It’s Sunday morning around 11 a.m. Okay, maybe it’s noon. Alright, alright, it’s most likely around 1 p.m. You wake up and you’re a little fuzzy, a little groggy. And you’re hungry. And perhaps you’re searching for some hair of the rabid alcohol-spewing animal that ravaged you last night. It's time for brunch — that enchanting hour when breakfast and lunch combine to create a culinary Voltron.
Brunch is beautiful. Here in the Tampa Bay, there’s no lack of munchies for your morning-after maladies.
The rusty seesaw on Pinky’s patio makes waiting for a table at this popular eatery equal parts fun and dangerous. Fortunately, we make it to the table unscathed. Pinky’s may be the boss of benedicts. A smoked crab benedict served on a croissant with a spot of grilled arugula is well-balanced and has an explosively delicious, gooey yolk. And then there's the breakfast quesadilla. Ham is the assigned protein, but in this case I opt for chorizo, which proves to be (at least recently) one of my better decisions. Breakfast quesadillas at more typical joints might be made with over- or under-cooked scrambled eggs (they are rarely done right). Not here. At Pinky's the fried egg flows over chopped chorizo like a winsome yellow brook. 3203 Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa, 813-831-9339.
Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café
Ella’s offers up the heavier side of brunch dining or, as they call it, Soul Food Sundays. The fare goes right along with the eclectic art that decorates the converted Seminole Heights home. Kansas City barbecue, chicken and waffles, fried catfish and hearty shrimp and grits are prime options. The same can be said for the Po-mosa, a cheap and delicious combination of Narragansett and Tang. And then there’s the Bloody Ella, a bloody Mary with a BBQ-rub rim and a smoked rib garnish. My bloody Mary had a rib in it! That’s right, a rib! 5119 N. Nebraska Ave Tampa, 813-234-1000, ellasfolkartcafe.com.
400 Beach Seafood & Tap House
The only downside of brunching is that ever-important moment when you must decide which tantalizing item you’ll be putting in your mouth. Not at 400 Beach. Here your decisions are based on what you can fit on your plate. The buffet — consisting of an international table, omelette station, peel-and-eat shrimp, crab legs, and a ham and roast beef carving station — envelops you in a beautiful world of brunching. There's even a dessert room so bountiful with sweets you’d think a dentist secretly sponsored it. Slip some shades on and grab a table outside; the view of banyans, bicyclists, and our beautiful bay will make you glad you opted not to binge-watch Netflix at home. 400 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, 727-896-2400, 400beachseafood.com.
A few months ago, chef and owner Ben Harris placed his right foot over his left, twisted his hips, and spun his restaurant 180 degrees around. What was once another faceless burger joint has become home to some of the most creative fare in the Burg. The duck hash is lean, tender, and packed with flavor. The polenta is becoming a thing of legend, and the beer and bacon mussels have a broth so good you want to bathe in it. While the lack of a full liquor bar might have crushed my Bloody Mary bubble, The Spot more than compensates with a wide array of Florida Brewing Company beers. 1437 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-851-9900.
Red Mesa Cantina
Red Mesa Cantina provides an inspired selection of traditional brunch items from both sides of the border, with a spin. The eggs benedicto plate is undoubtedly one of the best benedicts around. The Bloody Mary here is rimmed with chipotle spices and garnished with a chilled shrimp, cucumber and olive skewer. Then there are the biscuits and chorizo gravy. Mimosa aficionados will be pleased with the options, which include orange, pomegranate or passionfruit juices. Refreshing ceviche and an outdoor patio complete with a fountain and waterfall combine for a gnarly and nectarous urban serenity. 128 Third St. S, St. Petersburg, 727-896-8226, redmesacantina.com.
The sultan of sustainability and crown prince of creativity, chef Greg Baker is widely known for his weekly changing dinner menu, but he also offers up some of the most boss brunches in the Bay area. The Big Biscuit Sandwich is just that; big flavor, big bacon (has to be at least half an inch), and when put together a python would be hard pressed to fit it in its mouth at once. Daddy’s Favorite and Baby Daddy give you house-made gravy and flaky homemade biscuits that will send you into a food coma if you’re not careful. Add to that an impressive selection of craft beers, ManMosas and mimosas, as well as a sake Mary, and you’ve got one salacious brunch selection. 5137 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-237-2000, thetamparefinery.com.