VENICE ‚Äî I love a good brunch.
It‚Äôs not necessarily the food or the bottomless mimosas (there‚Äôs usually cheap sparkling wine poured, which gives me a headache), but more the relaxed, pool-party atmosphere that keeps me in good spirits as I fight off the rapidly approaching Monday blues. Weekends seem so short these days, so any excuse to extend the feeling of freedom that comes with days off is welcomed.
I have my favorite brunch spots. Brick + Mortar on Main Street is where you want to go if you didn‚Äôt satisfy your club craving Saturday night, and are looking for a serious Bloody Mary. FIG at the Fairmont Miramar is where I go if food is the focus. It‚Äôs always fresh and delicious, plus it‚Äôs quiet, which is good if you have a serious hangover from a night of drinking.
The same can be said about my latest restaurant of choice, the Southern-inspired Willie Jane, which opened earlier this year on the trendy stretch of Abbot Kinney. The food is rich and flavorful, the service attentive and while dining I couldn‚Äôt help but feel as if I was sitting in my grandmother‚Äôs backyard with the ocean breezes keeping me cool as I gaze at the garden.
A creation of chef Govind Armstrong and restaurateur Brad Johnson of Post & Beam fame, Willie Jane beautifully melds the spice and flavor of low country, Cajun cooking with traditional brunch dishes. I devoured my smoked trout Benedict, which was served on top of a bed of braised collards and a hearty homemade biscuit ($14). The mustard hollandaise wasn‚Äôt too thick and heavy, allowing me to sample some of my friend‚Äôs shrimp grits and applewood smoked bacon with spicy Fresno chili peppers ($16). I have to say that the shrimp grits were creamy and thick, taking me back to my days at Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., where I was exposed to grits and real humidity for the first time.
Seated next to us was a couple from New Orleans, who were also members of the Clean Plate Club. They were impressed by Armstrong‚Äôs take on Southern cuisine, saying that the food carried many of the flavors of back home. Armstrong basically nailed it, they said.
An added benefit of the brunch, which includes the bottomless mimosas for $15, is the restaurant‚Äôs expansive back patio. It‚Äôs airy and with just the right amount of shading for a pleasant atmosphere as you sip on a cocktail or tall glass of cold beer. Right next door is a nursery with a lush garden loaded with native plants.
On the other side of the restaurant is a chef‚Äôs garden that was under construction when I was there, but has tremendous promise. Armstrong plans to have several beds for planting and would like to get other chef‚Äôs along Abbot Kinney to participate. Soon the empty lot will be blooming with herbs and vegetables that will be used by Armstrong and his team. It‚Äôs a great concept and not every chef is fortunate enough to have the room to do it. I know I‚Äôm eager to see what blooms.
Willie Jane just started serving brunch so it hasn‚Äôt quite caught on yet, making it rather easy to get a table. Undoubtedly, it will be hopping in no time at all. I‚Äôm not sure how I feel about that as I like the mellow vibe there, but if it keeps Armstrong in business, I‚Äôm all for it. I plan on going back often and am eager to visit for dinner. They have an apricot-glazed pork shoulder with spinach and cracked almonds that sounds delicious, as does the curried oxtail with grilled plantains and curry leaves. Now there‚Äôs an entree you don‚Äôt see every day.
If you go
1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd.