It seems Las Palmas is keeping its brunch a pretty well-kept secret. Located in Uptown, it's hiding in plain sight.
It might have something to do with the front sign only stating “Lunch & Dinner 11-11.” Maybe it's because they opened a few months ago. The only acknowledgment of brunch comes from the menu located at the bottom of the website.
Despite putting almost no advertising into the fact that they do, indeed, have a brunch, there was a steady trickle of diners coming and going throughout our recent visit. Set in a two-story building, previously home to Social House, the atmosphere is a very fun and light take on 1980s-style Tex-Mex culture with an emphasis on old-school Hollywood.
It's a relaxed space to be with vinyl tablecloths and Latin music trumpeting through the air. We were seated immediately and given a mound of chips with salsa verde and roja. Both salsas are fairly standard in their flavors, with the roja having a fair amount more heat to it than most Tex-Mex places would be daring to serve.
Las Palmas' brunch menu is simple, really simple. It has only nine items on it and does not include any drinks. As I realized this after sitting down, my concern about why they didn’t advertise their brunch started rising.
While Las Palmas doesn’t have a specific brunch drink menu, it does offer the standard lunch drink menu, as well as the option to outright buy a whole bottle of sparkling wine and a few glasses of juice. This is the right choice for Las Palmas, because the regular drink menu with lunch is solid.
We got a frozen margarita that was limey and sweet but had enough liquor in it to get two people tipsy ($6.50). They also served all their drinks with biodegradable straws made from the leftover pulp of the agave-harvesting process. While the straws are a bit unappealing in color, they're a perfect fit for such a restaurant and helped us skirt the modern-day guilt of using a plastic straw.
The majority of the menu is some form of chorizo, eggs or carne asada. While we had initially ordered the chorizo frittata ($14), our waitress returned shortly afterward and notified us that the kitchen’s frittata of the day, while being made perfectly fine, didn’t have much “visible chorizo.”
We ordered the chorizo eggs Benedict ($14) in its place and discussed our concern about the worrisome frittata we had just narrowly avoided.
Fortunately we didn’t have much time to discuss, as our food arrived very quickly. Our concerns were extinguished upon first bite, though, as the chorizo eggs Benedict was superb. While eggs Benedict will always have some of the same key flavors and textures, its execution is what determines its final quality.
Poached eggs are notoriously finicky; even in a commercial kitchen, a well-made hollandaise will separate into an oily mess if neglected even just for a moment. This eggs Benedict, even without the substitution of their phenomenal housemade chorizo, is excellent. The salty and fragrant punch of the chorizo, though, pushed this dish over the top. While the accompanying hash brown potatoes were lackluster, the house salsas were enough to bring it back into good standing.
The next dish we had was the chilaquiles, the most unremarkable dish of our brunch ($13). While all of the usual elements of the dish were there, they didn’t meld in any noticeable way. It may have been from the addition of soft scrambled eggs into the usual fried tortilla strip mix that bulked out the dish to a point of being bland, but it was missing a bit of everything.
The addition of more salt, more pico de gallo and more queso fresco would have certainly helped, but this dish may have been doomed from the start with its off-ratio amounts of tortilla strips and scrambled eggs. If they had tossed in a hearty sprinkling of the chorizo though, things might be different. It too is served with hash browns that desperately cry out for salsa to save them, as well as a humdrum spoonful of refried beans.
The order of carne asada and eggs is where Las Palmas gets to flex their brunch muscles ($17). The grilled skirt steak is spectacularly juicy while retaining charred and caramelized edges.
It's served simply with a small mound of grilled peppers and onions and flanked on either side by eggs (we chose sunny side up) that are garnished with both red and green salsa. While I could do without the refried beans, the dish itself comes together simply and elegantly. Las Palmas knew where to showcase its strength as a Tex-Mex spot. To fold their wonderful version of carne asada into the brunch menu was absolutely the right choice.
Las Palmas does brunch effortlessly, to their advantage and disadvantage. The kitchen's doing itself a disservice by not advertising brunch, but even with such a simple menu, it could still trim and substitute some of the dishes.
The concept of brunch here is a reasonable one that utilizes the ingredients and preparations the kitchen is accustomed to while being competitively priced. Las Palmas has a worthwhile brunch potential sitting right underneath them, but has yet to invest the effort into fleshing it out fully.
Las Palmas, 2708 Routh St. (Uptown)