? It's as almost as strange as the millions of city dwelling women who don't have access to a horse donning English riding boots to go to the grocery store. It's a mystery we may never solve.
I'm also a little worried about the escalation in the complexity of bloody marys at DC area brunch spots. Unlike the time honored tradition of simply hiding your drinking habit in a glass of OJ, the bloody mary has become a complicated, and expensive, way of getting hammered at breakfast. The top brunch spots are sticking all manner of things you can't drink (bacon) into the cocktail turning into what amounts to a cold soup. Read a current list of things people are putting into a drink that didn't need any help to begin with. I was happy with the original bloody mary form. At no point did the hangover helper ever scream "put frog spleens and the sweat glands of a koala bear in me!" Three weeks ago I received a bloody mary and I had to send it back - it looked like they planted a garden on top of it. Not everything has to be customized to the point of being unrecognizable.
The establishments with "bloody mary bars" have completely given up on the simple task of making the drink and now hand a glass of vodka to their patrons saying "here you are, go f*ck up your own drink." I have to laugh at the idea of you doing all the work for your own drink being a selling point for a restaurant. Then again, people pay $20 for a brunch buffet and eat about $6 worth of food and brag about it on Facebook. If Whitlows could only figure out how to get their customers to bus the tables and wash the dishes, they'd only need someone to unlock the doors and collect the cash.
I guess one good thing about the burgeoning brunch phenomenon is that it's no longer, what Anthony Bourdain described as, "a dumping ground for the odd bits left over from Friday and Saturday." Brunch anytime and all the time has required that ingredients not be leftovers, but instead fresh due to the constant demand. However, that doesn't mean the quality of your brunch options are getting any better. How many places in DC are just tossing some obligatory egg dishes out there with a frou frou waffle option as their breakfast qualifier for being technically "brunch." A lot I would say. Dragging out that pink smoked salmon mess with rabbit turds on it has to be the sorriest excuse for a brunch food I've ever seen and it's a staple option at these places. Give me a break. I want breakfast pizza!
Here are my suggestions for DC's brunching future...
1. Ladies - put some clothes on. There's a solid one percent of you that I actually enjoy seeing in your spandex. It's the hippos without a care that ruin it for everyone. I know you want people to embrace your confidence in your body, but I'd rather not start that project when I'm eating. And just like wearing a space suit doesn't make me an astronaut, wearing a workout clothes doesn't make you fit.
2. Turn Brunch back into a 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. exclusive Sunday deal. It doesn't mean as much when you can get brunch at anytime any day of the week. It's like eggnog. Eggnog wouldn't be eggnog if you could get in July.
3. Brunch is more than offering mimosas and bloody marys. Have true breakfast and lunch options available. A blended, pared down menu of the chef's "take" on whatever staple brunch item is hot at the moment is not enough. I want to be able to get biscuits and gravy or a cheeseburger - possibly a combination of both.
4. No matter what my wife says, don't let her order the new flavor of the week eggs benedict. She only likes the original eggs benedicts laid out in the Bible and always regrets ordering it any other way.
5. I know what you're doing with the home fries - stop. Nobody in their right mind would eat that many potatoes. I don't mind some white space on the plate if it means not throwing out a pound of potatoes.
6. I shouldn't have to worry that consuming my bloody mary will leave me no room for my meal. I have a hangover and need a little hair of the dog. I do not need to eat one meal out of a glass and another off of a plate.
7. Why does every omelet have to be bigger than my face? Two chicken eggs, not two ostrich eggs - okay?
8. Breakfast pizza. Seriously - it's the easiest thing in the world pull of, but I can't get it anywhere.
9. Last but not least... if someone walks in with a race bib attached to their person - do not seat them. They smell and are violating my published rules on race bib etiquette.
That is all... you may now commence brunching again.