Remember the days when brunch was about eating eggs at lunchtime? But competition is fierce in our fair city, perhaps, one of America's brunchiest. Now, the meal between breakfast and lunch is about one-upmanship. And I found out last Sunday that Museum District hotspot Lucille's is raising the excessive bar.
Lucille's brunch is the kind of meal that includes an eggs Benedict with chicken-fried, poached eggs bathed in truffled Hollandaise. Sure, there's a salad on the side, but any nutrition is merely incidental to the fatty glory.
My party started the meal with namesake chili biscuits made from Lucille Elizabeth Bishop Smith's own recipe. The founder of Lucille B. Smith’s Fine Foods was great-grandmother to Lucille's chef Chris Williams.
Williams has doubtless added some refinements to the dish (like a crown of micro-greens), but it hasn't lost its strange Betty Crocker-era appeal. The fluffy little dough balls are filled with chili-style seasoned ground beef and topped with cheese. They're the kind of thing you might be embarrassed to eat at a potluck, but at Lucille's, they're plated elegantly enough to eliminate the world "guilty" from the pleasure.
But one of my favorite ways to ensure a post-brunch nap is with an order of croissant French toast. It's a brilliant idea, really. Think of how egg custard soaks into a piece of white bread, say, or challah. Then imagine it multiplied by every buttery layer of a croissant. Bingo.
The version at Lucille's could have used a tad more soaking, but the slightly drier version, also resulting in crispier edges, is a fair exchange. I wasn't a fan of the "spiked berries" on top. I had imagined a boozy coulis, but got raw berries bitter with raw alcohol. But despite its status as an addition, the dish's centerpiece was inarguably the trio of whole chicken wings perched on the slices of croissant. Juicy and herbaceous inside with a crunchy, battered exterior, every bit of protein disappeared long before my tablemates helped me gobble up the French toast.
To get the chicken just as I did, you'll have to wait for brunch. But Fried Day calls. Order Lucille's Yardbird for a taste of that same poultry, with a side of mac 'n' cheese.