By Mara McCloy and Sig Johannes
Photos by Hannah Broder and Jaquan Leonard
Warm air lifted the ends of our hair and melted the concealer from our faces as we leaned back in the metal patio chairs and our photographer loomed over the table, snapping shots of expensive breakfast foods. It was a Saturday morning at Hominy Grill, and this was our first foray into food writing.
Writing an article about food is a self-conscious act – you have to slow down and chew more than you normally would, and crowd between other diners to get the best angle for a photograph. It is even more self-conscious for women. Public behavior, especially eating, is laden with all kinds of expectations and coded ridicule for female foodies. So naturally, we two girls decided to knock out three brunches in two days and have a lip-smacking good time doing it.
When you think of a Charleston brunch, you think of girls dressed in their weekend best, disguising their hangover under eyes with thick makeup while sipping their fabulous mimosas. But for us gals – brunch is all good food and good conversation. We created memories where we loved every bite.
This is where you beg your parents to take you when they’re in town. This is comfort food epitomized. The Charleston Nasty Biscuit is like getting hit in the face with a wet bag of flavor and actually loving it. This is where pearl-clutching old ladies rub shoulders with that guy who non-ironically wears friendship bracelets. It’s a great mix of people with solid drink options and classic Southern brunch food – but its biggest strength? This is where you eat.
If you’re really hungry, Hominy’s major portions will treat you right. Go on ma’am…fill that belly.
Huevos Rancheros $12
We were pleasantly surprised by this Tex Mex staple. A homemade shell filled with rice, black beans and pico de gallo supported two poached eggs. Oh, and there were slices of avocado on the side – if you’re into that. Overall, this dish was an incredible mixture of textures. The crispy taco shell didn’t taste like an afterthought and we were converted to the beauty of poached eggs. It is a great choice if you’re not into the whole greasy breakfast thing.
Country Breakfast $10
When you think of Hominy Grill, you think of Southern cooking. The country breakfast not only upholds this expectation, but exceeds it by a country mile. With bacon that is so unbelievably crispy (literally no fat – we were shook), the sunniest of sunny side up eggs, a warm biscuit and the best darn grits you’ll ever eat, you will never want to settle for the Waffle House All-Star Special again.
- Tastiness: 8/10
- Booziness: 10/10
- Cool Factor: 6/10
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Well, we felt significantly uncool here, but maybe that’s just us. This is great if you want an edgier brunch that will impress your multicultural uncle or your freshly minted Bumble date. This is where you can powerplay your pretentious friend with punchy dishes that they can’t even pronounce. The dishes were tremendously flavorful and the spiciness was a welcome contrast to the bland and buttered cooking that dominates Charleston. We also hugely enjoyed the sharing style – groups are meant to order several things and taste them all. Extra points to you, Xiao Bao, for not breaking the bank. If the cast of Portlandia ever came to Charleston, they would brunch here.
Chao Fan $12
Here’s the thing guys, I don’t usually crave a rice bowl. It’s just not my thing – but the chao fan of the week was incredible. I don’t know how they got the shreds of pork to taste citrusy, but this bright tartness cut perfectly through the low, muted warmth of the rice. The portion size was perfect for four people to taste, and would definitely fill up two people.
This dish is otherwise known as a Japanese cabbage pancake. At first we thought, “what the hell is cabbage doing in a pancake,” and then we tasted it. When ordering, you have the option of adding an over easy egg and bacon (the thickest most ham-like bacon you’ll ever set your eyes on). Do it. The egg yolk mixed with all the phenomenal mystery spices and smooth drizzle of flavor made this cabbage pancake a surprising top dish.
- Tastiness: 10/10
- Booziness: We’re too poor to order a drink at every restaurant.
- Cool Factor: 10/10
Warehouse captures a lot of what it means to be a vibrant Charleston restaurant – creative drinks, an inventive take on casual food and a pool table in the back. The whole aesthetic of the space gave off what Pinterest informs us are “warm industrial” vibes. Rain splattered hard on the windows while we ate, the sound and atmosphere taking us back to our mom’s house right before dinner. At the same time, we felt cooler than our child-selves could have envisioned. Dimly lit, comfortable and friendly, it’s hip without trying too hard and definitely delivers on the buzz around new chef Jason Daly. Each menu item was uniquely stamped with something that made it, well, Warehouse’s.
Bananas Foster French Toast $13
Oh my. This, ladies and gentlemen, was some sexy food. The thick-cut Brown’s Court pullman bread was crispy on the outside and almost melty on the interior. With sweet banana slices on top and a rich, slightly boozy puddle of caramel sauce below, this was a worthy adversary for my unstoppable sweet tooth. My sole complaint – not enough whipped cream. If you’re going to put it on there, you’ve got to do more than a quarter-sized amount. It’s not expensive shampoo. I also ordered a pomegranate mimosa – refreshing and prime Instagram material.
Fried Chicken Bombers $14
When I first read the ingredients of these sliders, I was already listing the things I was going to ask off. Then I had a wild thought, “why don’t I just trust the chef?” Let me tell you guys – this was the best decision I ever made. I took my first bite and literally melted into a delicious pot of fried chicken, shaved kale, cabbage slaw, garlic aioli, bacon, honey mustard and two of the warmest, softest english muffins in the universe. All of the flavors came together in a symphony of a “brunchy tailgate.” If you’re looking for a new twist on your classic brunch slider, this is the meal for you.
Honey Sriracha Tots $6
We ordered these just for fun and they were incredible. Classic tater tots drizzled in honey and hot sauce for a combination that almost tasted like sweet and sour sauce. Crunching these bad boys in your mouth was like taking a hit of sophisticated snacktime, like if your second grade teacher was Gordon Ramsay.
- Tastiness: Broke the scale
- Booziness: 10/10
- Cool Factor: Fire emoji
People love to criticize brunch. Maybe we find it easy to ridicule because it’s lazy – the whole idea is that you slept in and combined breakfast and lunch. Maybe it’s because we associate it with privilege and wealth — rich people sitting around at tables that are too small, nibbling avocado toast and debating the merits of single-payer healthcare. But you know what we think is behind the brunch bashing? People love to ridicule brunch because it makes a lot of women happy. Anywhere from YouTube to network TV, you can find parodic depictions of women gathered around a brunch table. Throwing on your nicest dress (even if it’s from Goodwill) and carving out time to spend with your girl friends feeds the soul, like a shot of oxygen-rich blood straight to your heart. Brunch can be spontaneous or carefully planned. It can be frivolous or a special investment. But whatever it is, it shouldn’t be self-conscious or uptight. Ladies, if you are going to brunch, brunch your way.