The Best of Brunch
A Delicious Marriage of Meals
by Nina Benjamin
The retro Bluebird Diner in Iowa City
Ahh, brunch. The mere mention of the word sends one into a daydream, replete with visions of gooey, cinnamon-crusted French toast and the smoky scent of bacon wafting through the air of a crowded café. You know the scene: corner booths of mimosa-sipping gal pals; solo diners savoring their lattes while attempting to solve the New York Times Sunday crossword; couples walking out with that distinct dazed-yet-satisfied food-coma look, hands glued to their beignet-stuffed bellies.
Who doesn’t love brunch? It’s a staple of the modern weekend experience, and we’ve got a great spread here in southeast Iowa for those looking to sample the goods. Regardless of whether you’re a meat-and-potatoes type or someone always on the hunt for the next cutting-edge culinary concoction, you’ll be able to find something right up your alley at one of these regional spots. Bon appétit!
Pullman Diner. Enjoy an upscale diner experience at Pullman, which offers standard diner fare with a twist. Whether you pick a hearty meal—like Chorizo Biscuits and Gravy, Corned Beef Hash, or a Croque Madame—or opt for one of their several yummy salads, you’re in for a treat. Don’t miss their stellar cocktails, like the Tipsy Pig, featuring bacon bourbon, Angostura Orange, and maple syrup.
Friday 8–11 a.m., Saturday & Sunday 8 a.m.–2 p.m. 17 S. Dubuque St., (319) 338-1808, pullmandiner.com
Trumpet Blossom in Iowa City (photo from Cadry's Kitchen)
Trumpet Blossom. Serving soul-satisfying fare made from scratch with seasonal organic ingredients, Trumpet Blossom makes vegan food accessible and enticing for the full spectrum of brunch enthusiasts. The Vegan Florentine’s tofu patties with cashew hollandaise are to die for; other favorites include the Polenta Cakes with maple-chipotle tempeh strips and the spicy Cardamom Pancakes (a special; call for latest offerings).
Saturday 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.–3 p.m. 310 E. Prentiss St., (319) 248-0077, trumpetblossom.com
Bluebird Diner. A local favorite, the always-busy Bluebird Diner prides itself on serving locally sourced ingredients in their dishes, which include everything from breakfast standards to more adventurous fare, like the Krakatoa and Rajun Cajun Omelets or the Huevos Epsteinos, a homemade chili verde with smoked pork served over Parmesan polenta and over-easy eggs with hash browns.
Saturday & Sunday 7 a.m.–1 p.m. 330 E. Market St., (319) 351-1470, thebluebirddiner.com
Ila. Vegetarians and meatasauruses alike will delight at the offerings of Ila, from the innovative scrambles (try the West Hollywood or the Sweet Potato Tofu) to the tasty specialty dishes like the Papas Chorreadas con Huevos or the Eggs Ila, which tops off pulled pork on an English muffin with homemade hollandaise.
Sunday, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. 116 N. Main St., (641) 209-1005, ilaonmain.com
Café Dodici. Like your brunch with a side of global artwork and décor? Dodici will sweep you off your feet with its lush ambiance and swoon-worthy dishes, from the Croissant French Toast with blueberry compote to the pizza-licious Eggs Alla Pizzaiola, boasting homemade pomodoro sauce and mozzarella cheese browned to perfection.
Sunday 11 a.m.–2 p.m. 122 S. Iowa Ave., (319) 653-4012, cafedodici.com
Americana. If you’re more of a sample-everything buffet hound, Americana’s Bombshell Brunch Buffet will be your holy grail. Start at the bottomless Bloody Mary bar and the custom grilled-cheese station, then wind your way through two rooms of delectable dishes to pile on your plate. The fresh donut holes served tableside can’t hurt, either.
Saturday 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Sunday 9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. 1312 Locust St., (515) 283-1312, americanadsm.com
Django. A classy downtown spot with divine French fare, Django is sure to please any discriminating diner. Did someone say Poutine? Indeed, as well as classics like the mouth-watering Croque Monsieur, the Tuna Niçoise Salad, and an elegant assortment of crêpes, of both the sweet and savory variety.
Sunday 10 a.m.–2 p.m. 210 10th St., (515) 288-0268, djangodesmoines.com
Centro in Des Moines
Centro. Who says mid-morning is too early for pizza and pasta? At Centro, you’ll find a tantalizing array of Italian dishes to feast upon. Sip a Bellini and nibble on some fried calamari while awaiting your main course, whether it be the Breakfast Pizza (featuring scrambled eggs, Italian sausage, green pepper, mushroom, red onion, and cheese sauce), Truffle Mac and Cheese, or a Crab Cake Salad.
Saturday 11 a.m.–3 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.–3 p.m. 1003 Locust St., (515) 248-1780, centrodesmoines.com
And There’s More . . .
We would be remiss not to mention some additional brunch hotspots, since there are an abundance of options throughout the region. In Fairfield, sample one of Istanbul Grill’s hash-brown-and-egg skillets, including the tasty Sucuk variety, with the spiced Turkish sausage accompanied by black olives, tomatoes, and mozzarella. Green Gourmet cooks up Indian specialties like idli sambar and chole bhature on Sundays.
In Iowa City, get your crêpe on at the Crêpes de Luxe Café; dive into the delicious buffet (which includes one made-to-order dish) at Motley Cow Café; or stop by LEAF Kitchen for Ricotta Pancakes or Moroccan Eggs. Des Moines diners can find rustic French charm at Le Jardin; tongue-tingling Latin dishes at Malo (who can resist all-you-can-eat tacos?); southern comfort food at Bubba’s; and an in-demand, prix fixe Mediterranean menu on the first Sunday of every month at Aposto (tickets required).
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