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On the Sabbath day, feast 

Brunches pack punches, from Eggs Benedict to hearts-of-palm fried pie.

LATIN BRUNCHING: At Bossa Nova.
  • LATIN BRUNCHING: At Bossa Nova.


It’s a delicious irony that the week’s most decadent meal is served on the holiest part of its holiest day. Coat-and-tie church-goer or hung-over layabed, saint or sinner, brunch is all about indulgence. Gluttony, in pulpit-speak. Eggs Benedict, the grand dame of brunch dishes, packs in an entire day’s worth of calories. And Sunday’s the only day of the week where no one raises an eyebrow if you order a cocktail with your biscuits and gravy — after noon, of course, when the blue laws ease.

We love brunch because it is the one meal of the week we’re least likely to have to hurry through. And because no one will tell you it’s too late for waffles or too early for salmon with capers. Sunday is the day of rest; whatever we didn’t finish yesterday, we’re usually happy to put off for a few more hours. Another mimosa? Sounds divine.

With solely the interest of our readers in mind, the Arkansas Times staff fanned out across the state over the last few weeks to sample almost a dozen Sunday brunches. We were by no means comprehensive — we missed Fu Lin’s buffet, for example, and Ashley’s is on hiatus while the Capitol Hotel is renovated — but we attempted to hit most of the better-known. Keep reading for our reviews.


Boscos

We’ve enjoyed every dinner and lunch we’ve eaten at Boscos, but Sunday brunch puts everything else this restaurant does to shame.

A jazz duo plays lovely arrangements of standards, and if you sit on the near side of the half-wall that divides the restaurant, you won’t need to worry too much about keeping up a conversation. Sometimes, as on a lazy Sunday afternoon, that’s just fine.

But back to the food. Boscos’ brunch menu is extensive — five different riffs on eggs Benedict, omelettes, waffles, soups and salads, the brunchy shrimp-and-grits entree, and crawfish cake appetizer, among others — no matter what your mouth is set for, Boscos is ready. Even if your craving is for creme brulee.

We tried the blueberry Belgian waffle, with a side of apple-smoked bacon and a mimosa. The bacon would be hard to beat, but we’ve never, ever in our lives had a better waffle. Soft, on the sweet side, smothered in a warm blueberry compote that rendered the side of syrup completely unnecessary. The mimosa was more champagne than orange juice, and we didn’t mind that at all.

Our companion ordered the andouille and chicken hash, a kind of skillet-breakfast concoction with onions and peppers topped with two poached eggs. Every bite disappeared.

One word of warning: Beware the spicy version of the bloody Mary. Our companion, no heat wuss by a long shot, found it tested even his tolerance.


Location: 500 President Clinton Ave.

Phone: 907-1881

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Price: Moderate

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Ambience: Mellow enough to lull you back to sleep if you’re too far from the jazz.

Don’t miss: The apple-smoked bacon.





Arlington Hotel

Except for the no-jeans-allowed Fountain Room Grill, the Arlington Hotel — despite its own elegance — is a come-as-you-are kind of place. They don’t mind Harley jackets in the lobby bar, and they don’t mind T-shirts at the sumptuous, white-tablecloth Sunday brunch in the Venetian dining room. However you look, though, brunch will be pretty. A buffet a mile long stretches down the center of the room, dish after gleaming dish offering everything from eggs Benedict to baked fish to half a dozen kinds of salads. And three guys in tall chef’s hats wait at one end of the room to carve you some roast beef or make you a custom omelette, waffle or donut. Even limiting ourselves to sample-size portions, we couldn’t make it through half the possibilities. We didn’t care for the waffle — too sugary for our taste — and we could have really used a biscuit, but otherwise, we were plenty pleased. Leaving room for dessert is strongly advised, though. From the eight or 10 choices, we sampled a cream-filled pastry topped with blueberries and a delicious peach cobbler (or as delicious as you can hope for this long after peach season).


Location: 239 Central Ave., Hot Springs

Phone: 501-623-7771

Hours: 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday

Price: $20.50

Alcohol: No

Credit cards: Yes

Ambience: Art-deco opulent, white tablecloths and tuxedoed waiters, but diners come as they are.

Don’t miss: Dessert





Loca Luna

We’ve probably had worse service at a restaurant than we had on this visit to the Riverdale mainstay, but we can’t remember when. That said, we were able to see that if we’d been seated one or two tables over, our experience would have been much different. Luck of the draw.

But things looked up considerably when our food finally arrived (we’ll spare you the long version of that story).

From an extensive breakfast-side menu that includes several Southwestern-flavored choices like huevos rancheros and the divine-sounding French toast with roasted pecans and orange-infused maple syrup, we ordered the egg, sausage and cheese casserole, which also contains bacon, peppers and fresh herbs. It was fantastic. Creamy, fluffy and moist, full of savory flavors, and topped with a very generous spoonful of sour cream, which we scraped off — the casserole just didn’t need it.

Our companion had the grilled sirloin breakfast ($12.95), and while he was happy with the accompaniments — eggs, potatoes and biscuit — his steak, ordered medium rare, was served on the far side of well done.

Loca Luna’s menu also has plenty for the lunch-minded: salads, sandwiches, brick-oven pizzas, even cheese dip. And when the weather’s warm enough, their patio is hard to beat.


Location: 3519 Old Cantrell Road

Phone: 663-4666

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Price: Moderate

Alcohol: Brunch cocktails, including frozen margaritas and mango mimosas

Credit cards: Yes

Ambience: There’s a trendy-bistro feel out on the patio.

Don’t miss: The breakfast casserole



Best Impressions

They don’t call it brunch at the Arkansas Arts Center’s Best Impressions Restaurant — but it starts at 11 a.m. on Sunday and there’s quiche and liquor if you want it, so you can call it brunch even if the Arts Center doesn’t.

The menu’s different from the daily lunch menu, after all. It’s varied enough to suit three palates: quiche for the kid, chicken salad and mango chutney for the mom, a Reuben for the dad.

The reason one goes to Best Impressions — besides the Arts Center. of course — is the uniqueness and character chef Mark Elliotte brings to standard dishes. Yes, Best Impressions serves quiche, but this quiche is made with smoked turkey, grilled asparagus, Portobello mushrooms, caramelized red onions and cheese — and it’s such a lovely blend that it was relished by a youngish teen who would have blanched, at the least, had she known she was enjoying a fungus with her eggs.

Chicken salad on croissant is about as cliched as you can get, but Best Impressions and Elliotte lift it out of the ordinary by slathering grilled pineapple-mango salsa, toasted coconut and cashews ’twixt fowl and buttery pastry.

The Reuben was perhaps the most distinctive of all — including grilled red and green bell peppers, onions, manchego cheese, and whatever ancho BBQ aioli is, on marbled rye. It was fat with cabbage and corned beef and a filling choice on a cold day, which it always is at Best Impressions because of its healthy air-conditioning.

The service was relaxed, but one shouldn’t be in a rush on Sunday, and the trinkets in the gift shop served to amuse the teen-ager during the wait. After brunching/lunching, you can drag your loved ones into the galleries to see art and walk off the cashews, not a bad arrangement at all.


Location: 501 E. Ninth St.

Phone: 907-5946

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

Price: Moderate

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Ambience: Casual vibe in a sophisticated setting.

Don’t miss: An après-nosh trip through thegalleries.





Cafe Bossa Nova

The deep-fried pies, “pasteis” on the menu, served at Bossa Nova are not the same fried pies we Southerners — Southern North Americans, that is — grew up with, but these too, filled with meats and fruits and such, are awfully tasty. One of our party raved over the Brazilian treat, filled with hearts of palm, tomato and herbs. A bowl of lima bean soup elicited a similar response, as did “Rosalia’s famous cheese bread,” which really is famous, at least in Little Rock, and chicken crepes with a creamy cheese sauce. Only a special of the day, a tough-in-places London broil topped with an egg, was less than near-perfect and it not a whole lot less. Next time we’ll try some of the baked-egg dishes. As for the other elements that make for a good brunch, the colors at Bossa Nova are soothing, the service attentive, the conversational level and the background music (yes, it includes “Girl from Ipanema”) pleasantly subdued. Just the atmosphere we like for brunch. Noise is for later. This is one great brunch place.


Location: 2701 Kavanaugh Blvd., suite 105

Phone: 614-6682

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Price: Moderate

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Ambience: Soothing colors, hangover-friendly noise level.

Don’t miss: The fried hearts-of-palm pie.





Casa Mañana

Now for something completely different, we present: Mexican-style brunch at Casa Manana. An authentic Mexican cuisine restaurant that has distinguished itself from the 700 other auth-Mex places in town by way of fresh ingredients and a slate of interesting menu choices, Casa Manana’s Saturday and Sunday-only brunch — possibly the only place in town where you can get a roaring case of heartburn before 10 a.m. — will make other brunches seem positively pale by comparison.

Though their place on Cantrell was pretty quiet when we sauntered in on Sunday morning, the dishes on the menu definitely weren’t. Sure, at the grocery-list level, it was pretty standard fare — lots of eggs, lots of bacon, ham and potatoes. But when Casa Manana gets hold of those ingredients — often adding oddities like chocolaty/liquoricy mole sauce, tortillas, salsa and spicy chorizo sausage — the dishes turn out unlike anything you’ve ever tasted, at breakfast or any other time of the day.

For example, on a recent Sunday, we tried the torta ranchera ($6.49). At first glance, it’s sort of like the omelet’s not-quite-as-together South of the Border cousin: fluffy eggs, mushrooms, bell peppers, onion and cilantro, all topped with ranchero sauce and Monterey jack cheese. Paired with a side of Mexican potatoes (pick around the jalapenos, gringo!) and baked beans, it was stick-to-your-innards good. Companion, meanwhile, tried the huevos con chorizo ($5.99), which is a plateload of scrambled eggs with Mexican-style sausage. Scooped onto one of the supplied tortillas, it was simple, greasy and fine.

While brunch at Casa Manana isn’t for everyone — who, for instance, could stare down their huevos tirados (scrambled eggs mixed with refried beans) on a hungover Sunday morning? — it is something entirely different for those looking for an alternative to the standard fruit-and-white-linen brunch. We wouldn’t recommend it every Sunday, but for those who spring out of bed seeking adventure, it’s definitely a treat.


Location: 6820 Cantrell Road

Phone: 280-9888 (reservations are not required)

Hours: 9 a.m. to 11.a.m. Saturday and Sunday

Price: Moderate. Most items are under $7.

Credit cards: Yes.

Ambience: Down-home, mama y papa charm, with fast and friendly service. No live music and the large central room is rather dark, but this might be a blessing in disguise depending on how hard you partied the previous night.

Don’t miss: The pollo en mole poblano (chicken in mole sauce).





Sesame’s

While this reviewer is not a big fan of Sunday brunch — a long-time heathen, it’s a miracle if I can get out of bed before the churchfolk have said their last Amen — I could really get used to making brunch at Sesame’s a weekly event. My wallet, not so much. But my palate? I definitely could get used to that.

We — Spouse, Junior and I — showed up early enough that, for awhile at least, we had Sesame’s dining room and piano player all to ourselves. While the piano was tickled through jazzy versions of Christmas tunes, we sipped orange juice and had a real conversation. OK, OK. We played three-letter-word “Hang-Man” on the back of a napkin, but that was much more fun than discussing world events, anyway. Those few quiet moments with my family — harder and harder to find these days — were worth getting up early.

Also worth it were the items on the menu. The brunch menu at Sesame’s is sort of like the color spectrum, running from very breakfasty (Bananas Foster) to very lunchy (smoked salmon pizza), and from cheap (biscuits and gravy, $3.50) to the hope-you’re-a-Walton-heir (the Thousand Dollar Omelet, $16.50: eggs, lobster and caviar, topped with hollandaise sauce). So they can probably suit everyone in your party, even those with a craving for something more — and more expensive — than fruit and eggs.

I tried the eggs Benedict ($8.95), two eggs on English muffin with Canadian bacon and Hollandaise sauce. Paired with a side of garlicky potatoes and a sweet little bowl of fruit, it made for a nice, satisfying breakfast. Companion, meanwhile, went slumming and ordered the homemade biscuits and gravy with a side of bacon ($4.50), and proclaimed the biscuits very tasty, though the gravy needed a good salting and peppering.

Overall, Sesame’s is a nice, quiet little place to have brunch, and the food ain’t half-bad either. Our advice: Get there early to beat the crowd. Personal piano player included.


Location: 27 Rahling Circle

Phone: 821-1828

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Price: Moderate to expensive

Credit cards: Yes.

Alcohol: Full bar.

Ambience: Quiet and peaceful, with burbling fountains and a piano player tickling the ivories.

Don’t miss: The Thousand Dollar Omelet. Though we don’t know how caviar, lobster and eggs might taste at 9 a.m., it sure would be a nice way to impress the in-laws.





Aydelotte’s

One of the early complaints we heard about the fancy, less-than-a-year-old North Little Rock eatery Aydelotte’s was that its prices were much too steep. Well, not so at brunch, where we recently enjoyed three large (and wonderfully presented) brunch entrees and two drinks, all for under $45.

Aydelotte’s is local pizza mogul Judy Waller’s attempt at American fine dining and after an up-and-down first year that has included several personnel changes, she’s settled on a chef who’s skillful in all facets. The Sunday brunch menu is not much different from the regular list, with the exception of the requisite variations on eggs Benedict, a quiche special, an omelet and French toast. For those eyeing more lunch than breakfast, there are entrees ranging from prime rib to pasta primavera. Appetizers include Aydelotte’s nearly-to-die-for specialty, lobster cakes, and salad choices are plentiful.

Already well aware of how good the lobster cakes were, we chose the seafood Benedict, which subbed lobster cakes for the Canadian bacon found in the traditional Benedict. We also feasted on a Southwestern quiche (a piece-of-pie-size serving with ham, tomatoes, chilis and a heavy dose of cheese), which was mild enough for an early hour. Four slices of French toast served with maple syrup rounded out our picks. Each entree was accompanied by a plentiful fruit salad with a honey cream sauce on the side.

A perfectly mixed and not overly thick bloody Mary was a nice eye opener, as was a refreshing mimosa. We were too stuffed for dessert, but had tried several of the choices before at dinner. Aydelotte’s succeeds best with creme brulee and Key lime pie, we think.

Service was attentive, courteous and informative. The waiter apologized beforehand that the bloody Mary might be a little strong — the bar attendant was just starting out, he said. We told him to compliment her beginner’s luck. We left happy with the overall experience, vowing to return.



Location: 5524 JFK Blvd., North Little Rock.

Phone: 975-5524 (reservations recommended but not required)

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Price: Entrees range from $8 for the eggs Benedict to $16 for the Adyelotte’s seafood Benedict. Bloody Marys are $5.50 and mimosas are $3.

Credit cards: Yes.

Alcohol: Full bar.

Ambience: There is plenty of al fresco dining available, and heating units will keep you comfortable even in cooler temps. Inside, the smaller rooms (where you’re first taken if you request a non-smoking table) can get a little loud at lunch. You might feel more comfortable in the larger dining area with the bar. Occasionally there is piano music; on our visit it was piped-in pop.

Don’t miss: The dessert tray.



Cafe 42

Cafe 42, the ground-floor restaurant in the Clinton Presidential Center, fails our brunch-o-meter in only a single way. Given our preferences, we’d prefer to order off a menu rather than be overwhelmed by a buffet line.

Oh, never mind. We take it back. Without the buffet line, you couldn’t gorge yourself in the pre-surgery style of the 42nd president on one of most caloric and tempting assortment of desserts we’ve seen, from cobbler to Hillary’s chocolate chip cookies to chocolate truffle cake. Other key points on our brunch rating:

Can you get a drink at the Clinton Presidential Library’s restaurant? Check. Anything. Milk, juice, soft drinks and coffee (toasty Starbucks) are included in the set brunch price. Extras include wine, local beer, cocktails and champagne, straight or mixed with orange juice.

Are bloody Marys made with a spicy mix so thick you almost have to spoon it out of the glass? Check.

Are there breakfast dishes? Check. An omelette and waffle station, smoky bacon and sausage, biscuits and gravy and our particular weakness, cheese grits.

Are there ritzy middle-of-the-day dishes? Check. A mountain of small but sweet boiled shrimp. A slab of salmon with all the fixings, from capers to minced boiled eggs. Heart-healthy baked fish (we had mahi mahi). There’s a hearty pasta usually, such as sausage-studded noodles in putanesca sauce. And there’s always a carving station, such as a rich ham with jezebel sauce or roast beef.

But save room for dessert. There’s always a hot one. Cobbler was popular in the early days, but the standard now seems to be the chef’s “baked fudge,” a moist and gooey warm chocolate cake served with optional toppings of whipped cream and pureed strawberries. There are also fancy tortes, bar cookies studded with nuts and chocolate and caramel and often carrot cake with about a foot of cream cheese icing on top. A wedge is enough for four — or one of us.


Location: Clinton Presidential Center.

Phone: 537-0042 (reservations are not required, but sometimes useful).

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Price: $18.95 (includes coffee and juice). Cocktails and champagne cost about $7.

Credit cards: Yes.

Ambience: Sleek modern with a warm wooden floor designed to look old and worn. A fine terrace in the lee of the jutting library above is an option on a pleasant day. Live music is always provided, often Drew Pickens’ Band, acoustic guitar and bass playing jazzy riffs on standards.

Don’t miss: The dessert table.





Crescent Hotel

Of course, you’ll find breakfast fare included in brunch at the Crystal Dinning Room of Eureka Springs’ Crescent Hotel. In fact, it will probably be suggested you begin your trip through the buffet line on the breakfast side of the room. Listen carefully: Do not fall for it. A great meal at a reasonable price awaits you if you leave “breakfast” for another day at another of Eureka’s best-per-capita selection of restaurants in the state.

True, the made-to-order omelettes are filled with fresh ingredients and expertly prepared. But the bacon is limp and devoid of hill-country flavor, the sausage could come from a vending-machine breakfast sandwich and the biscuits and gravy smack of “Ozark fare” from a package.

Oh, OK ... we’ll grant you the breakfast potatoes — new red potatoes sliced thin — and the cheese grits with smoked sausage (what’s a vegetarian to do?!) are yummy. So heed the staff’s “start with breakfast” advice long enough to scoop some starch; then head on to the good stuff.

Fish lovers among us found a nice smoked dill salmon with capers and red onion, tilapia and peel-and-eat shrimp. The prime rib was juicy and tender and oozing flavor. Salad fixin’s were varied and lush. There was a fabulous chilled cantaloupe soup that threatened to leave platters of cut fresh fruits lying mundane in its wake. And highlights of a delightful dessert station included a crepe filled with cream cheese sauce and topped with steaming cherries, and a milk-chocolate fountain surrounded by skewers full of strawberries, pineapple chunks and marshmallows.

The pasta bar look interesting and inviting, though we didn’t have room to indulge. Guess we messed up by starting with breakfast.


Location: 75 Prospect Ave., Eureka Springs

Phone: 479-253-9766 (reservations are not required, but we were turned away at 11 a.m. and asked to return at 1 p.m.)

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Price: $19.95 — includes coffee, juice, tea and champagne. Be prepared, however, for the nearly 11 percent restaurant sales tax.

Alcohol: Brunch cocktails; champagne cocktails and mimosas are only $2.

Credit Cards: Yes.

Ambience: A nice blend of elegance and a mountain-resort decor. Lovely crystal chandeliers hang from an “I’ve seen more than you can possibly guess, sonny!” stamped-metal ceiling. The dining room and the lobby of this historic, reputedly haunted hotel could have been the movie set for “The Shining.” Live music is always provided.

Don’t miss: The prime rib carving station and the chocolate fountain.





Uncle Gaylord’s

Brunch at Uncle Gaylord’s Mountain Cafe has a relaxed, lazy atmosphere ideal for Sunday mornings. It’s all breakfast dishes — from pancakes to eggs — and a range of beverages.

The restaurant is located in a former tire station, just blocks from the historic downtown square. Murals and paintings of all sizes adorn the walls, and in the main room, large mirrors flank an operating fireplace, which subtly warms the room’s mood and temperature.

We sat in the back of the main room as we waited a little too long for our mocha and cappuccino. They were so-so in flavor and temperature, but then specialty coffees aren’t the focus here.

Things improved greatly when the food arrived. The French toast ($6), half a dozen small pieces cut from a loaf, came with two paper cups of maple-flavored syrup. The side of bacon ($3) was thick and meaty — very tasty. The blueberry pancake sandwich is just a fun name for pancakes served alongside scrambled eggs and bacon or ham ($8). The fluffy but dense pancakes were filled with juicy blueberries.

A plate breakfast with scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, biscuits with bacon or ham ($6.50) was a nice mix of tastes and textures. The moist, airy eggs blended well with the peppery potatoes. The two biscuits could have been fluffier, and the side of gravy was a bit bland.

We were also tempted by the pecan waffles and apple pancakes ($6). You won’t find bloody Marys or mimosas on the menu, but you can order fresh-squeezed orange juice and specialty coffees.



Location: 315 W. Mountain St., Fayetteville.

Phone: 479-444-0605 (reservations not required, but helpful on busy weekends)

Hours: 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Price: Main dishes top out at $8.

Credit cards: Yes

Alcohol: No

Ambiance: Eclectic and cozy.

Don’t miss: The tasty bacon, well worth $3 as a side order




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