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To Brunch, or Not to Brunch… That Should Be the Question

November 11, 2016

Happy Wednesday, Mason grad and professional students. I know that our blog posts this year have been a bit information-heavy as we sought to provide resources for your success. So, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to turn a recent conversation about weekend brunches into this week’s blog. In a recent conversation about the notion of brunching, I discovered, while the popularity is known for the DMV locals, it’s not understood why it is such a social and cultural practice in the region. For most, brunch can be a practice and a pleasure on a given Saturday or Sunday; however, the DC metro area seems to take their brunch standards to another level. So, I’ve decided to look into the cultural experience of “brunch” and where Mason graduate students should find themselves in the cultural discussion.

Foodies, health-nuts, and nutritionists are of two minds about the value of brunch. Harvest MD, a blog on pleasure trends, argues that brunch is great as it allows its participants to sleep in, eat smaller meals, and binge on healthy foods and ingredients.[1] Mansi Belani, an opposing nutritionist, suggests that “people who practice it on a regular basis often find themselves putting on extra kilos… [eating] brunch on an empty stomach [leads]… to eating too much too soon… adding extra calories. Long fasting and overeating during brunch leads to long gap for the next meal, [causing]… more fat accumulation. [And s]kipping one of the meals of the day on a regular basis could lead to nutrient deprivation.”[2]

Here, we have two opinions on the issue, and this blogger tends to agree with/pray that Debbie Strong and Kelly Kennedy, RD, are correct, because I love brunching. Strong states from the get-go that “weekend brunch… can be an easy meal for splurging,” and suggests that like any meal out, it’s what and how you eat that really matters.[3] The health-conscious “don’t have to choose between enjoying… and skipping [brunch] altogether.”[4] They just have to brunch smart. Strong then offers 7 tips for smart brunching: Sip Selectively, Don’t Shy Away from a Favorite, Create Your Own Omelet, Avoid Unhealthy Extras, Size Up Your Sides, Go Light on the Sugar, and Build a Better Burger.

  • “Sip Selectively” is an easy one: don’t over drink, empty calories are a real thing, and remember what your mixers are, because they can lead to more sugar.
  • “Don’t Shy Away from a Favorite” reminds readers that we all love pancakes and waffles. Again, like Sipping Selectively, it’s about quantity and quality: don’t eat too many and make sure you are eating the healthiest version. Also, make wise decisions about toppings.
  • Not being a big fan of eggs, not sure I’ll join in this one; however, for those of you who are, “Creating Your Own Omelet” is a great idea because you can fill your omelet with yummy vegetables … or so I’ve been told.
  • “Avoid Unhealthy Extras” is about keeping it basic. Don’t get Eggs Benedict, when you can get eggs and toast without all the extra calories.
  • “Size Up Your Sides,” in my opinion, is a bit of the “no duh” tip. If you fry the food or get unhealthy sides, you are going to be adding calories. Do it at your own discretion, but know I am going to be adding my home-fries, french fries, and/or hash browns.
  • “Go Light on the Sugar” is for the oatmeal and granola aficionados. I un/fortunately have never been into this; however, if I choose to join the bandwagon, I now know to order my oatmeal plain and add my own sugar and fruit.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, “Build a Better Burger” is about making the burger you order not only a delicious, but also a healthy option. Much like Tip #4, it’s about what you add. (I will probably always add the bacon and cheese.)

All that being said, I hope you can agree with me that the most important part of brunch is the social aspect. Even Ms. Belani stated, “Brunch has become popular nowadays… it’s simply a plan for Sundays and holidays or a menu for… parties.”[5] For graduate and professional students, this aspect of the brunching culture is key. We need a space, place, and time in our ever busy schedule, with families, work, school, and homework keeping us always running around. This ritual allows a chance to catch our breath with friends and peers and to have a communal experience that is needed to keep our mental stability, what little we have during this graduate experience.

Now let’s get to the fun part of the blog: My completely subjective recommendations for the 3 best brunch spots in DC, Arlington, and Fairfax.

DC has an endless list of places to brunch, but I’ll give you my favorite three: Founding Farmers, Barrel, and DC Harvest.

Founding Farmers is probably my favorite restaurant in the District. I love both their dinner and brunch. (I highly suggest going getting the lobster mac and cheese for dinner.) Their rustic atmosphere and signature cocktails featuring house-made liquors make brunch a truly outstanding experience. For those who are die-hard egg people, the Benedict with Crab is raved about and a favorite of my friend group. Now my favorite meal on the menu is a splurge dish; however, if you’re okay with that, I’d go with their Chicken and Waffles.

Barrel was actually the second place I went to for brunch in the District since moving here in August, and it’s one I keep going back to. Truth be told, Barrel is in actuality “Barrel, Washington’s Bourbon Bar;” however, the food is amazing and you by no means have to get bourbon, though their extensive list does make brunch fun. My favorite brunch dish is the duck and shrimp banh reo… so good.

DC Harvest is my favorite place to get seasonal food in the District, and they just so happen to have an amazing brunch menu. As a southerner, I can be a bit picky about my grits, and though theirs is not exactly how my great aunt used to make them, DC Harvest’s shrimp and grits are definitely worth a try.

Like DC, Arlington is becoming more and more of a destination for brunch. My top choices for my neighborhood are Bracket Room, Circa, and Bayou Bakery.

Bracket Room is probably one of my favorite spots in the DMV area. They have a great happy hour with half-off beer, liquor, and apps. As to their brunch, they’re my favorite place to go because I can watch the game (or games, as the case may be), while having brunch with my friends. They have an all-you-can-eat brunch for $35 with 1¢ mimosas.

Circa has locations in both the District and NoVa, but its Clarendon location is one of my favorite places to brunch in Arlington. It probably has one of the most extensive brunch menus I’ve seen. Their Bison Blue Cheeseburger is my favorite eat at Circa, but I’m sure I could rebuild the burger better.

Bayou Bakery, in some ways, really does remind me of being back in New Orleans. If you can’t have Café du Monde’s beignets, then the ones they fry up at Bayou Bakery are a second best. Also for those who like oatmeal and want to try out Strong’s 6th tip, Bayou Baker serves great oatmeal, or so I’ve been told.

Full disclosure: I have not had brunch in Fairfax, as I try to limit the commute to Monday-Friday. Though I have not been to these restaurants, my friends have helped me out with their top picks: Artie’s, Ozzie’s Good Eats, and De Clieu Coffee and Sandwiches.

Artie’s is on Old Lee Highway and is a member of the local Great American Restaurants chain. The favored meal is called the Bubble and Squeak, a chicken and poached egg dish. All Great American Restaurants feature freshly baked goods from their own Best Buns Bread Company.

Ozzie’s Good Eats is also a member of the Great American Restaurants family. The Breakfast Flatbread is the meal to get for those visiting for brunch.

De Clieu Coffee and Sandwiches is the pick out of the three I would most like to visit. Located in downtown Fairfax, they support local roasters committed to keeping a small carbon footprint. With seasonal drinks, gelato, and a sandwich called “Crazy Irish Man,” De Clieu is definitely making me consider coming out to Fairfax for brunch one of these weekends.

With this all said, go out and brunch. Try some of these restaurants, go to new ones and report back if you like. I am always looking for a new place. If there are spots not mentioned you feel should have been, email me; I’ll try them out and put them in the next edition of brunch spots.

As always, I hope you found this post fun and informative. Looking for a specific topic or looking to share your own thoughts, email me and we’ll looking to a new blog topic or even a guest writer. I hope you have a great week.


Updated by Austin A. Deray, February 14, 2018

[1] Leland, “3 Reasons Why Brunch is Healthy For You,” Harvest MD, October 15, 2015, accessed October 31, 2016, http://harvestmd.com/3-reasons-brunch-healthy/.

[2] Mansi Belani, “Foodie Dilemma: Is Brunch Healthy?,” blogger Trina Remedios, India Times, June 15, 2012, accessed October 31, 2016, http://www.indiatimes.com/health/healthyliving/ foodie-dilemma-is-brunch-healthy-235711-3.html.

[3] Debbie Strong, “What Nutritionists Order When They Go Out for Brunch,” reviewer Kelly Kennedy, Everyday Health, April 05, 2016, accessed October 31, 2016, http://www.everydayhealth.com/pictures/what-to-order-at-brunch/#01.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Belani.

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