The Best Under-the-Radar Brunches in Boston

We go beyond the same old South End scene for a bevy of fantastic but less-obvious weekend options
March 25, 2014
by Scott Kearnan

For some people, brunch is just an extension of Saturday night: a chance to see, be seen and sip. But for those who really want fabulous food, some of the best options are outside the usual suspects. So we turned up some of our favorite under-the-radar brunch options: neighborhood gems with creative approaches, pseudo pop-ups and even a few star-chef options that put creative twists on the weekend routine. 


Why it's great: Does the word "vegetarian" scare you? Root deems itself a "plant-based" restaurant, which is (for some) a more palatable way of saying: "We turn fruits, veggies and legumes into colorful plates that are so simple and delicious, you won't even miss the bacon fat." 
Must order: The special. Since Root is all about freshness, there's usually some kind of weekly addition to the regular brunch menu, like these tostadas with black bean and corn salsa, avocado and crema. 
Insider tip: The spot also prides itself on being a stellar "juicery," so partake in something from the nutrient-packed selection. We love the Beetnik - beet, orange and fennel served in a mason jar. 
Hit it up: Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 AM-2:30 PM; 487 Cambridge Ave., Allston; 617-208-6091

Dot2Dot Cafe

Why it's great: This neighborhood gem is basically a permanent brunch spot, with hours running only until 2 PM on most days. There's a huge breakfast spread, selection of fantastic sandwiches, and an eye-popping assortment of fresh-baked pastries.
Must order: This cafe has a generous variety of healthy items that still absolutely satisfy. We'd especially direct your attention to the vegan pancakes ($10) served with vegan sausage and scrambled tofu.
Insider tip: Themed brunches are nothing new, but Dot2Dot hosts one of the more unusual we've seen. The third Thursday of every month is a "knitting brunch" for those who like a little arts and crafts with their eggs and bacon.
Hit it up: Tuesday-Sunday, 8 AM-2 PM (5 PM on Thursday and Friday); 1739 Dorchester Ave.; 617-436-2368

The Haven

Why it's great: The cozy, authentic Scottish restaurant doesn't ride on PR-driven buzz, but on the word of mouth that results from serving hearty yet refined Alba comfort food and a strong selection of interesting native craft beers. 
Must order: Start with a Scotch Egg ($7) hard-boiled and wrapped in crispy sausage, served with mustard and a light arugula salad. French toast ($12) with toffee sauce is another standout, and herbivores will love the Bubble and Squeak ($12), a sauté of seasonal veggies with pickled carrots and poached eggs (you can add duck confit if you like). 
Insider tip: For the ultimate Scottish experience, join the Haven crew and the Scot's Charitable Society for an April 5 "Kilt Walk" at 11 AM from the Jamaica Pond boathouse to the restaurant, where a particularly festive brunch will follow.
Hit it up: Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 AM-2:30 PM; 2 Perkins St., Jamaica Plain; 617-524-2836

T.W. Food

Why it's great: It's no surprise to anyone that chef Tim Wiechmann's always-stellar style would translate from T.W.'s famously fabulous dinner hours to a jazz brunch setting. Slightly more surprising: that Wiechmann also plays guitar in the band, "Table 6." 
Must order: Never short on creativity, Weichmann just rolled out a newly updated brunch menu that includes especially fabulous smoked pastrami beef tongue hash ($17) with horseradish and poached eggs, and a "croque-madame" burger ($18) of ground rib-eye on a croissant with mornay, bacon and a fried egg. 
Insider tip: The menu is also available in a prix fixe ($35) format, with choice of starter, main, and dessert or cocktail. 
Hit it up: Sunday, 10:30 AM-2 PM; 377 Walden St., Cambridge; 617-864-4745

Cuisine en Locale

Why it's great: Locavores, take note. Cuisine en Locale, chef JJ Gonson's catering and pop-up dinner service, has just launched weekly Saturday brunch at "locavore HQ" Anthony's Function in Somerville, featuring fresh food, "produce-forward" drinks and live music. 
Must order: Although most of the menu changes weekly, there are a few reliable standouts - like the maple sticky buns ($6), worthy of every lip (and finger) smack they elicit. There's also the P.O.P. ($16), a "pile of" spiced potatoes with local blue or cheddar cheese and sautéed winter spinach with two poached eggs.   
Insider tip: Like what you taste? Cuisine en Locale has its own prepared-food CSA service, which means you can partake in their gourmet goods without leaving the house. Check it out here
Hit it up: Saturday, 10 AM-3 PM; 156 Highland Ave., Somerville; 617-285-0167


Why it's great: Because it comes from star chef Michael Schlow. Any questions? 
Must order: The spicy duck confit and green chile hash ($12), served with poached eggs and chipotle hollandaise, is a beauty to behold. But we also love the fried shrimp po' boy ($12) with avocado-chipotle mayo and a side of fries.
Insider tip: Since Schlow is a new dad, he's launched a monthly "Kid's Brunch," a family-friendly affair for parents who don't want to sacrifice their foodie ways to the gods of Chuck E. Cheese. Each installment features a kid's musician and arts and crafts projects, and raises book and clothing donations for a child-related charity. Next: an April 5 brunch benefiting Room to Grow, which assists babies born into poverty. 
Hit it up: Saturday, 11 AM-2:30 PM; 222 Berkeley St.; 617-351-0400

La Catrina

Why it's great: Chef-owner Allan Rodriguez, the man behind the rave-worthy El Centro restaurants, has brought brunch to his new Mexican in Brighton, which opened in the Fall. The place may be smaller, but the flavor profiles are just as big.  
Must order: We're all about the chilaquiles ($9), eggs in any style with green or red sauce, served with chicken or beef, cheese, avocado and beans. 
Insider tip: Psst. The brunch menu is a fantastic weekend addition, but know that if you need, the full regular menu remains available during these hours. 
Hit it up: Saturday and Sunday, 10 AM-3 PM; 1620 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton; 617-383-5015

Common Ground Bar and Grill

Why it's great: With its heavy concentration of students and young post-grads, there's a need for good but cheap eats in Allston. Enter Common Ground. Five words: all-you-can-eat brunch. (Sundays only from 10 AM-2 PM.)
Must order: The fruit-topped cinnamon swirl French toast is a sweet-tooth satisfier. 
Insider tip: Stick around in fine weather, because Sunday brunch buffets segue right into "All-You-Can-Eat Backyard Barbecues" from 1-6 PM. 
Hit it up: Weekdays 11 AM-2 PM, Weekends 10 AM-2 PM; 85 Harvard Ave., Allston; 617-783-2071

Tres Gatos

Why it's great: Music lovers will love the weekend jazz brunch at this JP tapas joint, where the intimate, house-party vibe happens to include a rear record (and book) store. So after you've become sufficiently inspired over a few brunch cocktails, you can flip through a selection of vintage vinyls. 
Must order: Chickpea pancakes ($9) with maple fig syrup are to die for, and we love the Buñuelos con Anís ($8), ricotta donuts with anise sugar.
Insider tip: Don't leave so soon. Between brunch and dinner, Tres Gatos rolls out an "Afternoon" menu from 3-5 PM that adds treats like escabeche ($6 marinated PEI mussels with sherry vinegar and pickled celery) to the mix. 
Hit it up: Saturday and Sunday, 10 AM-3 PM; 470 Centre St., Jamaica Plain; 617-477-4851

Trina's Starlite Lounge

Why it's great: These retro-inspired digs happen to host a super-popular industry brunch. If you're part of the service and hospitality crowd, or just like to roll with them, this is the place to glad-hand and get gossip. 
Must order: Anyone in-the-know can attest to the fried chicken and waffles ($14), which are smothered in a hot pepper syrup. 
Insider tip: We recently surveyed some local spirit experts to get their picks on where to find A-plus versions of popular cocktails. When it came to Bloody Mary, we were told that Trina's has some of the best in town. 
Hit it up: Monday, 12-4 PM; 3 Beacon St., Somerville; 617-576-0006