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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

ABV, Belga, and Calavera: New Brunch Spots as Easy as A, B, C

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
Launching a new restaurant with multiple full menus can prove disastrous at the start, which is why some of our local eateries are adding entrees slowly. After opening the doors to dinner, some have given us weekend brunch to boot. Three spaces in particular are worth a weekend visit: ABV, Belga, and Calavera.

click to enlarge Avocado toast - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Avocado toast

— Opened in July of 2014, this hip Mission bar has added simple, but savory brunch options that are unexpectedly excellent. “You can’t go wrong,” bartender Borys Saciuk tells me as my eyes pan up and down the black chalk board behind the bar. I’ve been told such things before, but when it comes to ABV, I really believe they’re true. Rock music sets a chill vibe on the lazy Sunday afternoon.

click to enlarge Fruit plate - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Fruit plate

I order a Bloody Mary, the fruit plate, and the avocado toast. Nothing overly fancy. There’s no silverware and no additional staff, which streamlines the service, giving the bartenders room to do what they do best: play. “We take our food and our drinks very seriously,” says Saciuk. “We just don’t take ourselves seriously.” Again, his words are true. The Bloody Mary, mixed with vodka and mezcal (one of ABV’s favorite spirits) is bold and spicy, but balanced with smoky hints of mezcal and served with housemade fermented veggies. The fruit plate is comprised of fresh figs, succulent stone fruit, and luscious cubes of melon (no underripe berries or grapes to be seen), served with smears of housemade yogurt and precious springs of lovage that are there for eating, not for garnish. “We don’t do anything just to do it,” as Saciuk says.

click to enlarge ABV's Bloody Mary - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • ABV's Bloody Mary

Other popular brunch beverages include a Pimm’s Cup, a Dunmore cobbler a classic French 75, and the Michelada — a plastic, quart-sized container of housemate Bloody Mary mix, Modelo and lime poured over ice and served with a straw.

click to enlarge Belga's Pearl Handle and Plum Soda - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Belga's Pearl Handle and Plum Soda

— Opened this spring on a lazy corner of Cow Hollow, this classic brasserie is high on character, quality, and old-world charm. It's the kind of café where you make excuses not to leave. The Belgian-inspired menu features seasonal composed salads, savory egg dishes, Belgian waffles, a Croque Madame sandwich, and charcuterie and sausage boards. Well-balanced cocktails (both boozy and booze-free) are clean and crisp, perfect for an afternoon refresher. Start out with a sparkling gin-based Pearl Handle or a decadent plum soda and an order of beignets — lighter, flakier all-around better versions of donut holes, trounced in sugar and served with sweet cream.

click to enlarge Belga's Beignets - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Belga's Beignets

Move on to appetizers and lighter bites, where you'll have to choose between fruit and yogurt, butternut squash soup, or the specialty flatbread — an artful mosaic of smoked ham, shaved brussels, potato disks, and parmesan topped with two over-easy eggs. There's a wealth of egg-based entrees, including a chicken confit hash made with slow-cooked chicken, steamed chard, diced potatoes, sunny runny eggs and served with a side of fresh petit greens.

click to enlarge Belga's flatbread - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Belga's flatbread
click to enlarge Belga's chicken confit hash - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Belga's chicken confit hash

— If the roasted grasshoppers, gold-dusted cocktails, and ridiculous array of mezcal and tequila (seriously, it’s ridiculous) haven’t gotten you through the doors of one of Oakland’s most interesting ethnic hot spots, maybe brunch will. Don’t expect to find the standard huevos rancheros or breakfast tacos, the menu tilts more toward twists on time-honored traditions, like the Enchiladas Suizas Montadas stuffed with salty Chihuahua cheese or the Pozole Rojos Estilo Mazatlan made with pork-guajillo broth and house made pozolero hominy. Of course every good brunch can be made better by a beverage, and Calavera has you covered, with mezcal margaritas and smoky Bloody Marys.
click to enlarge Calavera Bloody Mary - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Calavera Bloody Mary
click to enlarge Ensalada de Bitabel
  • Ensalada de Bitabel

The patio, which opens to Broadway and an expanse of the brick-walled Hive space, provides sunny and shady spots for a lazy weekend brunch. You can start with something light, like the colorful tangy Ensalada de Bitabel, a medley of roasted baby beets and avocado dressed in zesty orange vinaigrette and served on a creamy blend of toasted Mayan pumpkin seeds, tomatoes and spices, but many of the featured items are of a more substantial nature. Take the Chilaquiles Rojos, layers of house made totopos, gooey Chihuahua cheese, and spicy chorizo topped with tomato-chipotle salsa and a sunny-side up egg. You may need a little help, or at least a hearty appetite. But even if you've eaten your fill, you'd be amiss not to sample the platáno frito. Though not much to look at, this single plantain is fried, sliced, and drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, toasted sesame seeds and cajeta, resulting in a buttery-sweet flavor that is moorish without being saccharine.

click to enlarge Chilaquiles Rojos - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Chilaquiles Rojos
click to enlarge Enchiladas - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Enchiladas
click to enlarge Platano Frito
  • Platano Frito

3174 16th St., 415-400-4748

Belga, 2000 Union St,415-872-7350

Calavera, 2337 Broadway, Oakland, 510-338-3273

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A. K. Carroll


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