We can all agree, can we not, that brunch is just great… in a general, vague sort of way, that is: Breakfast food — ish — served all day, and on a weekend no less, when most of us have the time and inclination to do it right.
Anthony Bourdain, of course, had real disdain for the meal, categorizing it as plates of eggs and warmed-up leftovers prepared and served by people who would rather be anywhere else on earth to hungover zombies just looking for the excuse to start drinking in the morning.
Nevertheless, brunch is having something of a moment in the Triad right now, with the passing of the Brunch Bill allowing booze to be served before noon and the slow proliferation of both restaurants that care to do a good job on brunch service and those who are willing to come out and pay to experience it.
M’Coul’s Public House; 110 W. McGee St. GSO, 336.378.0204
And therein lies the rub: With everybody getting into the brunch game, how do we choose?
It takes approximately as much time to choose a brunch place as it does to eat brunch, necessitating a series of questions that demand answers.
Will there be boozing? If so, to what degree — are we talking bottomless mimosa or a single, great bloody Mary? Buffet-style or off the menu? Do we want to sit outside? Do we refuse to sit outside? Do we want to wait for a table? Budget and time are concerns. And what do we want to eat, anyway — classic dishes like eggs Benedict or something a little more off the nose?
Brunch prime time begins at 11 a.m. and lasts about 90 minutes, and then it hits again after 1, when the late-risers scramble to get in before the service ends around 3 p.m. This must be taken into consideration.
And so it was that we settled on M’Coul’s Public House in downtown Greensboro, a noted player in the brunch game that hit all the right notes.
M’Couls is downtown, which ups the price point and also the atmosphere, a big-city feel in the center of the action. A menu of cocktails seems designed especially to soothe difficult mornings: individual slates of both champagne cocktails and bloody marys, craft numbers made with electrolyte-laden coconut and cucumber. The servers bring lots of water.
The menu stands out, too. They’ve got both sweet and savory covered with pancakes and French toast, steak and eggs and shrimp and grits. Because M’Coul’s adheres to a Celtic motif, brunch selections include items like bangers and hash, potatoes everywhere.
On the signature side, a traditional Irish breakfast pairs eggs with grilled tomatoes; the corned-beef hash seems to be made in-house — meaning that it does not resemble dog food even a little; most dishes come with potatoes O’Brien, a signature side.
Most intriguing is the boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake, served here in an eggs/bacon configuration or with the aforementioned corned-beef hash. M’Coul’s boxty seems made from exceptionally smooth lashed potatoes — it is almost like a crepe — browned like a pancake and folded over the goods. It provides an excellent medium for the hash, made with a blend of peppers and big chunks of potato, and a couple of runny eggs. And there on the side rests a crock of cheese sauce — a rarebit — with its own bounty of potatoes, onions and spices that, when spooned over the boxty, creates the sort of heavy-duty meal that would prepare one for a long day of shepherding or putting up low stone walls.
Pro tip: Brunch is best consumed in pairs. A two-top can always slip through the wait if they’re not picky about seating or are willing to post up at the bar.
We ate on the upstairs deck — the downstairs spaces had filled up by noon and a crowd had gathered in the upstairs lounge to watch the World Cup final between France and Croatia. It was hot, sure, so we drank a lot of water as we watched the flags flow in the slow, hot breeze and listened to the cheers from the bar.