The morning is no time for experimentation. Breakfast is utilitarian, fuel necessary to face the day: eggs for protein, bread and grains for carbs and something fatty to jump-start the metabolism. Chefs are asked only to serve these elements hot and fast.
Yet, the world is shrinking and expectations have changed. Once-exotic dishes like shakshuka and chilaquiles have entered the common brunchgoer’s lexicon. Some restaurants are taking advantage.
“Brunch is one of the best things we’ve done,” said Chad Crete, executive chef and co-owner of Whiskey Bird in Morningside (1409 N. Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-600-5797, eatwhiskeybird.com). According to Crete, brunch has helped the restaurant solidify its vision and embed itself in the neighborhood.
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Whiskey Bird is not delicate when it comes to cultural mashups at brunch, but that helps several dishes stand out. Crete breathes new life into an Atlanta classic with the Chicken and Bubble Waffle. Heavily spiced buttermilk fried chicken rests on a hexagonal waffle recognizable from Instagram.
“Bubble waffles are the best of both worlds,” said Crete. “You get the crispy edges, but the bubbles have that eggy, cake-like pancake texture.”
Of course, any cultural mashup would fall flat if poorly executed. A good example of Crete’s skill and attentiveness is the avocado toast, which combines Southwestern, Asian and Jewish-American elements.
Inspired by lox and bagels, the dish includes mashed avocado, smoked salmon and egg salad atop toasted whole-wheat bread. The egg salad is made with Whiskey Bird’s yuzu tartar sauce, which includes fermented citrus paste. The dish is finished with Sriracha ketchup and then cut into quarters.
“We decided on egg salad instead of a poached or fried egg so that the toast would be easier to share,” said Crete.
Whiskey Bird isn’t the only Atlanta restaurant daring to add global flavors to the so-called most important meal of the day. Here’s how a few more Atlanta restaurants are shaking up common breakfast dishes around town:
The king of brunch, eggs Benedict is already a cultural mashup of sorts, thanks to English muffins and Canadian bacon. That hasn’t stopped Atlanta restaurants from revamping “eggs Benny” in interesting ways. Southern versions seem ubiquitous, but it’s hard to go wrong with Country Ham Eggs Benedict from West Egg (1100 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-872-3973, westeggcafe.com). Whiskey Bird’s interpretation uses bao buns to soak up egg yolk and smoked Gouda fondue, alongside crumbly chicken and pork sausage humming with Asian flavors. At Adios Cafe (180 Walker St. SW, Atlanta. 404-574-5678, adioscafe.com) in Castleberry Hill, the Mexican Benedict uses masa cakes and roasted green chile hollandaise. Murphy’s (997 Virginia Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-872-0904, murphys-atlanta-restaurant.com) has a Southwestern take, too: Crab Cake Benedict with jalapeño hollandaise.
The Denver Omelet might be America’s original cultural mashup dish. Bagel Palace (2869 N. Druid Hills Road NE, Atlanta. 404-315-9016, bagelpalaceatl.com) follows the Denver script with a Fajita Omelet, while Amara (870 Inman Village Parkway NE, Atlanta. 470-305-7405, amaraatlanta.com) ventures across the world with a Masala Omelet. Southern-themed omelets abound, but the one at Sun in MyBelly (2161 College Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-370-1088, suninmybelly.com) is particularly decadent, oozing with melted pimento cheese. For a less-structured take on culturally curious eggs, go for the Southern Tofu Scramble at Twisted Soul (1133 Huff Road NW, Atlanta. 404-350-5500, twistedsoulcookhouseandpours.com). Or try the Eggs and Merguez at Anis Bistro (2974 Grandview Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-233-9889, anisbistro.com) for French technique and North African flavors.
Whiskey Bird isn’t the only Atlanta restaurant with an interesting take on the dish supposedly draining the savings of millennials everywhere. Tupelo Honey (4600 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 404-649-6334, tupelohoneycafe.com) serves a highly Instagrammable version of avocado toast that incorporates some Middle Eastern flavors. 8Arm (710 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 470-875-5856, 8armatl.com) takes the Southwestern breakfast staple to Europe, topping toasted pain au levain with avocado, lime, radish and Espelette pepper.
The basic version of shakshuka, popular in North Africa and the Middle East, involves eggs poached in spiced tomato sauce. It’s typically vegetarian and gluten-free. Spiller Park (2929 N. Druid Hills Road NE, Atlanta. 404-823-5737, spillerpark.com) makes a green tomato shakshuka, playing on local familiarity with fried green tomatoes. Mediterranea (332 Ormond St. SE, Atlanta. 404-748-4219, mediterraneaatl.com) serves green shakshuka, too. The aforementioned Tupelo Honey serves Southern Shakshuka, blanketing goat cheese grits with tomato sauce and eggs. Shakshuka has also made its way to lunch: You’ll find shakshuka at Dish Dive (2233 College Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-957-7918, dishdivekitchen.com) with West African ingredients like butternut squash, corn, lima beans and bell peppers.
In a busy brunch market, some chefs have found an appealing balance between craveable breakfast classics and horizon-broadening flavors. As the world continues to shrink, expect to see more of those flavors on Atlanta breakfast menus.
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