Morning Star

By Jenny Montgomery

Brunch is now being served at a favorite San Diego nightspot

I've never understood the brunch bashers. I often hear anti-brunch rumblings from people far edgier than me, but I just don't see what's not to love about the opportunity to drown one's self in hollandaise during both the breakfast and lunch hours. Maybe it's because lunch and I have such a combative relationship—it's by far the most boring meal of the day—but if I could have a big ol' stack of chocolate-chip pancakes as an early lunch, I'd be perfectly happy until dinner.

That's why I'm particularly delighted that one of the coolest kids on the dining block has begun serving the meal that hits the sweet spot between too early and too boring. Starlite—they of the hexagonal door and killer cocktails on India Street—began dishing up waffles and eggs in May, but with its signature sophisticated panache. Starlite's dark and twinkly interior lends itself to stealing sips and kisses in a deep corner, but the urban-garden back patio is a comfortably shaded way to greet the day.

One doesn't think of brunch as a time for appetizers, but be sure not to skip the Fatman's Crullers as a quirky starter. These honey-glazed donuts waddle a delicious line between cake and sponge dough and manage to taste both decadent and delicate. Dip them in your coffee so you can quickly shove more into your mouth, Kobayashi-style.

It's too bad Benedict Arnold has such a besmirched name in American history, because he left us a legacy of tastiness in his namesake combo of egg, ham and English muffin. I'm obsessed with a good Eggs Benedict and have eaten many an inferior version. I'm happy to say Starlite absolutely nails the E.B. The muffin is hot and freshly toasted, without being too tough to cut, and the Vande Rose ham tastes fresh from the farm as opposed to warmed-over lunch meat. The eggs are poached to perfection, arriving in that difficult-to-achieve state where the yolk runs all over your plate yet remains viscous enough to be scraped up by the crispy thin potatoes on the side.

But, really, all this could have been for naught had they screwed up the hollandaise—as far too many do. Fortunately, Starlite's version is heavy on buttery flavor but with just enough tasty balance of lemon juice shining through. With the addition of fresh herbs, this hollandaise was rich, intensely flavorful and liberally poured on the eggs without submerging them into sogginess.

If you're like Mr. City Eat and would be happy eating something lunchy like a tuna-salad sandwich at 8 a.m., then let me steer you toward the Starlite Breakfast Burger. He does not gush over food and prefers to grill his own meats as opposed to having a trained chef do it for him, but he declared Starlite's burger the best he's ever had in the gourmet-burger category, and I have to agree.

The Brandt beef patty came perfectly pink in the middle and was topped with a gooey fried egg, tooth-achingly sweet caramelized onions and bacon strips for a salty exclamation point. This is some quality hangover food, but food that's also worthy of standing on its own as a hearty meal to drink with juice or a boozy brunch libation.

Starlite is effortlessly hip, and even at brunch they have some of the grooviest DJs spinning jazzy tunes that give a little bounce to the atmosphere without harshing your morning mellow.

Get on board the brunch train with me, people. You can make a reservation, sleep in and then indulge in doughy confections, hearty meats and a gorgeous Bloody Mary. Society says it's totally acceptable to drink vodka before noon—this beautiful time frame is called “brunch.” Let's all embrace it.

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