Today's restaurant industry landscape is saturated in bespoke lighting and rustic-modern fixtures, with design seemingly giving way to parody. At two stories tall, Carrollton's Cafe Brown Sugar is a bit of a standout in this sea of cookie-cutter archetypes. Upstairs, biblical wallpaper — a remnant of the space's former life — shares the wall with messages left by the cafe's patrons. This graffiti reflects a modern-day penchant for self-promotion and an unabashed embrace of the vulgar. These walls, with their add requests, phallic cartoons and wise men processions, are a diamond in the interior-design rough.
During the day, Brown Sugar caters to those taking a shot at productivity. Students armed with laptops and chai lattes like to claim the New Jersey-chic booths on the second floor to study. Meanwhile, the older professionals cordon themselves off downstairs, where seating abounds and there is a dearth of "for a good time" calls to action on the walls.
With hours extending until 11 p.m., the cafe becomes a Korea Town hot-spot at night, a place to socialize over bubble teas and dessert waffles. These waffles, which Brown Sugar is known for, come in several varieties, and toppings include fresh fruit, a few scoops of ice cream and a sweet sauce.
While not featured on the brunch menu, these waffles ($9.95 to $10.95) align with the general disregard for rules and restrictions typically embodied by brunch. Should you start your day with a chocolate waffle topped with cookies-and-cream ice cream, chocolate syrup and Oreos? Probably not. Does life slowly and steadily chip away at your sense of joy and purpose like the Michelangelo of ennui? Definitely. Therefore, when presented with the opportunity to embrace Marie Antoinette levels of decadence, why not? Order the dessert waffles, damn it.
If you are feeling in need of a little more balance and a lot more nitrates, the three-item brunch menu of French toast, waffle and croissant plates can be your guide. The first two options are identical in their composition, save for their featured carbohydrate-delivery system. Both feature a side salad of spring greens, fried egg and a selection of "breakfast" meat. The quotation marks are used to allude to a byproduct of human engineering that can scarcely be considered a meat, let alone breakfast meat. That byproduct, which arrived nestled next to bacon and so artfully scored: hot dogs.
Hot dogs enjoy a global fan base, and Korea is no exception. From the batter-dipped, french-fry-covered street food versions to budae jjigae, the spicy red ramen stew devised after the war and that hot dogs in addition to some of America's other great culinary exports (Spam, baked beans, American cheese), hot dogs have permeated Korean cuisine.
If you can disconnect from the mustard-squiggle and ball-game associations, you might find yourself enjoying hot dogs for brunch. After all, they aren't so different from the meats that typically graze Americans' breakfast plates. Like bacon and sausage, they add a salty and sometimes smoky component and afford textural variation. They also pair well with syrup (2018 alternate-universe food trend forecast: hot dog and syrup pairings), but you'll want to reserve most of that maple goodness for the waffles. With the waffles' shatteringly crisp shells and light, airy interiors, one comes to understand why this place is known for them.
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To keep the carb train rolling, try the sweet butter toast ($5.95). Like the dessert waffles, this isn't on the brunch menu but is available during brunch hours. This tower of bread stands tall and proud, the veritable Burj Khalifa of the bread world. Here, a loaf of milk bread — which has a thin, crisp crust and soft, squishable crumb — is toasted and topped with syrup, salted butter, powdered sugar and cinnamon. Think of it as a less fussy version of French toast, with a focus on good, fresh bread.
Cafe Brown Sugar is many things. It is a place to work and a place to unwind. A place to grab a quick meal or to linger, working your way down the expansive beverage menu. Above all, it is an enigma inside of a hot dog and shrouded by ice cream.
Cafe Brown Sugar, 2625 Old Denton Road, Carrollton. Brunch is served 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.