Breakfast used to be bacon and eggs, pancakes and waffles, grits and biscuits – all of it served around the time roosters clear their throats. Then breakfast merged with lunch and with that came a reason to linger with friends over mimosas and bloody marys.
Of course, brunch is about more than just food. It’s also about atmosphere, and the people who serve you. On Shore Drive, a waitress and a waterman have teamed up to deliver hearty platters and monster mimosas. In Pungo, a couple breathes California cool into classic country. And in Ghent, an old standby offers French flair with Virginia hospitality.
For those seeking a morning feast with a side of personality, here are four excellent reasons to rise and shine.
What do you get when you cross a multi-talented, hard-working young waitress from the Blue Ridge with an enterprising and charismatic waterman from Virginia Beach? Bay Local Eatery.
Whitney Angle and Adrian Colaprete noticed each other in passing on Rudee Inlet. Somewhere after “hello,” they fell in love and shared the dream of having their own restaurant. Together for eight years and married for four, the Colapretes learned the restaurant business while working for others.
Adrian began scrubbing floors and washing dishes for his dad, John Colaprete, founder of the original Jewish Mother on Pacific near the Oceanfront. Whitney had been waiting tables since she was 16.
They looked at a few possible locations around town, but when they saw the spot on Shore Drive, it felt right. Then immediately after signing the lease they faced a big setback: The adjoining restaurant caught fire. When they were finally allowed to enter, they walked through ankle-deep water to an even bigger mess.
Whitney and Adrian viewed this as an opportunity to make big changes to the place. They removed carpet and polished the concrete floors, and replaced pedestrian acoustic ceiling tiles with decorative stamped tin. Whitney nailed the decor by repurposing, painting and upholstering a collection of antiques she’d been storing in a barn in her hometown.
Bay Local Eatery had its soft opening four months later than originally planned, during the July 4th weekend in 2014. It was anything but soft. Understaffed and unprepared, Whitney and Adrian got schooled.
But now more than two years in, they are hitting their stride. The ambiance is charming, hip, warm and inviting. The place pulses with energy and laughter; sound bounces down from those tin tiles. It’s noisy, but it’s fun.
Breakfast and lunch are served seven days a week. The kitchen is a mere 500 square feet. Cozy, sure, but big enough to churn out platters of biscuits and sausage gravy, crabcake bennies, massive omelets, tater-tot nachos, dark rum-soaked French toast, and “The Hangover” – a 9-ounce sirloin filet with two eggs, home fries or tots, one pancake and a can of Budweiser in a brown paper bag.
Char-grilled burgers, plus a wide variety of fresh sandwiches, salads and wraps, await the lunchier crowd. The flavors are as fresh as the portions are big.
And does this crowd love its bloodies and mimosas. Imagine two bottles of Champagne and your choice of sorbet in a giant fishbowl glass and straws for all your friends. It’s selfie time.
Early-bird specials from 7 until 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. No reservations. A second location at 972 Laskin Road in the Linkhorn Shoppes is to open in the spring.
Picture Grandma’s house: one story, simple construction with lots of windows, a graphite-gray exterior, crisp white trim, and a porch. Add bright accents of honey yellow and a line of people waiting to get in and you have The Bee & The Biscuit, Pungo’s wildly popular new destination.
Bright and sunny as a summer day, this place urges you to slow down and smell the coffee. There is no TV or Wi-Fi. Owners Karen and Joe Johnson, Californians by birth, moved here from Hawaii to be near their two daughters and six grandkids after the death of their son Joey. They wanted to heal as a family.
The first step was to buy a home in this area of the Beach and immerse themselves in remodeling it. Joe, ever on the lookout for another project, each day passed the intriguing little kit home from Sears, delivered by railcar in 1919. One day he saw a small, handwritten “for sale by owner” sign in the window and his heart leapt.
The Johnsons bought the house in December 2015. Karen started working her design magic to create a cheerful and gracious space while Joe replaced all the wiring and plumbing.
The couple didn’t aspire to own a restaurant, but the idea kept presenting itself during the remodeling. All the right people just kept showing up at the right time, from the chef Michael Monsour, to the baker/preserves/jam-maker Meghan Griffin to the staff of students from Kellam High and the local moms who wanted to work while their kids were in school. The place operates like one big happy family.
On the wall is a carved logo with a bee in it, and if you look closely at the back of that bee you’ll see Joey’s initials, “JJ,” as well as all the initials of the grandkids on the wings. JJ’s Eggs Benedict, his favorite, is at the top of the entree list; it’s a fluffy buttermilk biscuit with country ham, two poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, grilled asparagus and country potatoes.
The menu is a mash-up of California healthy and country comfort food with lots of fresh fruit, produce from local farms, acai bowls, steel-cut oats, breakfast burritos, omelettes, colossal cinnamon rolls, cheddar grits, wraps, salads and sandwiches. Gourmet biscuits range from traditional buttermilk to pillowy orange juice and zest versions to ones chock full of seasonal fruit. And a different fresh pie, tart, cake or mini-cobbler, every day, made right there.
The Bee & The Biscuit takes no reservations and waits can be long. While you wait for your table, you can sip a Sassy or a Crabby Mary, or enjoy a flight of mimosas or a “Man-Mosa” (orange juice, vodka and Champagne) in a mason jar. The place usually offers live music on the weekends in the warmer months, blankets to curl up under in the cooler ones, and board games to play. If you have a party of eight to 12, you can reserve the private dining area called The Tea Room.
Open 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; no reservations. Closed Monday.
New England “lobstah” rolls. Rustic tomato bisque with bread cheese and maple syrup. Roasted arugula salad with asparagus, tomatoes, garlic, parmesan, oil and sea salt. Prince Edward Island mussels in a white wine broth with pommes frites and a French baguette. Eggs Benedict Florentine. Shrimp and grits. Corned beef hash and Eggs Woodhouse. Challah French toast atop sautéed spinach with poached eggs. Bacon and country ham with house-made hollandaise and port béchamel.
It’s brunch time at The Green Onion, the grande dame of Norfolk brunches and a Colley Avenue favorite since Annette Stone opened it a little over 10 years ago. Hipsters on cell phones, canoodling couples, savvy seniors, young families with strollers and those in recovery from last night’s revelry – they are all here and waiter Randy Hobbs knows most by name. A fixture at The Green Onion for the past eight years, he knows what they like to drink and how they like their eggs.
Hobbs also knows their anniversaries, birthdays and milestones. One of his favorite stories is about a couple who, pregnant with twins, presented him with an envelope containing the babies’ gender. Mom and Dad-to-be wanted Hobbs’ menu pick to reveal the mystery. Bananas Foster was his sly choice. The husband got it immediately. The wife was a bit slower. The couple returned when the boys were 5 months old to introduce them to Hobbs, and have brought them again every birthday since.
The Green Onion is popular partly because it’s locally owned, closes only on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and offers a lot of personality. Hand-painted murals create an artistic ambiance. Thirteen worn stainless frying pans closely arranged on a lichen green wall make it feel homey. In 2009, the place expanded and now has a roomy lounge area with lime leather club chairs, sofas and plenty of space to relax. An outdoor patio seats 30 while the inside welcomes 40 more, and great people-watching from the U-shaped bar in the center of the room.
Another reason for this local devotion is the fresh food prepared daily. Everything is made in house. Chef Hank Rotella doesn’t mind the ramped-up pace during weekend brunch. He prefers it. The open kitchen keeps it real and lets his crew be a part of the action.
Oh, and then there are the pitchers of sangria, made to order with either white or red wine plus strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and brandy.
Serving brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Reservations accepted.
For something a bit different, visit Sweetwater Cuisine, a full-service Beach caterer and café that also serves a great brunch the first and third Sundays of every month.
Check out the restaurant, at Wayside Village Shoppes, and you’ll find tables practically groaning under the weight of goodies. Delicate sweet potato biscuits with country ham, peach butter and whipped honey butter; a pot roast, cheese, and shrimp and grits bar that could lead even the most insistent grits hater to see the light; and seasoned collard greens, gourmet mac ’n’ cheese, and beet-and-goat cheese salad are just a few of the dishes available.
Brunch, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., first and third Sundays (reservations recommended); lunch and dinner, 11 to 9 Wednesday through Friday.