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Diner: Let's Do Brunch!

CityBeat's dining writers brave rulebooks and ghosts to bring you our favorite brunch spots

By Lora Arduser · October 24th, 2007 · Diner
Joe Lamb


Brunch is a civilized affair and as such has rules.

· It should be eaten outdoors, weather permitting.

· There should be linen and fresh flowers.

· Women should be encouraged to wear gloves.

· It must under no circumstances be rushed.

· It should be enjoyed with those you love.

· Alcohol should be available, when legal, and the coffee ever flowing.

With rulebook in hand, the nothing if not civilized CityBeat dining writers recently changed out of their jammies and fuzzy slippers to share a few of our favorite brunch spots.

Tradition Served Honey Style
Rule No. 1 was easy. In a summer plagued by 90-degree days, the Sunday we dined alfresco was perfect. Sitting in Honey's courtyard with a longtime friend and fellow Northsider, we easily slipped into a relaxed mood, surrounded by wood and greenery.

I would argue that any brunch should include a few of the classics on the menu -- eggs Benedict, French toast or huevos rancheros. Now, I ain't saying you can't add a little personality to these. Honey's version of eggs Benedict ($10), for example, comes with poached eggs over a croissant, Skyhaven ham and a basil-laced hollandaise. Their version of lox, the Nova Bagel Stack, is a fennel lemon-pepper-cured salmon with cream cheese, capers and red onion on a New York marble rye bagel ($9).

My morning huevos, Doug's Favorite Huevos ($9), was just as inventive. The tortilla was filled with a seasoned black bean puree and cheese mixture then folded, set atop a pool of fire-roasted salsa and topped with guacamole and poached eggs. The Steak-n-Eggs ($12) made a beautiful plate -- the slices of flank steak and eggs (we got scrambled) were nestled in fresh greens and surrounded by a bright citrus aioli.

And, ah, the Binkle Fries ($4). Our server was as perplexed as we were about the name, and it gave us all a good laugh. The fries themselves are quite simply addictive -- deep-fried red skins served in a silver bucket with sides of hot Thai chili sauce and chive sour cream. Some of the Binkles even made their way home for another honored brunch tradition ­ the after-nap snack. (Lora Arduser)

Honey, 4034 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-541-4300.

Sunday brunch: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Unfurl Your Sunday at Slim's
Those of us who live in Northside have tried to keep the Slim's secret for as long as possible, but as the awards and accolades pile up it becomes more and more difficult to do so.

In its bright and open dining space on Hamilton Avenue, Slim's puts its exciting and unique stamp on brunch. On a recent Sunday morning, my dining companion and I were seated at a window table overlooking Blue Rock Avenue in a broad shaft of early autumn sunlight. Around us, the hip young kitchen and wait staff bustled and rushed between the long family-style wooden tables and the steaming open-plan kitchen. It's a wonderful atmosphere to let your Sunday morning slowly unfurl.

To start, we ordered a couple of coffees and the Gravlax (smoked salmon) served with dill pesto, brown bread and crème fraiche ($5.50). The salmon was delicious, even though it was fresh salmon rather than smoked and the crème fraiche turned out to be sour cream. For the main course, we ordered an English Breakfast ($6.50), which consisted of sausage, eggs, bacon, beans and toast with a side of roasted potatoes, and a Lechon Asado ($13.50), a Filipino slow-roasted pork that was absolutely wonderful, rubbed with herbs and served with Cuban beans, a salad, a sweet fresh slaw and a non-alcoholic pina colada.

Other items on the menu include Sweet or Savory Crepes ($6), a Spanish omelet with a romesco sauce ($6) and an à la carte menu that includes bacon, goetta and sweet maple sausage links ($2 each). Waking up slowly after a late Saturday night, you'll want to try it all. We even had time to try the Crème Brulée ($1 small/$5 large), breaking its crisp, browned surface to spoon out the creamy, vanilla-packed treat beneath. (Chris Kemp)

Slim's, 4046 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-681-6500. Sunday brunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Greenup Doesn't Fail to Amuse the Bouche
Greenup Café is housed in a brick two-story building, circa mid-1800s, near Covington's newest landmark, The Ascent riverfront condos. Outdoor tables are spread along the front, side and back courtyards, and lots of locals sit beside their bicycles, deliciously replacing the calories they've burned on their ride over.

Jean-Robert de Cavel's Greenup Café has a French flair, of course, and the brunch menu is filled with French accents: le croissant, la brioche, le quiche and la goetta. Ooh, la, la! Begin with a perfect grande Cappuccino ($3.55) served in a wide china cup or a sparkly glass of Champagne for a special occasion ($9/glass). (Not if you are riding a bike, though -- je detest l'accident!)

Try the Quiche with roasted red peppers and chevre ($9.25). The crust is buttery and tender, the filling delicate and custardy -- just right. It comes with a sizable side salad of mixed baby greens, dried cherries and a very light vinaigrette. The same salad accompanies the Croissant with Tomato, Avocado and Brie ($8.50).

Goetta makes an appearance with poached eggs, puff pastry and piperade ($8.50) -- high concept. And Buttermilk Pancakes are served sweet with maple butter ($7) or savory with corn relish and goat cheese ($8). The fried potatoes ($2) are very rustic and chunky, but the fruit cup ($4) is a better choice.

And be sure to have dessert! Le Pot de Crème ($5) c'est fantastique -- so rich and bittersweet. And the Crème Brulee ($5) is perfectly caramelized and sugary on top. (Anne Mitchell)

Greenup Café, 308 Greenup St., Covington, 859-261-3663. Saturday and Sunday brunch: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

The Goats in the Machine
Early on a bright Sunday afternoon, the brunch buffet at Grand Finale is bustling. Customers (some in church clothes, others dressed more casually) help themselves to the homey, though not excessive, spread: scrambled eggs, mini-muffins, breakfast meats, biscuits and gravy, fruit salad and assorted quiches.

Many opt for more idiosyncratic fare -- hard-cooked poached eggs served in an artichoke "bowl" with bacon, fried chicken livers and garlic and cheese grits.

It couldn't be a more relaxing scene when my son, who's 6, looks up from his juice and asks our server, "Is this place haunted?"

Turns out that some say it is. One of the Kelly sisters, the former owners of the time-worn, century-old building, is said to move objects around in the second floor dining area and turn on lights that had been extinguished.

Between made-to-order helpings of fluffy blueberry pancakes, my son interrogates every available staff member. "Have you seen the ghost?" he demands. No one says they have, but he's encouraged to go and poke around himself.

Over a large scoop of lusciously moist bread pudding, we debate the merits of an upstairs adventure. Ultimately, he declares that he doesn't believe in ghosts but, just in case, he'll wait downstairs while his parents look around.

After paying ($15.50/adult, $7.50/child), we bravely mount the steep steps in search of the supernatural but sadly find nothing extraordinary. Later, my daughter innocently asks if we saw the goat. No, we assure her. There's no such thing as goats. (Michael Schiaparelli)

Grand Finale, 3 E. Sharon Road, Glendale, 513-771-5925. Sunday brunch: 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. ©



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