A fruit crepe with whipped cream, one of the dessert offerings at Bixby's Sunday brunch.
Editor's note: St. Louis has always been a brunch-y town. Lately, though, it seems the number of places offering it have expanded geometrically. And in a move that is more than logical, we’re starting to see it on Saturday as well as Sunday. In this ongoing series, Ann Lemons Pollack investigates brunch options in St. Louis—and an occasional breakfast joint for good measure.
Is it still true that the better the view, the worse the food? Not quite so much these days as it once was. If you seek proof, go to Bixby’s in the Missouri History Museum on the northern edge of Forest Park. Their brunch, done in a slightly different format than any in town – as far as we know – is a worthwhile indulgence. Guests gaze out at the park, a view that’s pretty fine in any weather, whether it’s blooming dogwood and redbud, blazing autumn, or the quiet of a snowy day.
The brunch, under the aegis of chef William Volnay, combines menu ordering with a buffet. There’s a card on each table that includes things like eggs Benedict, crepes, waffles and a bread pudding with caramel sauce. It’s quite acceptable here to have more than one item, perhaps a Benedict and some bread pudding, or one of each of the Benedicts. On this visit, a traditional Benny and another made with a mushroom confit (both above) brought excellent hollandaise and eggs poached just right, only slightly runny and warm enough, the mushrooms wonderfully earthy and rich, and neither of the English muffins anywhere near the dreaded styrofoam consistency.
The buffet has been moved from the center of the room to the central upstairs atrium. There’s an omelet station there, too, and let us remind folks that omelet stations can do scrambled eggs as well. The buffet has expanded from lighter foods to include entree items. Tender biscuits await the flavorful sausage gravy, nicely studded with plenty of sausage. (Butter for those biscuits is on another table, near the croissants.) Link sausage itself is remarkably good, moist and tasty. It’s from Wenneman’s in St. Libory, IL, reminding us that Bixby’s is focusing on local suppliers as much as possible.
Cheese tortellini in a vodka-tomato sauce (above) charm despite their life in a chafing dish – replacements seem to come quickly here – and the potato searcher can find them with grilled chicken (right). Beef tenderloin showed no pink, but it was indeed pretty tender.
On the salad table were the smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese. Nice enough, but more interesting were the salads themselves. Cumin and pepper marked a succotash salad with corn and beans. Potato salad gained crunch with grainy mustard in its dressing. Local tomatoes were accompanied by cucumber chunks and pieces of torn mozzarella (below). Perhaps the most intriguing, though, was the unlikely combination of roasted Brussels sprouts and parsnips flaunting a definite note of kimchee in its dressing. Surprising, and quite good, even for a non-fancier of sprouts and parsnips. Who knew?
Desserts are lighter and smaller in portions, a smart move. Mostly it’s pastry, aside from that bread pudding, from Piccione Pastry, which is also operated by Bixby’s parent, Butler’s Pantry catering. Small dishes of trifle showing pound cake, nice and fresh with chocolate pudding (below), and several kinds of cookies, including a good lemon shortbread are at the top of our list.
The coffee is first rate. They’re pouring a Spanish cava included in the price. Service was good except for a couple of missed instructions. Reservations are important unless you’re prepared to wait a while, since brunch is usually very busy, often with groups carrying gifts.
Interestingly, the tables furthest from the floor-to-ceiling windows, against the back wall, have been changed to what’s sometimes called bistro height, taller so diners have more of a view of the park. Obviously, Bixby’s understands that view is – well, they’d probably say the second best thing about the place. We’d agree. One of the better brunches in town.
And late last month, Bixby's announced bottomless mimosas, Bloody Marys, or sangria for $7 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Like we needed another reason to linger.