Only on a Sunday

With two fancy new brunches, you can finally prove to your mom that you really do have a job

Chef Erick Harcey is to be awarded a big bouquet of buttercups for creating such a feast. It's exceptionally difficult to pull off something so whimsical and so clever without ever hitting saccharine or cloying notes, but he has done it. If you're now scratching your head and saying, "Hey, the Nicollet Island Inn is supposed to have an all-you-can-eat buffet of fancy things, that's where I've been planning to go and slip a whole smoked salmon into my girdle!" Well, Bunky, you snooze, you lose. The Inn discontinued the big buffet to debut this five-course plated extravaganza, and while this is bad news to anyone on Bobby DeNiro's Raging Bull diet, it's a boon to those seeking conversation, chitchat, and girly catching-up time.

When I visited, our server was completely tuned in to the needs of his tables; he paced our meal over a leisurely two hours, giving my friend and me time to catch up on the smallest minutiae of our lives. Our coffees were always kept hot, our water glasses kept full and chilled. I left convinced that anyone with a mother, a grandmother, or an aunt could add this one to their calendar in ink. Even though it's the most expensive brunch in town, for every dollar spent on crème brûlée French toast, six times as much would be saved in future therapy bills.

Meanwhile, a few blocks to the west and north, Sapor has debuted a less white-glove, but nonetheless noteworthy Sunday brunch. Here, for $14.95, you get a basket of home-baked morning treats, such as currant scones cut into rough-hewn blocks with pretty toasted edges, and two more courses. The starters can be as light as a minted fruit salad, or as complicated as a salad I tried one day of poached quartered artichokes and hand-pitted black olives on a bed of shaved fennel dressed in a lemon coriander vinaigrette. Eating it was like enjoying a little gust of Mediterranean spring by the sea. Another memorable starter was a simple poached egg on a bed of spicy, long-cooked black beans, the whole of it dressed with a light and creamy cilantro-avocado crème fraîche and a few perky stripes of salsa. (Skip the Malt-o-Meal brulée: It sounds adorable, but when I tried it it was a ramekin of the cereal served refrigerator-cold and topped with a crème brûlée crust; it seemed like a good idea, with an unfortunate conclusion.)

Carefully composed: The Nicollet Island Inn trades carving stations for an elegant, updated prix fixe brunch
Bill Kelley
Carefully composed: The Nicollet Island Inn trades carving stations for an elegant, updated prix fixe brunch

Location Info

Map

Nicollet Island Inn Restaurant

95 Merriam St
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Sapor Cafe And Bar

428 Washington Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

The main entrée courses have all been very good: Fluffy, crisp waffles were airy and light, but made exuberant with a warm puree of rhubarb. Another weekend, small cornmeal molasses pancakes were crisp and crunchy at the edges, and topped with a pumpkin-pie-spiced combination of barely stewed peaches blended with blackberries. A nicely dense, homemade burger was made sour and savory with a topping of house-made pickles. (Mimosas and other drinks, such as fresh limeade, are all available at additional charge.)

Sapor, if you haven't been there lately, is Minneapolis's most underappreciated underdog: It's a pretty, very contemporary spot, with earth-tone walls, simple glass sculptures, and large windows onto the Warehouse District. Outside there is a large, sunny patio. When you dine at Sapor, you feel like you're in some European version of Minneapolis.

The brunch here is the work of Sapor's sous-chef Josh Paulsen and pastry chef Tatum Barile, who should be proud of the sophisticated, global-accented, but at base deceptively simple brunch menu they've engineered. It's a great place to go if you want to treat a friend to a fancy brunch, or, of course, if your mom is more interested in modern architecture and Armani suits than she is in cottage gardens and Lily Pulitzer sundresses.

Indeed, Minneapolis has entered a new golden era for brunching with metropolitan-area moms, grandmas, and aunts. It is a great moment for scones, and also for little berries, small dishes of butter, finding out who your cousin is marrying, and sitting up straight. In fact, the only downside that I can see is that this wasn't written privately to you. So a certain lady might also get her hands on a copy.

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