Feature Dining review: Drunch Eatery + Bar

G.A. Benton
Chicken and Waffles

To confirm my suspicions, I asked a very charming server if “Drunch” was an invented word that referred to “drunk brunch.” Through a sudden smile, she answered, “Yes! But you'd be surprised how many people don't get it.” After dining at Drunch Eatery + Bar a few times, I'm not altogether sure I get it, either.

The Italian Village newcomer serves generally OK brunch-oriented food all day and attracts a large and lively crowd on weekends. But, as its wobbly portmanteau of a name suggests, the place sometimes seems to be trying too hard, yet not hard enough.

Occupying a roomy, open and brightly lit space with white concrete blocks, local art and industrial touches, Drunch looks like a trend-conscious, family-friendly tavern. Seating is at a large bar and on barstool-type metal chairs that accompany tall, wooden tables.

Wines, nitro coffee and 17 beers are on tap. If a refreshing craft cocktail is calling, the frothy and recommended Grilled Pineapple ($9) resembles a properly made margarita.

Spicy bloody marys with unusual cumin accents are always available ($8). On weekends, a deluxe version is offered ($12) that's bigger and affords unlimited access to a super-generous station of tidbits and garnishes that includes cheese cubes, sausage sticks, olives, raw and pickled vegetables, pickled eggs and more.

With characteristic nomenclature, the restaurant's one-page menu calls appetizers “drunch'd snacks.” Following a personable server's advice, I tried the popular Avocado Fries ($11) from this section. Presented in a cute little fry basket, these innocuous drinking buddies sided with red pepper mayo derived most of their flavor from a thick, crunchy batter.

Eggs Benedict, that icon of brunch dishes, is here called “Bennie” ($11). Rather than a showcase for eggs, Drunch's version is dominated by ham. While I'm the last person to complain about two gigantic slabs of griddled pig meat, the weighty ham caused the English muffins underneath to effectively wilt. Completing the dish: scant drizzles of tangy hollandaise sauce, overcooked-to-hard poached eggs and home fries nicely flavored with peppers and onions.

Another brunch-time classic Drunch tackles is chicken and waffles. Two big, boneless thighs of crackly battered, juicy fried chicken arrived with compatible splashes of Tabasco sauce. These were good, but would've been better had they not been oversalted. And reading “cheddar cheese waffle” on the menu led me to believe that incorporated cheese would enrich the waffle batter, but what I received was a just-cooked, crisp and warm, regular waffle lightly sprinkled with unmelted, shredded cheddar. The dish costs $15.

For a better value, try the satisfying Carnivore Omelet ($11). Served with home fries and toast, the wide and hefty, sunny-yellow egg package comes densely stuffed with diced ham, sausage, crisp bacon and plenty of melted cheddar.

The Drunch Burger ($13), which arrives on a glossy bun, is a big and sturdy handmade patty topped with a fried egg, “local greens” (red leaf lettuce), melted cheese and a shy “smoked tomato aioli.” On the side are an interesting selection of house pickles plus potatoes I could only describe as being somewhere between French fries and home fries.

Although it wasn't particularly eggy and was barely crisp, my order of Banana Bread French Toast still tasted good — in the way that a huge and warm serving of thick, puffy, moist, well-crafted banana bread detailed with chocolate syrup would taste. The menu mentions rosemary, but I didn't pick up any of that distinctive herb. Tab: $11.

As I finished this during a weekday dinnertime visit when the place was nearly empty, a couple entered, looked around, and asked, “Where's that taco place?” in reference to nearby Cosecha Cocina. A kind bartender pointed south.

I sincerely hope likeable-enough Drunch can consistently compete with such high-achieving neighbors. A little fine tuning would help.

Drunch Eatery + Bar

995 N. 4th St., Italian Village