Once again, we're offering short views of two different brunches, a small independent restaurant and a large (and more expensive) member of a chain. While we found pleasing things about both of them, outdoor dining overlooking a shopping mall parking lot just leaves us shaking our heads.
The back patio at Piccadilly at Manhattan feels more like a back porch, and we mean that as a compliment. It's cozy, there's some shade, and on a sunny Sunday noontime, it was just what we wanted for brunch. It is, by the way, a Sunday-only brunch.
A cocktail? The Piccadilly prosecco was a flute of the bubbly Italian wine, faintly pink from a drop or two of perhaps Chambord, a little sweet but with a fine, light note of bitterness.
While the aroma of fried chicken wafted over as an order was delivered nearby, we decided to head for the breakfast items. Biscuits and gravy are always unphotogenic but sometimes reward us, as they did here, with a flavorful gravy studded with sausage bits, lots of black pepper and a tender biscuit.
The Piccadilly's Benedicts use hash brown cakes as a base, instead of English muffins, and that's fine with us; we've eaten too many muffins so tough they resisted steak knives. The potatoes, crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, were first rate. Our smashed black bean (that's their description) Benny featured tender black beans, only about half of which were smashed. Light hands with cumin and pepper made them tasty and the green chile sauce over the poached egg that crowned the potatoes and beans, was the crowning touch. A mild-to-medium heat, and plenty of the slightly citrus-y flavor from tomatillos left us feeling satisfied.
Salmon Benedicts also loll atop the potato cake, moist smoked salmon topped with a hollandaise that had sweet red peppers blended in, adding another layer to the flavor. The standard hollandaise is deeply buttery and quite light, if that's not a contradiction. It's vigorously whipped as the butter is added, leaving it slightly foamy. It also was a fine complement to a side order of bacon. .
Quiet, relaxing, an easy-going meal that helps avoid thoughts of Monday morning.
7201 Piccadilly Ave.
Lunch & Dinner Tues.-Sat., Brunch Sun.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: via the patio
Entrees at brunch: $9-$15
It's apparent that whoever whipped up the interior of The Cheesecake Factory studied at the Fox Theatre School of Interior Design. Hollywood's idea of an Art Deco Egyptian seraglio can't help but provoke smiles. Brunch, served only on Sundays until 2 p.m., often entails arriving (relatively) early seems to beat the crowd. As a softening of the no-reservations policy, a phone call up to 30 minutes in advance puts your name on the waiting list, if there is one.
The generous portions that brought fame to the chain are slightly less apparent with the brunch menu, but the rest of the very large carte is also served. That menu includes egg dishes like omelets and breakfast sandwiches, which are available at all times. We, however, stuck to the brunch menu.
Better coffee than is often found in restaurants this large kicked things off. Lemon ricotta pancakes, seldom seen hereabouts, called seductively. Three 6-inch pancakes, very light and very tender, smiled up from the plate. One bite and we pushed the syrup away. Extremely lemony and only lightly sweet, with a little tang from the ricotta, they danced. A few fresh-looking strawberry slices punctuated the center of the stack, but even those were unnecessary. Lemon persisted throughout the stack, and was fine at the time, but we realized that there was, later, an intermittent taste that was much like lemon candy, making us wonder if artificial lemon flavor was added to the batter. That doesn't disqualify them, but we were sort of hoping that the flavor came from lemon peel and maybe a little lemon oil.
Crab hash seemed like a good idea, but uses the fake “crab.” Pass, thanks. Instead, Baja chicken hash with both sweet and hot peppers and chorizo rode a couple of corn tortillas to provide plenty of flavor. Topped with a couple of poached eggs, a little cheese and a hollandaise sauce, it all came together very well with a surprising amount of pop for what we've always considered as a middle-of-the-road restaurant chain. Despite temperature that was rather warm instead of hot, and the hollandaise's strange sweetness, the dish was extremely worthy. A generous mound of hash browns wiped up egg and the spicy juices from the hash.
Bacon, too, had a slightly sweet cure, but arrived crisp,and in a generous serving.
No room for one of the thousand-calorie desserts, not surprisingly. But our surprise was that it turned out to be a considerably more enjoyable meal than we had anticipated.
The Cheesecake Factory
2028 Chesterfield Mall,
I-64 & Clarkson Rd., Chesterfield
Lunch & Dinner daily, Brunch Sun.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Good
Brunch entrees: $7-$14