At first glance, barbecue and brunch might seem incompatible. Truly, who wants burnt ends at 10:30 a.m.? Texans. Texans want barbecue for brunch. Because to a Texan, the smell of smoked meat can be worn like Chanel No. 18, and the ways of the grill are law.
So when 18th and Vine announced brunch service, what did we do? We ate brisket and drank mimosas like our Alamo-fixated ancestors taught us.
Named after the historic cross streets in Kansas City from whence great jazz has risen, 18th and Vine is Oak Lawn's slice of Kansas City-style barbecue. It comes from owners Kimi and Matt Dallman who wanted a taste of home delivered with some imagination and refinement. That translates to a dinner menu from chef Scott Gottlich (The Second Floor) that peppers pulled pork and burnt ends with cauliflower steaks and farro risotto.
But don't denounce 18th and Vine as a sacrilege to all that is good and meaty. It's actually got a nostalgic feel that oozes style with high ceilings, big windows, simple furnishings and plenty of black. It's the kind of barbecue restaurant where the waiters wear crisp blue button-downs. All of that is to say that taken together, 18th and Vine makes sense: It's barbecue, yes, but it's something different, too.
As of two weeks ago, 18th and Vine tried something really different with their very first brunch service. Served on the weekends with live jazz on Sundays, brunch here is kept short and sweet with five entrees and five drinks to choose from, including $15 bottomless mimosas. While the vine-style huevos rancheros with refried pit-beans ($13) and smoked salmon wrap ($15) might serve the barbecue-averse well, our table went whole hog starting with an order of chipped beef on toast ($14).
Because nothing starts the day off right quite like salted chipped beef, gravy and cheddar cheese. It's diet food, really: a mound of smoky, sweet, tender beef is formed atop a thick sliced of grilled bread into a Kilimanjaro-esque mountain o' meat. Its protein as topography, we were happy to explore every inch of its terrain, from the golden, buttery gravy to the crusty, slightly charred bread and the beef that proved more pulled that chipped. The dish is complex than its components might suggest and each smoky, salty, creamy bite somehow justifies the cardiac event that will undoubtedly follow in 40 years.
The barbecue breakfast proved lighter than the beef and gravy toast but also a bit dull. The rib hash included leathery little pieces of meat and a flat saute of potatoes and peppers. The fried farm fresh egg and pan sauce could not save this dish from it's humdrum existence, though the charred green onions — served whole and slightly caramelized by the charring process — were a delicious addition.
So go forth, fellow citizens, into that good barbecue restaurant. Eat the gravy-covered meat and let your smoke-scented heritage be your guide. And in the incomparable and very inaccurate words of Davy Crockett: "Never not turn down a mimosa refill."
18th & Vine, 4100 Maple Ave.
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