People see brunch as a mainly roll-out-of-bed affair. Saturday and Sunday morning destinations like Honey’s, Sabrina’s and Green Eggs Cafe ooze what might be called the sort of studied dishelvedness—sunlight slanting through he windows, laid-back staffs and food perfectly designed to coat the belly and soak up whatever remains of the previous night’s boozy damage.
But to key in solely on these spots—excellent and comforting and pitch-perfect as they are—is to lose sight of a whole other category of mid-morning medicine. Cafe Estelle dabbles in this other end of things, and it’s taken to its logically luxurious conclusion with the Sunday brunch bacchanal at the Four Seasons. And right there in the middle, staking its own unique claim to quiet sophistication, is Supper, which after a couple of recent visits has shown to be one of the best upscale brunches in town.
Order a Bloody Maria while you’re working your way through the menu. Its straightforward appearance—no overabundance of garnishes, just a humble wedge of lime—belie an exceptionally complex cocktail. It tastes of tomatoes’ Platonic Ideal, of horseradish’s hearty kick. And the texture of that juice, more velvet than water, somehow seems to coat the stomach and protect it from the tequila spine running down each slurp of the straw.
Speaking of velvet, an order of red velvet waffles is required. They arrive the color of a fresh bruise, each wedge topped with a cream cheese mousse piped from a pastry bag and joyously reminiscent of the icing on a great homemade carrot cake. Bourbon cherries lend it all punch, pecans the necessary crunch. With a side of maple-sweet, pink-centered homemade sausage patties—the pigs are from the Bucks County farm that chef Mitch Prensky and his wife, co-owner Jennifer, have a partnership stake in—its a more-than-satisfying brunch and lunch.
Pancakes spiked with Dock Street Porter confound easy distinctions between sweet and savory. The bitterness of the beer, the sweet crunch of the homemade “cracker jacks,” the middle-ground perfume of the vanilla “suds”—taken as a whole, and minus any bites of candied apple, it’s like a perfect root beer float, only more carby. Have this with the bacon, applewood-smoked and crisp.
Eggs are shown love here, too. Frittatas are cooked in the cast-iron skillets in which they arrive at the table, and are fluffier than most. Skillet-roasted mushroom toast also made smart use of the same skillets, its residual heat crisping and caramelizing any bits that fell from the fork and hit its sizzling surface. It was also a study in how elegantly savory flavors can be layered. From the mushrooms to the brown-topped goat cheese gratinate to the fried egg crowning it all, it is how I imagine mushroom hunters in some mythical pocket of Piedmont chow down after a successful morning of foraging.
Eggs benedict—the so-called “Supper benny”—relies on thin-sliced country ham and a grit cake that falls apart on your tongue for its deeply felt sense of idiosyncrasy. The “dixie biscuit” finds its soul in the pimento cheese melted over the biscuit and scrambled eggs. It’s orange-colored, red-pepper-flecked and addictive.
Sides work for the same reasons: Little touches that are often both slightly unorthodox and very well-thought-out. Hush puppies, as light as most are leaden, arrive dusted with parmesan. Duck-fat-fried potatoes are crisp and decadent, dipped into the side of truffle mayo you have to ask for. (If you order the skillet mushroom toast and these potatoes, a glass of bubbly will work wonders.)
This high-wire juxtaposition of casual and sophisticated, of course, is where Supper has always found its center of gravity. What’s remarkable is how well the Prenskys and their team have translated it to brunch, and how, in doing so, they’ve not just maintained their identity but reinforced it. It’s also a beautiful bookend on the overall Philly brunch scene, which, luckily for all of us, is delicious and incredibly diverse.
926 South St. 215.592.8180. supperphilly.com
Cuisine type: American, in all its honesty and exuberance.
Hours: Sat.-Sun., 10:30am-3pm.
Price range: $6-$15.
Atmosphere: Urbane farm in the city.
Food: Creative and deeply flavorful.
Service: Well-versed in food, and gentle enough for those delicate mornings-after.
Philabeverage: Veggie Pairings