A leisurely brunch is the ideal way to kick off an afternoon of shopping, chilling and people watching along South Congress Avenue. Lined with an eclectic mix of independent shops and eateries, this vibrant stretch of town is also home to brilliant weekend eats. Here are some of our top picks for hearty plates, from seafood to chicken 'n' waffles.
South Congress Cafe
Since 2003, diners have flocked to this mainstay for its Southern charm and indulgent plates. Serving brunch daily, South Congress Cafe offers a range of seafood appetizers, comfort food like shrimp 'n' grits and short rib hash, and an over-the-top carrot cake French toast. While you’re waiting for a table — which is inevitable on weekends — knock back a few Bloody Marys to make the clock move faster. For this brunch beverage, Tito’s Vodka is infused with bell peppers, onions, celery, lemons, limes, garlic and jalapeños.
An ocean-centric menu and expansive patio attract seafood lovers during weekend brunch. Diners can start with oysters on the half shell from both coasts and other chilled appetizers like peel-and-eat gulf shrimp and cobia crudo with Thai chili. The breakfast bouillabaisse with a crispy poached egg and lobster omelet are popular picks. Brunch cocktails feature Texas flavors such as jalapeño, Fresno pepper and Wahaka Mezcal. Canadians, rejoice: Perla's also serves a proper Bloody Caesar with celery salt and the works.
This Italian-American staple has welcomed diners with its warm, homey interior and laid-back patio for a decade. For Sunday brunch, Enoteca dishes out panini, frittellas (semolina-buttermilk pancakes) and a variety of American favorites with Italian influence sprinkled throughout. Best of all, the brunch cocktails, perfect for sipping under patio umbrellas, are only $5 a pop.
Lucy’s Fried Chicken
Tucked away on College Avenue off SoCo, this popular hangout is no secret. These fried fowl specialists dole out no-holds-barred brunch features with cheeky names like The Kinky Fried-Egg-Man (fried egg, Texas toast, Loncito’s ham, red-eye mayo, spicy tomato jam, hash tots) and the Smoked Out Benny (cornbread muffins, house sausage, poached eggs, smoked butter hollandaise, fried jalapeños). Chicken 'n' waffles are served with bacon marmalade and coffee syrup. Hair of the dog drinks include $3.50 salty dogs, screwdrivers and mimosas and $4 Bloody Marys.
This laid-back joint is a neighborhood favorite for diners that like to keep it simple, especially with tots in tow. Sourcing local ingredients is a primary focus at this retro cafe and lounge. Using sustainable products from nearby farms, the kitchen creates familiar eats with a sensible, global twist. For something lighter, opt for the avocado quinoa with cotija cheese, grilled pineapple and a roasted banana pepper-pineapple vinaigrette. The steak Saigon integrates Vietnamese flavors like the nuóc châm aioli and pickled daikon. Mimosas are on special on weekends ($3 a glass, $15 a flask).
Hotel San Jose
Liz Lambert refashioned the once run-down 1930s motel into this chic boutique hotel at the turn of the millennium. On select Saturdays, the hip lounge transforms into a pop-up brunch buffet. For $24, diners can nosh on a range of seasonal items including egg tarts, latkes, glazed pepper bacon, pastries and vegetarian offerings. Mimosas run $3 a glass or $20 a carafe. Check out the website for upcoming brunch dates. To carry on the relaxed vibe, hop over to Jo’s for the afternoon.