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Article: History of Brunch in the US

history of brunch

History of Brunch in the US

lemon drink in brunch

How Did Brunch Come to Be?

From bottomless mimosas to decadent breakfast desserts, brunch has worked its way into every foodie's heart. It's relaxing, social and perfectly Instagram able. But it wasn't always like this. Brunch dates back over a century ago, and although it has changed throughout the years, it's always held onto a common thread of togetherness. Let's take a stroll through time and explore the evolution of brunch.

The History of Brunch

Like many time-honored traditions, the answer to how brunch originated is shrouded in a little mystery. Some people say it came from England's lavish hunt breakfasts that prepared men for a long day on a horse. Other sources say it comes from the Catholic tendency to break their fast after church services with a big meal. Maybe it's some combination of the two. What we do know is that the term was likely coined in an 1895 essay by Guy Beringer.

An Ode to Brunch

Beringer submitted “Brunch: A Plea” to “Hunters Weekly," emphasizing brunch as an opportunity to put the focus back on food and fun. He saw it as a cheerful, sociable and “talk-compelling” event that “sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

He introduced many of today's brunch staples. Beringer said that brunch means an early wake-up time is “not only unnecessary but ridiculous." It gives you more leniency the night before, too, so you can make the most of a wild Saturday night. We can also thank Beringer for helping us solidify alcoholic drinks as part of brunch — mimosa lovers, rejoice!

Big City Influencers

Brunch eventually made its way to big American cities like Chicago and New York. The Windy City was a popular mid-point for people traveling between the coasts, so celebrities and other big figures would often stop there for — you guessed it — brunch. Seeing their favorite celebrities nosh on brunch food made everyday people want it, too, so more hotels and restaurants began to offer it. Over in New York, classic dishes like bagels, lox and eggs Benedict started to make their way into the brunch menu.

From Hotels to Homes

Over the 1900s, brunch went through a few different phases. After the hotels started to pick up on it, brunch slowly made its way into homes as people realized how easy it was to set up with an array of baked goods and drinks, especially when convenience food started to hit the grocery stores. By the late ’90s, brunch was a free-for-all. It could be extravagant or simple, sweet or savory and served on Saturday or Sunday.

Modern-Day Brunching

Today, brunch has no rules. It includes experimental dishes, signature cocktails, cultural fusions and so much more. You'll find sweet, savory and everything in between. It's still a social occasion, and ambiance is of utmost importance. You'll find brunch served on swanky patios and accompanied by fun events. Unique, creative dishes also help make brunch more experiential.

The advent of social media has made sharing a top priority, too. “Phone eats first” has become an excuse to snap a pic before digging in, and diners happily make a big event out of their late-morning meal. Whether you want a relaxing meal in the morning or an exciting social gathering with your besties, brunch can answer the call.

avocado in brunch


What Time Is Brunch?

If you ask Guy Beringer, he'd tell you that brunch shouldn't start any earlier than 12:30 p.m., but modern diners can start their brunch anytime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The sweet spot seems to be around 11 a.m. As long as it takes the place of or combines breakfast and lunch, you can call it brunch.

Keep in mind that brunch is generally a weekend activity. If it's on a weekday, most people just call it breakfast. Weekends usually offer more leisure and relaxation.

What Is Brunch Food?

Nowadays, brunch food can be virtually anything. The sky's the limit. Options can include everything from gourmet breakfast burgers to stacks of flavor-packed pancakes. From traditional options like eggs and pancakes to novel fare like breakfast pizza and macaroni and cheese, brunch has no boundaries.

Brunch has even gone global, and you'll frequently find dishes inspired by specific cultural cuisines like huevos rancheros and shakshuka. Regional ingredients get to shine during brunch, too. You can find mix savory and sweet with a classic southern dish of chicken and waffles or lean into coastal delicacies with the addition of crab or lobster. 

You can't forget the drinks, either. Mimosas are a classic brunch drink, but other popular choices include bloody marys, bellinis, cocktails and Irish coffee. Since brunch overlaps with lunch, grabbing a beer or a seltzer with your meal is also completely acceptable.

Some popular brunch dishes include:

  • Omelets and eggs benedict.
  • Pancakes, waffles and French toast.
  • Breakfast sandwiches, burgers and burritos.
  • Huevos rancheros.
  • Breakfast pizza.
  • Charcuterie boards.
  • Chicken and waffles.
  • Shakshuka.
  • Lunch items like sandwiches, fries, burgers and salads.
  • Side dishes like toast, bacon, potatoes and fruit.

While the items themselves might not sound that special, many restaurants put unique twists on each one, offering a special experience with every meal.

Remember, brunch is less about the type of food you eat and more about the experience and the timing. You might eat breakfast in a rush as you fly out the door, but brunch is a special occasion. You might do it with friends or get something new and exciting, usually at a restaurant. You can sit down, enjoy the experience and socialize as you eat. Bonus points if there's a spiked juice or cocktail in your hand.

It's all about turning your meal into something more — an opportunity for socialization, relaxation and new experiences.

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