The Booze Travelers are group of five friends who you chose to explore this city's BYOB dining scene. This is the crew's first mission.
The mission: BYOB at brunch
What do you do when you wake up hungry after losing an hour of sleep--thanks a lot, daylight savings time!--and none of your friends knows the Sunday liquor laws? (If you're going to BYOB on Sunday, you want to know when liquor stores open!)
The solution's easy. Combine one friend who can plan ahead (thanks, Karrie) with those half-empty bottles from the weekend bender, and make sure your destination is Over Easy Cafe in Ravenswood.
No wonder we found folks lining up at this month-old brunch spot. The bright, warm interior with retro undertones is a welcoming wake-up call for party animals who were out 'til the wee hours of the morning. The colorful food-as-art motif tempted our empty stomachs, and one look at the menu made us wonder why we bothered going to bed at all. We should have headed straight here.
First of all, the dress code is strictly come-as-you are. Nick's preppy collar fit in just fine with Sanjay's casual Sunday wear. And while the girls tried to snazz it up, most folks here skip the Sunday best; jeans and fleece will do just fine. You'll feel like you're in your own kitchen--well, with one big difference: During the weekend rush, you're gonna wait for a table; this spot only has 34 seats! Even at 1 p.m., a little past the usual Sunday mob scene, our friends who came to check out the hype waited about a half-hour to be seated. No worries: Free coffee soothed their hunger pains.
This "egg-centric" menu puts some interesting twists on traditional picks. In order to munch as much brunch as possible--and keep our tab under $20 per person, including tax, tip and liquor--we did some serious sharing of the large-portioned meals.
Our carnivorous crew cruised right over vegan items such as Cathy's Tofu Chilaquiles ($7.50) and gravitated to the animal proteins. Avocado-fanatic Tracey could not get enough of the Nuevo Mexicano Benedict ($12), which combines poached eggs with an unexpected south of the border flourish: carnitas and guacamole.
Lizz, who rarely turns down a treat of smoky, fatty goodness, loved her side of applewood smoked bacon ($3). And Nick never knew bologna and eggs ($7.50)--or, as they're known here, Frazzled Eggs--could taste so good. Since savory is not Sanjay's style (and he has a slight allergy to eggs), he opted for the Upside Down Apple Pancake ($7.50), served with cinnamon butter, whipped cream and powdered sugar.
Karrie loved the Nutella-stuffed brioche topped with roasted peanuts ($9). "Mmmm ... Nutella," she moaned. "Americans just don't use enough of the stuff!" There was even enough of the chocolate hazelnut treat left over for Tracey to spread on her toast. Forks flew and, by the end of the meal, Tracey decided she wanted to taste it all!
What to drink at a BYOB brunch? Well, the staff told us traditional brunch cocktails such as mimosas and bloody marys seem to be the most popular. BOR-ing! We opted for a European twist.
Good thing we planned ahead: We found the nearby liquor stores had little variety, and the prices were too much for our pocketbooks. Wine Brat Lizz reminded us that champagne is too expensive, and we should opt for Italy's less-expensive version, prosecco ($9 at Trader Joe's). On her walk to Over Easy, Lincoln Square resident Karrie stopped into the supermercado at the corner of Foster Avenue and Oakley Street to pick up peach nectar ($1.28 for 22 ounces) and--pow!--our brunch Bellini was born. Lizz's prosecco was the perfect compliment to the sweet peach treat.
Java junkie Nick naturally went for coffee spiked with vodka and Godiva liqueur from last night's martinis. The combo created a warm mudslide, perfect on this chilly spring Sunday. While assembling our Bellinis, Lauren, our Mandy Moore lookalike waitress (but even cuter), offered us fresh strawberries to top off our drinks.
To BYOB or not to BYOB: Over Easy Cafe combines friendly, aim-to-please waitstaff with delicious and creative takes on brunch faves, plus one more perk: no corkage fee!
CORK RATING: Rating: 4 corks
1 cork: Stay home and drink2 corks: Stick to the soda3 corks: Fill 'er up4 corks: Bring the good stuffCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun