Sunday Brunch. Merely speaking the words invokes magic incarnate, the will-o-the-wisp meal of the week. More than just breakfast, better and finer than mere lunch, and the only socially acceptable time to drink alcohol before Happy Hour, Sunday Brunch showers you with expectations of Eggs Benedicts, medium-rare breakfast steaks, and crunchy wraps filled with queso fresco and fresh ingredients. What could be more wonderful, particularly on the extra special occasion that is Valentines Day? (All right, it was technically the day after, but let's not split hairs.) With our special Las Vegas lunch at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill still fresh in her memory, my lovely wife the Rock Star was positively ecstatic about combining the most romantic holiday of the year with brunch. Furthermore, she loves Al Biernats and since they have just added Sunday Brunch to their repertoire, we decided we'd love nothing better to check out the old place and see how it's holding up. Thus, we eagerly motored down the Tollway one recent Sunday afternoon.
Al Biernats atmosphere is Super Tuscan in overdrive, from the villa-esque covered outdoor patio, to the columns, arches, screens, and gentle earth-tones of the interior. Their loyal patrons love the high energy vibe that rules the dinner hours there, but some diners quibble over the excessive noise level and cramped feeling. However, at brunchtime it's a different story and the place is much more sedate. Rachel took charge of us at once and was always readily available throughout the afternoon with helpful suggestions.
Scanning the menu took some time for my bride, not because it's as extensive as a Tolstoy novel, but that everything therein is purposeful and well-chosen, not unlike the language in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. She loves mimosas, so she requested one right away, while she continued to peruse the menu. The champagne and orange juice combination was well-balanced, and not too dry, which satisfied her immensly. I started with a glass of the Penfolds Thomas Hyland Cabernet Sauvignon, and while it was pleasant enough, I simply felt I needed a bit more spice in my glass when it was time for my entree, and I changed my selection accordingly. We split a wedge salad, and while I'm not normally a fan of iceberg lettuce, I felt that it worked very well as a vehicle for the nicely aged blue cheese and smoky crumbles of crispy bacon which adorned it. Let me say at this point that if you decide on a Sunday Brunch at Al Biernat's, please prepare for a leisurely-paced repast, as it's not the kind of thing to schedule if you have a plane to catch. Finally, our entrees arrived, my wife selecting the Lobster and Scrambled Egg Burrito, a giant wrap absolutely stuffed with lobster, eggs, avocado, queso fresco, and more of that crispy bacony bacon. Very fresh-tasting and reminiscent of California cuisine at its Malibu and surf-drenched best. For my part, I selected the Sliced Filet of Beef, Crab, and Asparagus benefit with smoked tomato Hollandaise. Imagine upscale Eggs Benedict crossed with steakhouse surf-and-turf, and you've basically got the idea. The smoked tomato Hollandaise breathed a swarthy bite into the dish, but the beef filet was the unquestioned star of the plate, sliced perfectly medium-rare and speaking well of the thousands of hours Al Biernat toiled on behalf of The Palm before opening his own place. This time, I chose a different Aussie as partner-in-wine, and the Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz provided proof that few countries can match Down Under for quality-and-value tipple. In due course, Rachel boxed what was ours and we motored happily home.
Website is www.albiernats.com, where you can catch up on the new specials, peruse the rather staggering wine list, and become acquainted with Al's brand-new blog. One caveat: Parking on this stretch of Oak Lawn is definitely an issue, so you will want to take advantage of the excellent valet service before you dine.
In sum, Al Biernat's proved up to the challenge, delivering the special magic that is Sunday Brunch with typical aplomb and finesse. Impress your loved one soon, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!