I learned the value of a good brunch during the three months I lived in Washington, D.C.
Brunch around my house was more of an accident than an occasion. Brunch was what happens when you overslept but still want breakfast food.
Then I got a summer internship at the Washington Post in 2007, and my view of brunch changed.
Brunch isn’t just a meal in the nation’s capital — it is an event. You sometimes have to wait hours to get a table at one of the more popular spots in town. Then you sit and sip mimosas for another few hours, chatting it up with friends you’ve missed all week and enjoying the freedom that only a weekend afternoon can bring. Sure, you spent at least $20 on the occasion, but the experience was worth it.
Brunches were a great way to cap off a good weekend and begin a fresh week. But after that summer, I moved back to my home state of Kentucky, where brunch doesn’t have the same popularity as in D.C. I immediately missed going out for arguably the best meal of the day (and week).
But I reintroduced a weekend brunch into my life last week with a visit to Toast on Market in downtown Louisville.
Toast opened in 2006, according to Louisville Hot Bytes, in the hipster-sounding NuLu district of Louisville. NuLu, aka the East Market District, transformed from a drab part of downtown to the new trendy section of town in the course of the six and a half years I was away from the city.
I entered Toast preparing to fail at The $10 Challenge. Past experience has taught me that hipster restaurants in trendy districts are devastating to the budget. But Toast made me swallow all my hipster restaurant stereotypes along with a delicious brunch.
Though it’s been open for a few years, Toast still attracts swarms of diners on an early Sunday afternoon. I called the restaurant the night before and learned from the voicemail message that you should call on your way out the door so the host can put your name on the waiting list (they don’t take reservations). So The Boyfriend called on the way out of church, and our trio (The Boyfriend, me and my friend Janelle) was seated right away when we got to the restaurant about a half hour later.
The menu offers creative versions of classic dishes, such as brioche-filled French toast, a bacon-and-egg sandwich with Dijon vinegarette and a meatloaf sandwich with cayenne aioli. They also have breakfast staples like pancakes and oatmeal. But the prices are more surprising than the flavor combinations. All of the sandwiches on the lunch menu were less than $10 and came with a side. The breakfast menu items also fell within my $10 budget. The most expensive item I could spot was the Atlantic omelet, a three-egg dish of salmon and cream cheese that came to $11.50.
That day, I craved some classic breakfast fare. I ordered the plain buttermilk pancakes with bacon ($6) and a side of hash brown casserole that the waitress recommended ($2.50).
The pancakes were huge, sweet and fluffy. The restaurant didn’t need to recreate the wheel with this dish, and the cooks excelled by keeping this classic breakfast food simple. The bacon was too limp for me, but had a good smoky flavor that made me temporarily overlook the consistency.
The hash brown casserole was fantastic. The dish is a creamy concoction of chunks of potatoes with a cracker crust topping that is a little bit cheesy and very hearty. My only complaint? The dish needs a new name, because the potatoes were far from hashed (to my delight). How about breakfast potato casserole?
Having a meal at Toast was like being back in D.C., but without a big-city brunch price tag. Judging by the crowd at Toast and the quality of its food, Louisville is ready for a brunch movement.
- Toast on Market, 736 East Market Street, Louisville, Ky.
- Also located at 141 East Market Street, New Albany, Ind.
- Buttermilk pancakes with side of bacon: $6
- Side of hash brown casserole: $2.50
- Total (with tax and tip): $9.51
Mission: Accomplished (surprisingly)