The List: Let's Do Brunch
Whether it's for a traditional celebratory event like Mother's Day or Father's Day or just a typical Sunday fun day excursion, seeking out the best weekend brunch in OC is a delicious task.
For the grand, much-more-than-you-could-ever-eat buffet experience, Motif at the St. Regis is the go-to place on the coast. The multiple food stations that include a variety of breakfast choices, as well as seafood, sushi and international dishes. The pancake bar has more than 40 toppings, while the adult beverage of choice (other than the unlimited flutes of Champagne) is the spicy Agave Maria, made with Herradura silver tequila, jalapeño and the resort’s delicious Bloody Mary mix. Reserve space on the terrace for ocean views and to enjoy live music.
The generous buffet brunch at TAPS Fish House & Brewery is a big enough deal to draw many from the coast inland to Brea and Corona. Its combination of a grand buffet and a la carte offerings from the kitchen, including chilaquiles and beignets, makes it worth the trip. The journey will be much shorter when the third TAPS opens at Irvine Marketplace later this month, though, alas, not in time for Mother’s Day.
OC’s coastal resorts pull out the stops on the holidays, offering grand buffets on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, along with tasting menus and prix fixe choices at the signature restaurants. Montage Resort in Laguna Beach offers a Mother’s Day Masterpiece Celebration, a 12-station holiday buffet served in the ballroom, or wait until dinner for Craig Strong’s tasting menu at Studio. The Resort at Pelican Hill offers a Mother’s Day Brunch in the Mar Vista grand ballroom. Not up for a big buffet? Treat mom to a sophisticated day with a Mother’s Day weekend tea, or splurge on a Spa Suite package for four to eight guests that includes massage, facial and a prosecco-paired spa lunch. Watertable at the Hyatt Huntington Beach is a breakfast favorite (try the crab hash or excellent huevos rancheros), but for Mother’s Day the resort is also offering a bounteous buffet in its ballroom, with al fresco seating in the courtyard.
Raya, Richard Sandoval’s restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, really shines on Sunday morning with a three-course a la carte Champagne Brunch and stunning clifftop ocean views. Each course includes several choices, including huevos rancheros, creative options like scallops paired with char sui pork belly, or wagyu steak churrasco. On the big brunch holidays there’s also a buffet experience in the ballroom, complete with a caviar station.
Carlos Salgado is OC’s most acclaimed young chef. Food & Wine magazine named him one of the 10 best young chefs in the U.S., and his Taco Maria is number one on Coast critic Brad A. Johnson’s best restaurants list. Though the setting isn’t as opulent as others, Salgado’s Sunday prix fixe brunch, with choices like chilaquiles made with chicken confit or grilled ribeye and huevos with Dungeness crab, is worthy of any special occasion.
Taco Maria is at SoCo in Costa Mesa, a center that has emerged as a leading culinary center. Other brunch and breakfast choices at SoCo include Pueblo, a cool Spanish tapas spot; Arc, where everything is cooked over wood fire (try the steak and duck eggs) and the new Bistro Papillote, a French cafe that specializes in crepes.
Beach and Bay
Balboa Bay Resort has a Mother’s Day buffet in the ballroom, but for gorgeous views of the yachts sailing by, the a la carte offering at resort restaurant Waterline is the choice. Duffy boaters can dock and dine across the harbor at Bluewater Grill, The Cannery and The Winery NB.
If a beach view is more your mom’s style, Splashes at the Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach gets her close to the waves and has a great weekend breakfast and three-course Mother’s Day choices. Driftwood Kitchen’s spicy Bloody Pirate made with chipotle vodka is a spicy eye-opener (the better to see the sea views with), and though its ocean view is from across PCH, sitting outside at Sapphire Laguna is one of the more enjoyable ways to spend a morning. Chef Azmin Ghahreman’s three-course Mother’s Day menu includes lobster and shrimp enchiladas. And don’t overlook the traditional tourist-friendly spots, like Las Brisas in Laguna Beach and Beachcomber in Crystal Cove, especially if you’re entertaining an older member of the family. What’s a tad cliche to you might be her fondly remembered classic.
Little Sparrow in downtown Santa Ana is one of the best restaurants in the county, and Chef Eric Samaniego’s weekend brunch (avocado toast with chicken liver, chorizo and egg tacos and kimchee fried rice with pork belly are among menu items) is a wonderful way to start a day exploring in DTSA. Old Vine Café at The Camp was committed to breakfast when breakfast wasn’t a hotly trending topic, and it still has one of the most creative AM choices in OC, unless rabbit mole and lengua omelets are on the menu at your home.
Fashion Island Fab
Fig & Olive, Fleming’s, and Cucina Enoteca all have special menus for Mother’s Day, and after you can take mom shopping for her gift. Or if mom likes to get her Irish up, head across to Muldoon’s and stick around for the live Celtic and bluegrass duo starting at 6 p.m.
Yearning to do something unique on Mother’s Day, or any weekend? If mom misses big city weekends, treat her to a train ride to one of OC’s food-centric Metrolink stops. Ramos House in San Juan Capistrano is as rustic chic as it gets in OC, and its historic Los Rios District location is across the tracks from the stop.
The Fullerton station is adjacent to the lively bar and restaurant zone downtown, but we never get further than Hopscotch, the fun and funky restaurant in an old Red Car transit building.
The Orange station is itself home to a Ruby’s restaurant, or venture a few blocks to the Circle and treat mom to brunch or lunch at Haven Gastropub, Citrus City Grille, or Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen, but save room for a scoop of fabulous ice cream from à la minute.
AnQi at South Coast Plaza has an exceptional Mother’s Day menu, though choosing between Lobster Benedict with yuzu hollandaise or a roasted half Maine lobster with the restaurant’s famous garlic noodles might be tough. With so much focus on special Mother’s Day menus, it might be a good time to sneak into Din Tai Fung without the wait, though the dumplings are such a draw that there are often already lines when DTF opens at 10 a.m. on weekends. For special occasion dim sum service it’s hard to top Capital Seafood at Irvine Spectrum.