Those who know me know that brunch isn’t my least favourite meal, but only because I don’t consider it a meal at all. I hate the concept of it, I hate what it represents, and I hate that, as Jon Trasky, general manager of Cafe 78, describes, it “pigeonholes” your options to something sweet, something with an egg, or something with bacon on it.
I’m a huge morning person and always have been, so for me brunch is a waste of the day. I enjoy an early breakfast, usually egg-based, then a lunch that’s merely an express, less socialized version of dinner. Cramming brunch in between my breakfast and lunch times has always unsettled me.
Inasmuch as I dislike brunch, though, I love Detroit, and, as VICE recently pointedly emphasized, we in Windsor are so close to the motor city that I can’t help but bear close witness to their culinary revival. I’ve always associated brunch culture with the suburbs, first communions, grandparents, and the upper class. But a recent slew of Sunday brunch visits to hotspots across Detroit have led me to believe I may have been wrong. Here are a few things I’ve noticed.
Brunch in Detroit is often less about the food than it is about drinking, and drinking a lot. Brett, a bartender from Gold Cash Gold, described Detroit’s brunch culture as “bohemian,” especially in comparison with other cities. And I think that’s accurate. Nearly every spot has bottomless mimosas or bloody marys, encouraging you to work off a hangover or help plant the seeds for one later in the afternoon.
Part of the reason behind this, according to lifestyle blog j’Adore Detroit, is because brunch in Detroit is often dominated by the legions of young locals that work in the service industry and happen to have Sunday morning off. It’s unique to see a city known widely for its food industry develop another aspect of that industry that specifically caters to people within it.
Not only is brunch predicated, in my experience, on drinking, but it’s also so cheap. And Brett mentioned this as well, saying that it’s a social gathering at a much better price point than dinner, on a day that a lot of people don’t have to work.
While I agree with Trasky that traditional brunch options don’t offer much inherent variety for food, that couldn’t be less true for locales. You can eat at a quiet Corktown deli like Mudgie’s, you can take your aunt to something a little more upscale at Wright and Co., or you can see and be seen at Cafe 78, located within the Musem of Contemporary Art of Detroit, where you can barely hear the person next to you over the DJ’s pulsing house music.
And although the timeframe still isn’t my favourite, I have found places and dishes that I love regardless of the time. The aforementioned Gold Cash Gold is a great combination of brunch food and craft cocktails – nothing says Sunday in Detroit quite like lox and a tequila bloody mary.
For some plant-based options, you can try Seva over in Midtown. Down a mimosa with a few different types of juices and then suppress your hangover with some wildly delicious and thought-provoking vegan Coney dogs. Be sure to get there when they open at noon, or else be prepared to wait some time.
A short distance from Detroit proper in Royal Oak, for those of you who love a burger for brunch, try the timeless Red Coat Tavern. Their house burger is best enjoyed with rye bread instead of a bun, their outrageously battered house made onion rings as a side, and one or more of the endless varieties of beer from around the world.
Although I still don’t prefer it, brunch in Detroit is different than anywhere in Canada, if not only because of the time it starts at. The fact that alcohol can be served so early in Detroit changes its brunch culture into something a little edgier, as does the demographic it serves. My preferred method is still to stretch the window into one early and then one later meal, with drinks bridging the gap, but there’s plenty to enjoy in individual stops as well.