Between the swampy heat, the shadeless splash pad area, and the cacophony of children’s screams, Sunday morning had proved surprisingly stressful. But as high noon struck, the stress began to lift. The tonic? A make-your-own bloody mary at a relaxing brunch service.

International Smoke’s new program—called Fuego’s Brunch—launched on September 9. Running from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Sundays, it aims to be a come-as-you-are buffet that emphasizes some of the big hits of the Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry venture, while offering edgy takes on breakfast fare.

And it really is relaxing. Compared to the louder dinner service, which includes a couple big-production plates, Fuego’s Brunch feels like a fresh breath. There's live music, some football on TV, and no pressure on the diner to get down to business.

Dishes are laid out buffet-style along the pass, and are some of the more attractive brunch items I’ve seen. Highlights include the smoked short rib hash, a balanced bite of crispy potato and onion hash, fatty soy-glazed short rib, and a sliver of fried egg; the blue crab crepes; and a sweet and sticky, pocket-sized bite of chicken and waffles.

Diners will also get to try a few dinner staples, namely pork ribs in the American barbecue, al pastor, and sesame-gochujang styles; and Curry’s famous curry cornbread. Pro tip: grab some pimento cheese from the buffet as a cornbread dip. 

International Smoke also smokes a whole hog at a outdoor porch station, and diners can grab some Hawaiian-style pork. The accompanying pineapple salsa is a refreshing winner. Also, a reimagined slice of key lime pie and icebox cake stood out among sweets.

But, honestly, nothing tops the bloody mary station. A bartender fills your glass with vodka, then it’s up to you. International Smoke offers two mixes, and I enjoyed the balsamic mix that had smoother and more acidic notes. You can still add copious horseradish, pickled vegetables, candied bacon, and any number of hot sauces.

The big issue with the brunch is its price: $35 per plate, not including drinks. That price could be stressful, of course, so choose wisely.

That said, come early, grab some meat and a drink and get a good view of some football. That doesn’t sound stressful at all.

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