Does the idea of brunch being the sole domain of the weekend infuriate you? Does it send you into a blind rage to think of all those people who're lucky enough to have Saturday and Sunday off blithely eating French toast and drinking mimosas while you suffer the ignominy of having to settle for regular old breakfast during the week? If so, the new weekday brunch menu at Benjy's in the Village should provide some respite from life's slings and arrows.
2424 Dunstan St.
Now open at the respectable hour of 10:45 a.m. daily (which allows you to snag those precious few parking spaces before the Local Foods crowd does at lunch), Benjy's is offering a Monday through Friday brunch menu that's everything a brunch menu should be: a clever mix of breakfast dishes, lunch dishes, dishes that straddle the two meals and plenty of tails, both cock and mock. There's even a bottomless option (though this being a Tuesday, it's a non-alcoholic mintade with freshly-squeezed lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange juice—and you'll be glad it's bottomless, because you'll end up downing them as fast as your server can refill the glass).
The mintade was just one of the excellent options we tried during a recent media tasting. Here are five more dishes you can't miss, since you no longer have to miss out on brunch.
Shrimp and grits ($15)
When asked, chef Spencer Serrette admitted he uses plain old store-bought grits for this dish instead of fancy Anson Mills or Heritage Gristmill or Geechie Boy grits, all of which are hand-ground by special corn elves and sold for the price of your first-born son. This seemed to pain Serrette to admit, since he's always on the look-out for the best or most local options in his kitchen, but he has nothing to feel grief over; these are the best prepared store-bought grits we've had in Houston, creamy and buttery and with that fine texture that reminds one of childhood, before artisanal grits were a thing that even existed. Topped with crunchy bits of bacon and a fried egg and plump Gulf shrimp, this is a well-executed bowl of shrimp and grits that gets the job done and leaves you with a smile.
Hearts of Romaine salad ($13)
What is this? A couple of boring bundles of romaine on a plate? No, friends; this is a salad that eats like an appetizer in the most literal sense of that word. It's playful and thoughtful and entirely appetizing, teasing the meal to come but leaving room for all the French toast you're about to eat. In place of standard Ceasar dressing, Benjy's makes its own vegan version, which Serrette explained swaps the eggs for soft tofu and the anchovies for nutritional yeast. This is surely a relief for that subcategory of vegans who have also been really mad about the lack of weekday brunches, but the dressing is also just really good and clever and interesting and we loved it a lot, especially topped with salty shavings of Grana Padana cheese and crunchy seeds in place of croutons.
French Toast ($13)
Look, this is just an exceptional plate of French toast, with eggy sweet bread and real whipped cream with flecks of vanilla bean and lots of tart apricot jam and a generous amount of Steen's cane syrup on top (the syrup of choice where Serrette is originally from, near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana). What more could you want out of a French toast? Nothing.
Smoked Salmon Toast ($14)
Like nearly everything else here at Benjy's, the smoked salmon is done up in house, then diced into fat, glossy cubes before being tossed nonchalantly atop a mound of scrambled egg whites and smashed avocado smeared on two thick pieces of toast. This is something you'd make at home if you had any class and cured your own salmon. But you don't, nor do you take the time to gently scramble only the egg whites, so you pay someone to do these things for you and you rejoice because the only thing more delicious than smoked salmon toast is smoked salmon toast that you did not have to make yourself.
Vegetarian Frito Pie ($14)
We saved the best for last. How can this top smoked salmon toast, or French toast, or really any toast? you may ask. Because anyone can make a stew out of some lamely spiced beans and peppers and call it vegetarian chili, but it takes a lot to make a seriously good vegetarian chili because have you guys heard how good meat is? It's really good. Especially in chili. And making meatless chili that we'd order over regular chili really takes some doing. At Benjy's, the "chili" in question is really just a sweet potato-quinoa hash, but it's well-seasoned with cumin, dried peppers and other chili spices. The fact that this hippie-dippie twist on chili is served with real-deal, preservative-filled Fritos is the kind of high-low blending I can get behind, because have you guys heard how good Fritos are? Benjy's is smart enough to know that they're irreplaceable in Frito pie, even if the chili is not. Add a fried egg on top and you've got a dish that even a carnivore wouldn't turn down.
Luckily, the Frito pie isn't just served during weekday brunch; you can also get it in a smaller portion during Benjy's notably generous happy hour. It runs daily from 4 to 7 p.m. and that Frito pie sells for $6, along with a slew of other small plates including more of that smoked salmon, served sashimi-style, and Korean fried chicken that pairs well with the $3 Karbach Weisse Versa on draft.