One of the best parts of the culinary revolution that is happening on Fredric Douglas Blvd above 111th St is Weekend Brunch. Melba’s Restaurant, a FDB pioneer since 2005, serves American Comfort Food (with a few healthy options), and their brunch offerings are generous and extremely affordable. After a leisurely walk across town Keith and I strolled into Melba’s cozy and elegantly decorated dining room, and, though it was still packed with families, couples, and groups of friends at 2:30 on a Sunday, we were seated within 5 minutes and our chipper waiter promptly took our drink order.
Drinks: If we are at brunch you can bet I am going to get a Bloody Mary (or any house derivation thereof) and Keith will most likely get fresh squeezed orange juice or some type of mimosa. Because I am a shameless Bloody Mary lover (I will order one ANY time of day—even at a bar at midnight, should the craving strikes me), I have to say this that one, though it had a great black pepper punch and great heat, it could have used a bit more salt and a little less of whatever was making it bitter (perhaps clam juice?)
Raisin Scones: We were given two raisin scones to start, and though they each came with individual gold foil wrapped pats of butter and tiny concord grape jellies reminiscent of late night high school visits to the 24 hour diner, there was nothing diner-ish about this still warm in the center starters. Crisp and flaky on the edges with a fluffy and soft center, the scones didn’t need any condiments to have me salivating for the rest of the meal to hit the table.
Fried Chicken & Egg Nog Waffles: This being our first time at Melba’s, I was clearly getting the dish she is famous for: Fried Chicken and Egg Nog Waffles. On the suggestion of our waiter I ordered dark meat chicken, and when a plate heaping with three egg nog waffles and two thighs and a drumstick arrived, I was not disappointed. Each piece of chicken was extremely light and covered in an amazingly crisp coating that housed juicy and tender meat. Though I knew this bird had done some time immersed in bubbling hot oil, there was no hint of greasy heaviness that comes all too often with fried chicken. The waffles, which were slightly crisp at the edges with a moist cakelike texture, were topped with a dollop of strawberry butter and surrounded a healthy helping of maple syrup. Eaten independently or together, each component of my plate was masterfully executed and presented with an old school simplicity that demonstrated a quiet confidence that only comes with years of keeping diners full and happy. Though I wanted to dig in immediately, since I can’t have fried chicken without hot sauce our server rushed some Tabasco to the table and I went to town.
Scrambled Eggs & Bacon: Keith got scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and thick-cut slab bacon. He thoroughly enjoyed his plates; the eggs were scrambled to just the right firmness with ribbons of melted cheddar throughout, and thick-cut slab bacon was cooked very well. The meat of the bacon was not tough, and the fat was excellently rendered, which is quite difficult to do with such thick slabs.
Organic Mixed Greens Salad: All too happy to see an organic item on the menu (and clearly needing to order something that would balance out the excessive indulgence of my main plate) we ordered the salad with the house balsamic dressing. Because I forgot to ask for the dressing on the side, it arrived dressed, but it was not overdone. Both the greens and the tomatoes were fresh, and the dressing had a nice hint of spicy mustard.
My first visit to Melba’s has me thinking about when I’m going back…in what seems like a sea of brunch options on Frederick Douglas Blvd, I might be content to slip back into a cozy corner table, surrounded by other neighborhood families, weekend after weekend, and work my way through their generous brunch offerings.