When Homewood started serving brunch, some of us weren’t sure about the move.
You guys already do dinner well, should you stretch yourselves with brunch?
Turns out, we’re pretty glad they stretched.
Brunch cocktails include a bloody mary that sounds standard with added spiced mushroom ($10), and the Reanimator with gin, cucumber, brut Cava, lemon and espelette pepper ($12).
The To Kill a Mockingbird cocktail is a solid way to start, if you need some liquid to give you more audacity and confidence. The combination of tequila (Casamigos silver), basil and Mexican marigold has those abilities and tastes pretty good, too ($12).
Classic cocktails are your mimosa ($8), Bellini with apricot ($9) and an Aperol spritz ($11).
The food menu’s an appropriate size, giving us plenty of options without overextending or being overzealous in trying to be creative.
The top involves salads and oysters; we skipped the oysters this time, having already enjoyed them on a previous evening visit. As for skipping the salads, we probably won’t do that again: The autumn salad with shaved pears, apples, celery, toasted almonds and Parmesan passed by our table and looked more than worthy and seemed large enough for two people ($15).
Then we get into the heavier stuff: the Benedict with spicy crab salad ($19) or the classic French omelet ($17) looked good, but we went with a friend’s recommendation and got the ham and cheese waffle ($15).
Normally, such a savory waffle wouldn’t be a first go-to, personally, but the opinion of the trusted friend plus the lower price tag made it a fine fit. You can see in the open kitchen, staff cutting away excess with scissors, meaning you get a pretty perfectly round waffle filled with plenty of ham and just enough cheese. On its own, it’s good, better than expected, with the proper balance of salt to ease this normally sweet dough into the realm of savory.
What makes the entire dish, though, is the Choron sauce, which is usually a Béarnaise sauce with added tomato. While this sauce would perfectly complement a steak, we're more than happy to experience it on this waffle. This version leans heavy on the tomato, giving us a sturdy sauce that eases to slight sweetness. (It’s also far superior to the overused Hollandaise on brunch menus.)
It’s a sauce I wanted to take home in a deli cup, but didn't, because it’d be weird to ask. A little goes a long way: There’s a heck-ton of the addicting sauce on the waffle, overpowering the flavors beneath and quickly producing a sogginess. Less on top with extra on the side might be the way to go here. The whole dish is lightly dusted with nutritional yeast, rounding out the plate with a gentle umami flavor.
This dish also is a good example of what makes a good brunch: a dish that pushes in creativity but doesn’t deliver a plate that doesn’t work. Flavors complement, and you leave wanting more (or in our case, eating an entire waffle when you intended on eating half).
Another plate was less thrilling. The pickle-brined fried chicken sandwich left us disappointed with a dry main ingredient. Our server noticed it mostly uneaten, then explained there were some new staff members in the kitchen, implying that was the reason. She also later took it off our bill, too. The rest of the sandwich was put together well with a couple of pickles, cabbage slaw and a bun with the perfect squish when you pick it up.
On the side, you can get some perfect bacon ($8). It’s listed as “smoked,” but it is, indeed, perfect to this writer in thickness and preparation. The wilted greens with tons of garlic are delightful, especially if you’re a true lover of the latter ingredient.
A next visit will surely include Maggie’s biscuits, named after Maggie Huff, the pastry chef our critic Brian Reinhart is such a fan of ($18). The price seemed steep for biscuits, but a nearby table got these little mounds of what are surely goodness, with thick slices of honey-glazed ham and hot sauce butter.
Of course, a follow-up visit can wait because this isn’t a cheap brunch spot. The value’s there, so we’re not complaining; it just might be more of an occasion-kind of place for the morning hours.
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Dessert at breakfast time is welcomed on the weekend, too, and one should never bypass an opportunity to try what Huff has on the menu.
The apple-cheddar hand pies are just as they should be: two small pies have wonderful edges of crisp, cooked cheddar and interiors of warm apple filling ($8). They're dusted with powdered sugar and wrap the meal on a high note. (Admittedly, the guest who didn’t eat his chicken sandwich and had told our server he “just wasn’t all that hungry” and ate every bit of his hand pie.)
My favorite part of brunch here is the music. After one song, I had a thought, then the same thought during the second song; and by song five, I was certain. I was hearing songs that are on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. I haven’t checked with the song selector, chef Matt McCallister, on whether it was straight-up played, or if he just happens to share the wonderful taste in music with Star-Lord, but it created a perfect setting for a Sunday morning.
Homewood, 4002 Oak Lawn Ave. (Oak Lawn). Brunch served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.