July 18 2014 03:59 PM

University Heights bistro serves a solid Sunday brunch

Hanna’s berry ricotta pancakes
Photo by Mina Riazi

Sometimes, I forget that Sunday brunch is the weekend's crown jewel. I clumsily sleep in and show up late, possibly with drying toothpaste on my chin. A server clearing away empty champagne glasses hand-delivers the grim news: "We're closed for the day." She shoots me a sorry-not-sorry smile and shrugs. On my way out, I contemplate stealing a lone bacon strip from someone's long-forgotten plate. I don't. The weekend fizzles like homemade fireworks.

Sunday brunch is a two-hour oasis uninhabited by the pesky minutiae of everyday life. Anyone lucky enough to experience it on a weekly basis is surely a better person because of it. Call me dramatic, but that's what I believe. So, on a recent Sunday, awake before noon, I decided to partake in the alluring breakfast-and-lunch tango.

On Sundays, Hanna's Gourmet in University Heights is open until 3 p.m., giving late risers a shot at microwave-free nourishment (2864 Adams Ave.). Originally an outpost of owner Hanna Tesfamichael's popular catering business, the newly expanded restaurant is immediately inviting. She and her husband collaborated on the décor—a charming interplay of old and new. Marble tabletops contrast with distressed wood floors; chandeliers sparkle next to industrial pipes. It feels elegant in an accessible way.

Globally inspired egg dishes—like eggs a la Espana and green chilaquiles—form the yolk of the breakfast menu. Pancakes make a brief yet memorable appearance; the carrot cake and red-velvet versions (each served with cream-cheese frosting) are bound to elicit melodic oohs from sweet-toothed folk.

Something tells me Jackson Pollock would appreciate the expressive smattering of chocolate sauce decorating the ricotta pancakes, which are studded with blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. The mildly flavored Italian whey cheese appears in quarter-sized splotches and offsets the sweetness of the chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. Chewy and lightweight, the pancakes arrive three to a plate, which makes for a generously portioned dish.

If, like me, you're addicted to eggs, the menu's "Eggs" section will take some time to unscramble. After all, sandwiching the above-mentioned eggs a la Espana are two equally tempting omelets—the Romana and vegetarian—not to mention several other egg-centric dishes, including a rich biscuit-and-gravy offering.

In the eggs a la Africana, my protein-of-choice is served alongside fava beans and yogurt. Stopping by my table, Tesfamichael, who hails from Ethiopia, pointed out that the dish is East African. Tomato, cilantro, celery and Serrano peppers flavor the tart yogurt sauce. Spoon it over the eggs and fava beans, then scoop a bite of each into pita bread for a delectable interweaving of flavors. The cool yogurt complements the cumin and turmeric-seasoned fava-bean blend. And if you request over-medium eggs, the yolk will also contribute its buttery flavor to the mix.

The best Sunday brunches leave you feeling more awake yet somehow also sleepier. Warm, nourishing food tends to have that dichotomous effect. On my way out of Hanna's, I also felt a pinch of sadness: I'd need to wait an entire seven days for another shot at Sunday brunch.

Write to minar@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com


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