As Chris Hastings’s newest venture, Ovenbird has never been a hard sell, but its Saturday market brunch is really something special. Not only is it exciting food; it also makes the most of the restaurant’s Lakeview location. Brunch here turns a Pepper Place jaunt into a full-on weekend occasion.
The restaurant’s modern indoor/outdoor design creates an easy flow between the market action and the pause for brunch. It’s not a departure from your Pepper Place experience, in other words, but a framing of it. That flow also creates a fairly kid-friendly ambience for an otherwise very grown up restaurant.
At first glance, the omelette “gramajo” seems like standard brunch food, albeit with fancy ham. Google it, though, and you’ll find out it’s an Argentinian take on hangover food. Order it and you’ll find an egg dish that’s just set and smoky throughout thanks to the jamon. It is a nearly perfect breakfast food, hangover or no.
The full Spanish breakfast is a Latin riff on a heavy English feast, featuring boudin rouge as the spicy, creamy the star of the meal. Tasted separately, the rest of the plate may seem bland. Incorporate boudin in each bite, and you’ll realize how magically composed this dish actually is. It’s a full range of textures – thick grits, creamy avocado, saucy egg yolk — all there to complement the sausage.
A three-beignet order is a light dessert for two, and you may first mistake it for a tidier take on your French Quarter favorite. But a molasses-y caramel filling brings a more complex sweetness than the simple fried dough and powdered sugar combo you’re used to. (It’s dulce de leche — an amped up version of caramel — the server told us.) If you need to surreptitiously lick your plate, we’ll gladly look the other way.
For all of Pepper Place’s charm, it hasn’t typically been a brunch spot, and that’s a big hole in coverage for our city’s favorite meal. We’ll always love the market for making Lakeview a foodie playground. And we’ll always love Ovenbird for bringing brunch to Pepper Place.