Don't think of a pizzeria when you think about brunch? That's all going to change very soon when Red Wagon Pizza rolls out brunch this Saturday, Sunday, and in an innovative move, Monday too, for "Industry Brunch," though everyone is welcome. Hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
We got a sneak peek of the menu.
"When I first moved to the Midwest I noticed that everyone was obsessed with seven-layer dips and 13-layer dips; and then everybody loves Latino flavors with breakfast, so this has everything, plus it's 100 percent vegetarian," explains chef de cuisine Sean Little while rolling out the "Seven-layer brunch bowl" (pictured above). Their take on chilaquiles, layered with cilantro rice, black beans, tortilla chips, a soft-cooked egg, melted Colby, pico de gallo, and guacamole all piled into a skillet, is infinitely shareable or a hangover-buster to tackle solo, depending on your brunchy constitution.
Pastry chef Rita Scheleiker (formerly of Salty Tart) is baking a full pastry program, and everything we sampled -- rhubarb tart with almonds, caramel rolls, brioche buns with caramelized onions and mozzarella, chocolate babka -- was best in class and as fine as any baked goods you'll find anywhere. The staff had this phrase to say about her about a half-dozen times: "We feel very lucky to have her." We feel lucky that they do, too.
In fact, even though the entirety of the brunch menu makes use of the same wood-fired pizza oven that produces their superior pizza pies, the only tell that you're eating brunch in a pizzeria are the whimsical breakfast pizzas like the "Green Eggs and Ham" (they're not sure if they'll be able to keep the name, but the sentiment is all Seussian) with basil-whipped scrambled eggs, a tomato-bacon sauce, hand-pulled mozz, proscuitto, and a finish of fig jam.
Ham-stuffed house-made brioche is redolent with fragrant Indian spices and owner Pete Campbell's childhood favorite Taylor Ham, a hyper-regional New Jersey product that gets an in-house maple brine using Wisconsin-produced Horner's Corner Maple Syrup. The batter starts with a base of caramel culled from sweetened condensed milk and takes on a dulce de leche edge. The finished product is like a Monte Cristo in a world-music band. A little strawberry rhubarb jam and cream cheese whip bring it on home. This one's for those with big sweet teeth.
The ham will also make an appearance on house-made bialy "Jersey Boy" egg sandwiches, an "East Coast Bodega egg sandwich" with just an egg, a slice of cheese, and some ham. Simple and good. Campbell hails from New Jersey, and whenever he goes home his mom always busts out a Taylor Ham. "It's just salty and good. I've been eating it my whole life."
A buttermilk pancake gets poured, finished, and served right in the skillet, and when the maple syrup drizzles around the pan it sizzles up and caramelizes around the sides. Blueberry compote, pistachio granola, spiced Bare Honey, and coconut whip make this pancake familiar, yet particularly unique.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and the kitchen needed a way to provide folks with their coveted eggs without access to a traditional range or flat top. The solution? Line the rim of the pizza oven with non-stick skillets, grab them out screaming hot, pour in the eggs, and they cook to soft scrambled perfection off the heat. "You can see how hot these pans get," says Little, holding up his towel for me to see the scorch marks. "Whoever does this the first day is probably going to be hating life for a little bit."
But us? We will be loving life, because these are the finest soft scrambled eggs you've had lately, exactly because they're not cooking them over direct heat, meaning there's less opportunity to overcook them. They'll come in three variations: spinach with robiola and mushroom (pictured); ham and Pecorino, and green pepper with pickled onion.
Additional brunch items will include popovers with sausage gravy and eggs, corned beef hash with potato confit and Thousand Island Hollandaise, and several more breakfast pizzas including one with rye crust, salmon gravlax, and creme fraiche.
And, oh! If the weather cooperates, the patio with a stunning, red, circular 10-person banquette built around a tree will also be open for business, just in time for al fresco brunch season.
Red Wagon Pizza 5416 Penn Ave. S., Minneapolis 612-259-7147 redwagon-mpls.com
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