Brunch has finally come of age. Formerly a middle meal for the well-heeled, breakfast’s boozy big brother has given late-risers of every economic strata an acceptable excuse to sleep a little longer while still maintaining their social standing.
It’s no wonder Columbus has embraced brunch as more than an afterthought. Weekend- only menus allow local chefs to experiment for forgiving crowds and discerning diners. And blurring the line between morning and midday makes it the perfect test kitchen for familiar favorites with a little added flare.
Weekdays remain another story. Mornings seem to get ever earlier, even without the seasonal precession and daylight savings time messing with our heads. Fortunately, there are still meals worthy of getting up a little early—something that will make you the envy of the office, or a missed lunch easier to stomach if your afternoon runs amok.
Here are five ways to grab work-week breakfast with both hands:
Maple Chicken Biscuit
MoJoe Lounge • 149 S High St.
Forget that puny puck most places shove in a bag and hand you at the drive-thru. This sandwich needs a box, and a big one. It’s a buttery biscuit about the size of a grapefruit, sliced and crisped up on the flat top just enough to hold together when they put a runny egg and a huge, buttermilk fried chicken breast inside. The drizzle of maple syrup conspires with the skin of the chicken to create the convergence of New England sweetness and salty Southern comfort food. Putting a fried egg on anything makes it undeniably Columbus.
Don’t worry about getting a dried-out brick of a biscuit later in the morning either. Like all of their baked goods, they’re made in-house, as needed. I grabbed mine after 9 a.m. and the biscuit was fresh out of the oven. It also comes with a knife and fork, for those who may struggle to pick it up—or with strong opinions on which comes first, the chicken or the egg.
Save a slice of cinnamon gooey butter cake for later, though the biscuit alone may well hold you over until happy hour.
Mazatlan Slow-Roasted Pork & Egg
Katalina’s • 1105 Pennsylvania Ave.
Though “gas station breakfast” sounds like a stand-up bit or a college radio band, that’s exactly what Katalina’s used to be—a century old filling station. Better known for their breakfast tacos, the secretly seasoned, slow-roasted pork topped with Amish provolone and fried egg served on toasted “old world loaf” deserves top billing. Though it could stand on its own, the added avocado, red peppers, and aioli add lightness and depth to what could otherwise be a heavy-handed sandwich.
If wholesome-yet-hearty isn’t your speed, there are always the pancake balls. Famous is an understatement, considering they’ve literally sold more than a million of them. Whether filled with Nutella’s hint of hazelnut, sweet and creamy dulce de leche, or harvest-inspired pumpkin-apple butter, the side of bourbon maple syrup and house bacon make it easy to see why their popularity quickly reached seven digits.
Love and local goodness are the first ingredients for everything on the menu at this historic, Harrison West hot spot.
French Toast Sandwich
The Angry Baker • 247 King Ave.
This cousin of the Monte Cristo features classic French toast, but with the texture of brioche. The perfect package for ham and Swiss is dusted with confectioner’s sugar and diagonally cut for dipping into a side of syrup. There is also a vegan variation with egg- and dairy-free batter, Daiya mozzarella, and seitan—sometimes called “wheat meat” because it’s derived from gluten.
With the original location now complemented by expansion into Victorian Village, there’s an Angry Baker on your way into downtown from either the east or west side of the city. If you need an afternoon pick-me-up, be sure to get a blueberry lemon scone to go. It’s like biting into summer. If savory is your style, the cheddar chive scone is sure to satisfy.
Americans were slow to embrace the decidedly British version of the Scottish staple. But once they did, scones certainly started to give biscuits and muffins a run for their money.
Bacon, Egg, and Cheddar
What the Waffle • 1117 Oak St.
Sometimes, we affectionately call an unpretentious eatery a hole-in-the-wall. This is probably the one time that name truly applies.
What the Waffle is just that, a tiny glass window of the Columbus Food Hub on the corner of Oak and Ohio. Their limited menu underscores the genius of simplicity. Place your order, and minutes later someone will return with a made from scratch, made to order, Belgian waffle-turned-sandwich.
There are two whole strips of bacon—not just one broken into two or three pieces like most places. Their fried egg is more of a rough scramble, which is actually ideal. Finely shredded cheddar melts into the square cavities of the fresh from the iron waffle, and the whole thing is wrapped in butcher paper and ready for the road.
Their sweet potato muffins are also worth getting to go, not that you’ll be hungry any time soon.
Acre • Multiple locations
Though the name is unassuming, so is just about everything about Acre, the farm-to-table concept that manages to tick off all of the boxes. There’s nothing ordinary about it, either. The cheddar frittata on focaccia (or ciabatta) with a smear of tomato-jalapeño or bacon jam would probably be just fine. But the pucker of pickled onions offset by fresh baby spinach and avocado sour cream bring each flavor into balance.
Any echoes of the original KFC that used to occupy the Clintonville space are nearly indistinguishable, as are those of the former carryout near Grandview, where Bono Pizza used to make pies in the parking lot. In their place are thoughtfully reimagined restaurants ready for primetime. From the matching plaid shirts, jeans, and bandanas of the staff to the cohesive consistency of the exterior aesthetic and interior appointments, Acre is a brand bound to break out of Columbus.
Try a sweet corn cookie, the apparent offspring of a sugar cookie’s unlikely tryst with some cornbread, then tell me this place isn’t about to take off.