Braving Brunch at Eureka! Dallas

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Kathryn DeBruler searches far and wide for DFW's most interesting breakfast food. Come along.

I didn't have high hopes going into this brunch, and the fact that a manager apologized half an hour after my order was placed didn't help much. She explained that I was there during Eureka's first official brunch service, and that the kitchen scrapped my original order when the end result didn't meet their standards. Admirable, Eureka!, but not confidence-building.

Eureka!, a California-based restaurant chain, opened its Dallas outpost in December. It's not that I'm opposed to eating at chains necessarily, but from afar Eureka! struck me as the sort of place one frequents when one's coworkers want to go out for lunch, or maybe on a Friday night to sample their expansive beer menu. It did not strike me as the kind of place one goes for a leisurely brunch.

And to some extent, it's not. The ambiance reads more uptown sports bar, less bastion of food-induced relaxation. The music is a skosh too loud to be considered background, and there are TVs over the bar. Perhaps Eureka! is employing some research-based tactic here -- maybe lots of external stimuli have been shown to increase Bloody Mary consumption. Who knows. What I do know is that I had some of the best French toast of my life at this club-cum-sports-bar-cum-restaurant.

Too often, restaurant French toast comes out soggy, drained of any life or flavor it once had before being drowned under a waterfall of maple syrup. But not at Eureka! Here, slices of Texas toast are halved and battered before being coated in crushed corn flakes and pan fried until crispy. The penultimate step in this series of preparation should be a prerequisite for all French toast recipes, as the cereal lends a much needed textural component -- a very satisfying crunch -- that is sorely lacking from most renditions of this dish.

It doesn't hurt that at Eureka! they've taken to the bottle. I'm talking alcohol here, people. Eureka! gives French toast the bananas foster treatment by cooking lengths of banana in rum-sugar syrup, which then gets sluiced over the top of the toast. A few generous dollops of freshly whipped cream render this brunch dining at its finest: boozy, indulgent and conscientiously prepared to boot.

And then there was the fly in the ointment of my brunch experience: The Creole Benedict. In place of English muffins, Eureka! uses three rounds of cornmeal-coated, fried green tomato. A nice concept, but the tomatoes were bland and watery. Which leads me to the poached eggs. As my fork pierced the whites, all my hopes and dreams -- but more importantly, my Hollandaise -- washed away. I'm no Jacques Pépin, but I'm pretty sure poached eggs shouldn't run with water like the river Nile. Even the ham missed the mark, as slices of so-so deli meat were used in lieu of the real stuff. Come on, Eureka!, give me some ham that tastes like it came from an animal, not birthed from the loins of Oscar Mayer. All in all, this dish left me with a case of the brunch sads.

Luckily, the Benedict was accompanied by a side of soft-fried potatoes that cured my sads right up. It actually reminded me of German potato salad, with warm chunks of crispy on the outside, soft on the inside potato and big slices of sautéed purple onion, tossed with a whole grain mustard vinaigrette and served with a side of baby arugula. The potatoes were almost good enough to make up for the Benedict. Almost.

The hiccups experienced on my visit were to be expected considering that brunch is a new addition for this restaurant. I like the fact that Eureka!'s brunch menu is small and reflects a desire on this chain's part to do a few dishes well. The prices are on par with the neighborhood, at $9-$12 a plate, with $5 mimosas and Bloody Mary's. It's also admirable that they're utilizing local businesses, namely Ascension Coffee, as suppliers. I would have no qualms about paying another visit, but I would skip the Creole "WIP" Benedict and try the bison steak chili huevos rancheros or the jalapeno egg burger, instead.

Or, you know, do what I really want to, which is not try anything new and just eat seven orders of French toast.

Eureka! Dallas 3700 McKinney Ave. 126, Dallas, Texas 75204 Brunch is served from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m on Saturdays and Sundays

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