Getting the vibe of brunch right is half the battle to draw the crowds. Having the best waffles and bloody mary drinks is all for naught if guests don’t feel as if all the brunch stereotypes aren’t met.
Diners want to feel like they're having brunch — a cutesy, relaxed meal with hungover friends and family — not have the sensation that they’re just going out to eat for another meal.
The Henry is built like a temple devoted to the brunch gods. With its expansive footprint and prime real estate near Uptown, there has certainly been more than a fair share of money and thought invested into making the space as upper-middle-class as possible.
That's meant in a positive way, as the Henry casts a net so wide it's difficult to find anything to complain about, regardless of financial status.
It's like the Bose headphones of restaurants: Sure, you can buy a cheap pair of earbuds for a tenth of the price, and there are certainly more expensive brands, but they’re the once-in-a-while luxury that makes you say, “Go ahead, you deserve it this time.”
The Henry’s polish runs all the way through the deep steel blue decor and butcher block tables. Ample window light pours through the cafe near the back entrance, as if the sun only existed for this restaurant alone.
Guests who dine outside are treated with a picturesque scene of a French-inspired patio complete with marble tables and cute wicker chairs. Make sure your phone is charged before going, as it's as close to an Instagram gold mine as possible.
As sickeningly perfect as the Henry appears at first glance, I was looking for a crack in the facade during my visit. Much to my chagrin, our service was superb from start to finish.
The Henry nails brunch.
A seemingly choreographed dance began with the valet whisking our car away, followed by a bright-eyed hostess cheerily seating us immediately, even with a buzzing haze of guests seemingly filling every seat in the restaurant.
We strolled past the open-air kitchen service counter and gained a glimpse of the cooks and servers in the back, bustling and flowing around each other in a slice of life that could have easily been mistaken for a scene in Ratatouille
The Henry’s brunch menu is a more beefed out version of its regular breakfast menu and includes a few luxurious items such as chicken-fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits ($14) and rancheros with jalapeño-pumpkin seed salsa ($13).
As we were deciding what to eat, a cart slinked its way to the table next to ours, where mimosas and bloody marys were being served. The remainder of the menu is mostly standard brunch fare, with a few lunch items tossed in for good measure. We decided to hedge our bets by getting a sweet item, an egg item and a meat item.
All of our food was served quickly, piping hot and as photo-worthy as could be.
We dived into our sweet item, the bread pudding French toast ($10). Have you ever been so tired that as you lay down to fall asleep, you seemingly only blinked and hours had gone by? That was the fate for this dish.
It was there one moment and gone the next, devoured in a blur of caramel apple and whipped cream. The bread was chunky and robust, and never reached a sogginess, even till the last bite. It was very sweet, and I have no issue punishing my pancreas in the morning every now and again, but I could see for some it being excessive.
As an added bonus, we ordered the Henry’s Irish oats ($7) to confirm if the kitchen was up to the challenge of making a usually boring dish rise to the occasion. It, too, was phenomenal, and I can say with full confidence it's the best oatmeal I have ever had. It's served with a brown sugar-raisin preserve — a kind of thick, glossy chutney that, when mixed in the oatmeal, made a wonderfully rich slew of textures.
Egg white and turkey omelet
I purposefully ordered the egg white-turkey omelet ($11) in an effort to find something wrong: Egg white omelets are often much drier, sadder versions of their yolky counterparts, and turkey is often a sadder version of the superior chicken counterpart. Typically “healthy” dishes sacrifice flavor in some form. I was once again wrong.
The omelet was fluffy and full of moisture. The turkey held firm with roasted flavor. It was served with fresh pico de gallo and melted Swiss cheese, which kept the dish rich enough to be satisfying but light enough not to feel guilty.
I accepted what this review was to be as our last dish arrived. The short rib pot stickers closed out our meal with meaty umami perfection ($14). While it's only a couple of pot stickers per order, they do a fantastic job of making them taste like they're worth 14 bucks.
The meat mixture inside is a braised salty concoction that has the richness of a pot roast with a bright punch of ginger and garlic. It's served in a sesame and ponzu sauce, giving a citrus note that lingers after the bite.
Short rib pot stickers
The Henry’s brunch is about as close to stereotypical brunch perfection as possible. If a computer were to run thousands of brunch simulations from restaurants around the United States, the median result it would spit out is this.
As with any restaurant, it's possible to get unlucky and have poor service, or an improperly cooked dish. Just the same, it's possible we just got lucky this time and had a perfect meal — but I’d like to hope most experiences at the Henry have been like ours. While it's certainly not a restaurant you’d visit three times a week, our meal wasn’t wildly expensive. Even if it were, I would happily pay it.
The Henry’s brunch is something to enjoy with moderation, as too much of a good thing may just spoil you.
The Henry, 2301 N. Akard St., Suite 250 (Victory Park). 972-677-9560. Brunch served 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.