Editor's note: St. Louis has always been a brunch-loving town. Lately, though, it seems the number of places offering it have vastly expanded. In this ongoing series, food writer Ann Lemons Pollack investigates brunch options across St. Louis (and an occasional breakfast joint for good measure).
I’ve had an ongoing argument for decades with an old friend about morning food. Mr Pecan-O, normally a fussy, even demanding, guy, is just grateful to have food put in front of him at that hour. He’d as happily go to a chain as to a fancier place. Well, maybe the last option might rank higher for him, but he’s all about being waited on. I, on the other hand, am apt to be in a less forgiving mood, especially for the old standards. I want my eggs cooked just so, onions in my hash browns, and right on down my list. Frankly, unless a place can feed me better than I can cook at home, I’m not much on board. I’ll show up at a standard breakfast place if that’s what it takes to satisfy other people, but I’d far rather have the sort of food that’s less common.
That’s exactly what’s on tap, or plate, at Reeds American Table. No one will ever get this menu mixed up with Denny’s.
Pay good attention, for instance, to the top of the menu with the pastry options. It’s easy to rationalize these as something to soak up breakfast drinks before the main courses – and you definitely should have both pastry and a drink. A fresh, slightly cinnamony, pistachio-apricot pastry was only eclipsed by the kouign amann. Pronounce it KWEE-namman, please. The pastry from Brittany with layers of yeast dough and butter, the layers sprinkled with sugar and just a little salt. The sugar caramelizes in the muffin tins they’re baked in. They’re wonderful. On the savory side, a moist three-cheese scone with an occasional hit of cayenne in it disappeared as fast as its two sweet companions.
As to drinks, the coffee is from Coma Coffee, and correctly made, rich, dark, not boiled to death. It’s an ingredient in a Spanish latte, made with a double shot of espresso, condensed milk (which is, of course, sweet) and some orange peel. The orange peel isn’t just a garnish, there’s a definite note of it in the coffee itself, not just a little oil floating on top. Good stuff. Smart of them, too, to offer a paloma on the brunch list, using Ting, the Jamaican grapefruit soda, and a choice of tequila, mezcal or scotch. (Scotch? Seriously?) Mezcal made for a strong unsweet drink that charmed.
Serrano ham and gruyère cheese lolled elegantly on a croissant (above), along with a single egg, everything in balance, not just with flavor but with the textures, crunchy, chewy, oozy. A little green salad alongside, very lightly dressed, kicked in a few more textures and tastes.
Pork belly hash (above), also topped with an egg, wasn’t as handsome, thanks to a first-rate pan gravy spooned over the top, full of bits from browning the pork. It’s worth giving up the perfect visual for this tasty melange of potatoes, kale and tasty bits of rich swine.
You don’t hear much about scrapple in this part of the world. It’s an old Pennsylvania Dutch thing, a sort of meatloaf using bits of our friend the hog that might otherwise be discarded. Traditionally, it’s sliced and fried as a breakfast meat. Reeds puts it to bed on a pillow of particularly flavorful grits (above), snuggles it in with the coverlet of a sunny side up egg and finishes things off with sage brown butter, a mouth-watering, even stunning combination.
It’s difficult to find pancakes that are fluffy, tender and plump. Topped with what the menu calls an apple-pecan relish, diced cooked tart apples, roasted pecans, and a granola-like crunch (above), they really were like wide, short cakes in terms of their texture. It’s real maple syrup, but not much of it got used, although the whipped ricotta did add to the fun. Even cold the next day, the loft and the texture were outstanding. Cake flour? Egg whites? Who knows, but it’s something to be thankful for. No regular bacon here, but housemade Canadian bacon, glazed with a little sweetness, thin-cut, slightly crumbly because of the leanness of the pork loin from which it’s made, satisfying unless you’re maniacal about needing crispness.
Next visit, we’re pondering the pork belly and kimchi omelet or the very handsome Italian beef sandwich which comes with jalapeño aioli. And there will definitely be a next time.
Hooray for doing brunch on Saturday as well as Sunday. No reservations at brunch, but they use the Nowait app. And the menu points out that they “politely decline all substitutions or modifications”.