These Restaurants Are Winning the St. John’s Brunch Game in 2018

The St. John's brunch scene is growing. As would be expected, the cream is rising to the top. But with more and more options popping up, deciding where to go for brunch can be challenging.

Brunch: Deadly Since Day 1 in 1895

The word brunch was first uttered by British author Guy Beringer when he penned “Brunch: A Plea” for an issue of Hunters’ Weekly in 1895.

“By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. Brunch is cheerful, sociable, and inciting.” His statements proved eerily accurate.

Over the next century, brunch slowly crept into popular consciousness. In the 1990s it exploded and hasn’t slowed down. Sometimes judged a millennial thing, rising late on weekends to socialize over decadent dishes and boozy beverages has proved to be popular with every demographic.

Brunch Scene in St. John’s in Growing

The St. John’s brunch scene is growing. As would be expected, the cream is rising to the top. But with more and more options popping up, deciding where to go for brunch can be challenging.

Some things haven’t changed in the past few years. Mallard Cottage’s consistently excellent brunch, with its famous cake table, is one of them. Merchant Tavern’s sophisticated cocktails and elegant brunch haven’t failed us either.

Laid back experiences at Zachary’s and Donovan’s Irving (in The Pearl) will set your wallet back less without losing any of the brunching joy. Well, except that Big Stop doesn’t serve cocktails. Yellowbelly serves a generous brunch with some fun breakfast pizza-themed options.

Two players, however, seem to be defining early 2018’s brunch game.

For the city proper, Bernard Stanley Gastropub is absolutely nailing the downtown, urban brunch with lots of selection and top shelf beers and cocktails. So much so that they’ve had to expand hours to accommodate demand, and are now serving their brunch menu 10-4, from Monday to Friday, and 9-4 on Saturday and Sunday. There’s often a line up out the door at peak weekend hours. This crew has been building a reputation since they opened in late 2015, but they really hit their stride in the past year.

Asked what makes Bernard Stanley’s brunch special, Simone Savard-Walsh Molloy says “consistently delicious, fresh food at reasonable prices. We make almost everything in-house, from our hollandaise and aiolis to our creme brûlée and peanut butter pie.

“We have some very popular breakfast items such as Crunchy French Toast Stuffed with Brie, and topped with rum caramel sauce, and a Breakfast Burrito with chorizo and pico de gallo topped with hollandaise.”

Engaged, accommodating staff boast bar skills that deserve to be investigated beyond just the weekend Caesar and mimosa specials. The cocktails (and mocktails!) they’ve devised are fun without being too esoteric.

The Grounds is a Great Destination for a Sunday Drive

For a brunch at the end of a relaxing Sunday drive, The Grounds Cafe in Portugal Cove, located in the Garden Center at Murray’s Meadows Farms,  is taking a lighter approach, literally. The simple, frequently changing menu and ecstasy-inducing baked goods are perfectly placed beneath the cafe’s high ceilings and multiple windows that shed sunlight from all directions.

Gorgeous hooked rugs are displayed on the walls. Bright, open space and verdant trays of microgreens growing to the side of the kitchen area give it a bohemian, Vancouver Island feel, while being right outside town.

What are the best brunch choices at Grounds? Head chef Nick Van Mele tells me “personal quiches are really popular with the brunch crowd, same with the sprouted lentil bowl with soft boiled Coates Farm egg, kale, housemade yogurt, and granola. We also have a lot of breakfasty type pastries like scones and cinnamon buns.”

Sourcing from several local farms and using ultra-fresh ingredients gives the Grounds an unbeatable edge. The best food comes from the best ingredients, it’s that simple. The food at The Grounds is next level. Beer, cider, and house-made drinks like Caesers and vodka partridgeberry are available.

An honourable mention for brunch cocktails goes to Jag Hotel’s restaurant, Exile, for their Caesar. Like pretty much everyone else they have a weekend special on it, but theirs is one of the ones worth getting out of bed for. Good brunch there, too.

More from Felicity Roberts

2 Comments

  • Can someone explain why Zacherys is supposed to be so great?

    Only ever had really bad experiences there on all fronts (bad/extremely slow service, bad food, seeing other customers come in after us and get served before us, etc.)

    Sorry to be a jerk. Must be something I am missing or a bad day both times I was there.

  • Bernard Stanley Gastropub is awesome. I really enjoy going there for brunch. The omelettes are amazing, so is the brie french toast, and the atmosphere and service are so good.

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