Are you in the mood for brunch? Well get in line. I mean that literally. Big city brunches have changed in the decades since I moved to the big city. When I first came to Los Angeles brunch was a carefree, last-minute dining decision we made on any random weekend just because the sun was shining and A Flock of Seagulls inspired us all to “walk along the avenue”. There was a certain “New Wave” optimism running along that avenue and brunch was a part of the thrill. It was a time when colors were bright, hair was big, and punk was fun.
Well, call me a grump but it seems to me that 80’s joyful brunchtime camaraderie has been replaced by insane lines of proudly bedraggled grumpsters wearing sunglasses to hide their hangovers or anxious helicopter parents who insist on bringing screaming children into public places.
I should probably apologize for this unexpected rush of grumpy brunchtime nostalgia. It was brought on by Shrimp and Grits.
On its face Shrimp and Grits seems to have no relevance to brunch. However, I decided to put an egg on these Shrimp and Grits. Put an egg on anything and brunch comes to mind, right?
I know it sounds weird, but (for me) brunch in Los Angeles defined what it meant to be young and in charge of your own destiny. I’ll admit with some hindsight that my dining habits weren’t necessarily responsible choices. I can’t say exactly where I found the money in my young budget to pop into Tommy Tang’s, Angeli Caffé, and Trumps as often as I did. Of course there were cheap eats too. I remember pierogies at Gorky’s, gut-stuffing pancakes at Tick Tock, and the lingering vegetarian grooviness of The Source on Sunset. I loved the outdoorsy elegance (and blossoming romance between me and Ken) while brunching at Butterfield’s on the Sunset Strip, and of course egg-centric classics from Canter’s Deli and Duke’s Tropicana. Maybe there were lines at these places. I don’t remember. I had a music mix in my Walkman and the mood was bitchin’.
It didn’t seem to matter where we ate either. Life was rad and the big city seemed limitless. It was a time when all you needed was a pair of Wayfarers and the address of the latest hot spot! Maybe I’m romanticizing my youth (or Los Angeles) but the older I get the thought of knocking back bottomless mimosas makes me wonder: is brunch worth all the hassle?
It’s not that I don’t like brunch. Stick an egg on Shrimp and Grits and you’d be a brunch lover too. Serve these Shrimp and Grits with something bubbly and I wouldn’t complain. Just don’t make me wait in line to eat it. These days, when it comes to brunch, you know for sure that you’re gonna have to wait with puffy-vested-bearded-young-men who have no issues about vaping in your face.
As I say, brunch out in the big city seems to have changed. However, every time I think about giving up brunch for good I try to remember one truism about life: what goes around, comes around.
Maybe we didn’t wear fedoras and stare at our devices (instead of our friends), but we had loose, blousy Ton Sur Ton shirts and acid-washed jeans. I guess we were the annoying hipsters of our time, out to ruin Ozzy and Harriet’s quiet brunch with our fishnet stockings (for girls) and shocking blue eyeliner (for boys).
Which means I can live and let live when it comes to brunch. However, all the chipotle hollandaise in the world won’t make me stand along a congested avenue waiting for artisanal barnwood-smoked bacon. So I made Shrimp and Grits at home and put an egg on it for old time’s sake. GREG
Brunch mix cassette Illustration courtesy of my editorial partnership with Shutterstock.