There’s no denying that brunch is a staple of the American food scene. But as with most cultural phenomena, it wasn’t always the boozy and carb-filled Sunday tradition we know today—at least, not in every historical retelling.
In celebration of the new year and in preparation for the first San Diego Restaurant Week of the new decade, we’re tracing the storied history of our beloved brunch from noun to verb and sharing a few pro-tips to help you navigate the scene for the perfect outing with friends. Because if there’s one element of brunch that seems to have stood the test of time, it’s that it’s all about togetherness. (And food, of course!)
Where It Started
British author Guy Beringer is largely credited with coining the term “brunch” in his article, “Brunch: A Plea,” which appeared in an 1895 issue of Hunter’s Weekly. As the title would suggest, the piece was very much an argument for the happy and indulgent occasion. “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” he wrote. “It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
While tracing the exact evolution of the American brunch is about as easy as splitting up the check after time’s up on the bottomless mimosas, the earliest rendition seems to be a New York-California connection by way of Chicago. Story has it that in the 1930s (pre-commercial air travel), actors traveling cross-country for work would hop off the train in Chicago for brunch at the Pump Room, located in the swanky Ambassador Hotel. From there, things get a bit hazier, with stories ranging from religious tradition to friendly rivalries among New York restaurateurs. From about the 1980s on, brunch culture exploded in the U.S., with the emergence of the all-you-can-eat, bottomless specials we know and love today.
Navigating the Mid-Sunday Scene
If you love brunch—and brunch often—then you know you’re in good company, with long lines and excessive wait times generally par for the course. Why do we do it? Well, because some things are just worth the wait (like perfectly-poached eggs drenched in hollandaise sauce paired with a Bloody Mary—but enough about us). There are, however, some things you can do to help you and your fellow brunch enthusiasts get in and out with minimal annoyance.
Mind the time limit. While brunch is a time to kick back, relax and catch up, for the sake of others (and the wait staff), it’s best to be mindful of the time. Often, restaurants will institute a two-hour time limit for brunch to keep things moving, especially when offering deals and specials.
Get there early (we know)—but not too early. Assuming the night before wasn’t one of epic proportions, getting up and out before the rest of the world can help avoid that awkward hour hanging out on the sidewalk (and get that hair of the dog biting all the sooner). Get there too early, however, and you risk a few eye-rolls from the front and back of the house. If brunch starts at 10 am, we’d recommend 10:30-ish as a sweet spot.
Order off the menu. Brunch is a time for the chef to get creative. Because Sunday menus have often been carefully curated to meet the demands of the brunch bustle, unless you’re hitting the buffet, it’s generally best for everyone involved to stick to what’s on the menu.
Are We Brunching This Restaurant Week?
More than 120 restaurants will be participating in San Diego Restaurant Week January 19th–26th, which means it’s time to try the best the city has to offer in culinary fare—brunch included.
Visit www.sandiegorestaurantweek.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to discover your next delicious adventure, and use the hashtag #yourweektoremember to share the experience with your fellow San Diego foodies.