April 2 2012 07:32 PM

A trio of restaurants that pair innovative dishes with craft beverages when you need it most

Stumptown Swizzle at Craft & Commerce
Photo by Amy T. Granite

    Craft & Commerce

    Feeling like it'll take wizardry to kick your ass into gear on a weekend morning? Head on down to Little Italy's most buzzing enclave, where magical cocktails like the London Chai await. A take on New Orleans' classic Ramos Gin Fizz, loose-leaf tea steeps in Plymouth Gin before it's shaken with sugar, lemon juice and egg white for a drink that's dangerously akin to a creamy, chilled latté. If tea's not your bag, opt for the Stumptown Swizzle: Organic, direct-trade coffee is cold brewed—an overnight process that results in a less-acidic beverage—combined with house-made coconut syrup and white rum and served over dense ice cubes. There's a bevy of fresh-fruit-juice and champagne-cocktail options, including several served in punch bowls for parties.

    Executive chef Craig Jimenez reinvents dinner-time dishes to fit the breakfast bill. The duck makes its way to a cassoulet preparation, mingling with creamy white beans and a runny fried egg, richening a dish that's already "lacquered" with decadent slices of foie gras. The downright addictive jalapeño biscuit comes glazed with peach preserves, served open-faced with black forest ham, a tender lamb patty,poached egg and spicy cheese fondue.

    Sit at the bar and take in cocktail-making performance art while eating food that's equally impressive. Brunch hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 675 W. Beech St. in Little Italy, craft-commerce.com

    The Tractor Room

    Sage fried chicken biscuit at The Tractor Room
    Photo by Amy T. Granite
    Before it was commonplace to find meat in your breakfast cocktail, in 2006 The Tractor Room was skewering beef tenderloin to "garnish" its Master Mary. Hillcrest's hunting lodge arguably paved the way for local gastropubs serving game-meats alongside craft ales and rare bourbons, but of all the new-generation haunts, the brunch experience at The Tractor Room is tough to rival, thanks to buffalo, venison, elk and boar hoofing their way into inventive breakfast hashes and scrambles.

    The covered "front porch," netted in from ravenous flies, is a dandy hangout to enjoy these. For the severely hung-over, the dark dining room beckons and a seat at the wrap-around bar grants easier access to much-needed weekend medicine. "Honest cocktails" translates to "stiff as hell," and executive chef Andy Beardslee's menu is crafted to soak it up with Paul Bunyan-sized portions like the Sage Fried Chicken Benedict. While a far cry from the classic, poached-egg dish, it's a best-seller, and enough for two to plow through. Biscuits are topped with spinach and tomatoes, followed by crispy chicken, thick-cut bacon and scrambled eggs. A pancake-sized layer of fried mozzarella cheese smothers the skillet of grub, with a chipotle cream saucing it all.

    Depending on your state, skip or crawl to the front of the line by making a reservation, and prepare to have a blast with the fun wait staff that's made The Tractor Room a favorite among industry types. Brunch hours: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 3687 Fifth Ave. in Hillcrest, thetractorroom.com

    Café 21

    The "farm to bottle" infused-spirits program is well underway at Fifth Avenue's rustic eastern European café. On one side of the dining room, jugs of vodka ripen with halved-pears and apples; other spirits, like rum and tequila, are also infused with organic fruits such as tangerine, strawberry and pineapple. Choose from a list of preconceived cocktails, or have any spirit served on the rocks or mixed to your liking. On the opposite side of the dining room, there are five sangrias rotating daily; think inventive blends like almond, vanilla and rosemary. Can't decide on one? A flight of all five is $15. Designated drivers needn't feel left out—the Rose Garden white tea over ice with rose-water and vanilla syrup is a wonderfully refreshing alternative.
    Pear vodka at Cafe 21
    Photo by Amy T. Granite

    Everything is made from scratch with the same farm-fresh mentality as the specialty drinks, from the favorite lamb sausage that packs a skillet-baked omelet to the fresh-baked bread on the side. Shrimp corn Cakes consist of pillowy taters full of sweet kernels and chunks of succulent shrimp, each with a poached egg on top, all on a bed of earthy, cilantro cream sauce. The presentation and flavors are elegant; micro herbs or edible flowers finish off a dish that'll satiate your exotic cravings. Brunch hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and to 4 p.m. weekends. 750 Fifth Ave., Downtown, cafe-21.com

    Amy blogs at saysgranite.com and you can follow her on Twitter @saysgranite.


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