For our most recent brunch, we stopped into La Reunion — that not-a-bar, not-a-coffee-shop, not-a-sit-down-restaurant place we recently wrote about.
One immediate issue is by design, it seems: When one walks in, they don’t know where to go. You encounter a coffee bar, then you’re asked if you want to sit down, then you do, then you wait a while until someone (we were told there are no actual “servers”) comes by. We watched multiple people go through this process as they entered the doors on a cold Sunday morning.
The space, however, is beautiful with natural lighting, warm colors and comfortable seating you can easily lounge in for a while. Even the barstools were superior to almost any we’ve recently experienced.
At brunch you’ll find a breakfast menu available daily from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For a smaller meal, you can try a puff pastry with apricot, bourbon and pecan ($5) or a sausage pastry with house duck and pork sausage and house mustard ($5).
We went for heartier options such as the croque madame ($9). It’s a petite version of the ham and Gruyere sandwich topped with bechamel and served with a poached egg. The egg is cooked perfectly, and the seasoning throughout the sandwich is spot-on. But nothing on it was hot. We were sitting at the bar, steps away from the kitchen window, but somehow, a room-temp bechamel was what we got.
Being that avocado toast still has a grip on brunch menus, there’s somewhat of an evolution here with an avocado sandwich ($11). The most expensive item on the morning menu, this comes on a tall ciabatta roll with bacon, avocado, thin cucumber slices, za'atar and dressed greens.
It’s a cold sandwich, which wouldn’t be a knock if that house bacon weren't a rather thick cut of meat. And unlike the croque madame, seasoning was completely lacking. It’s disappointing when someone won’t simply salt and pepper something like an avocado or egg, then have it nowhere available for the consumer to add.
It's also hard to eat. There's more bread than you really want for these ingredients, and as you bite into it, slippery slices of avocado easily fall to your plate. It was uneaten enough for a staff member to ask if we wanted anything else. I declined, choosing instead to snack on more of the croque madame.
A side note: It’s hard to be sustainable in kitchens. I admire those who say they won’t use plastic, but don't fault those who do. But when something like a sandwich comes wrapped in needless paper, presumably because it looks cute, that’s just wasteful.
The coffee bar offers crafts from the beans of Novel Coffee Roasters — full disclosure, I’ve casually known the owner of that from another life, but Novel does create lovely, bright coffee. An almond latte took a while, but it came out perfectly well, with a good balance of almond milk to espresso. The drip coffee is great, too — good enough to make us want to come back just for that and the comfortable seating.
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We do wish the service had been a bit more prompt; I drank a glass of water at a pretty normal rate, then watched it sit empty for about 10 minutes, and having completed plates in front of you for longer than that, waiting for someone to offer the opportunity for a check, never feels fun.
The simple menu does fine — if you’re in the neighborhood and looking for a quick bite, not an extended brunch time. Admittedly, it was not our plan and was a last-minute stop for us, as we initially planned to try Trompo’s brunch menu. Trompo owner Luis Olvera tells us it returns this Sunday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. We’re certainly eager for that one.
La Reunion, 229 N. Bishop Ave. (Bishop Arts District)