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The Best Time to Brunch Is Actually 2 p.m.

No waits, better service: the late brunch perks are endless

Two people eat breakfast plates with eggs, salad, and toast. baranq / Shutterstock

This post originally appeared in the August 26, 2019 edition of The Move, a place for Eater’s editors to reveal their recommendations and pro dining tips — sometimes thoughtful, sometimes weird, but always someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.


Brunch: It’s a portmanteau of “breakfast” and “lunch,” so sensible people tend to conclude that it should be eaten in the morning, or perhaps in the very early lunch hours. Logical as they may be, those people are wrong.

If you can sideline your stomach’s desire for hollandaise, pancakes, and breakfast poutines for a few hours, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with an improved brunch experience, devoid of the chaos that mars the early hours of your average popular brunch joint. Thanks to observations I’ve made over years of experience as a brunch server at several restaurants, I can confidently say: The move is to have brunch at 2 p.m.

The reasoning here is simple. Brunch lines are a wretched scourge, and they tend to die down after the early lunch hours. While they’ll vary between cities and restaurants, wait times tend to be the worst around 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., assuming the meal is usually served from around 10 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m. (If you’re in a church-going town, the rush might be concentrated around the end of church services, at 11 a.m. or so.)

Lines at popular spots won’t usually die until at least 1 p.m. — so you’d do best to play it safe and show up at 1:30 or 2 p.m (perhaps a little earlier if it’s a place that closes at 2). Then, like royalty, you’ll be shown straight to a table. With luck, you can even ask for a nicer table, whereas early in the day you’ll have to take what you can get, even if it’s between a trash can and the dishwasher.

The perks of late brunch don’t end there. You’ll likely be the last seating of the day, so there’s no pressure to vacate the table within a time limit (although if you’re sticking around after service ends, it’s polite to ask your server if you’re being a burden). Adding to the relaxing, pressure-free vibes is the fact that the restaurant will be quieter, partly by virtue of being less full, but also because families (loud kids included) have more regimented eating hours and are more likely to show up before noon.

A quieter restaurant naturally means more attentive service, too. During the traditional brunch hour, servers are dealing with a clientele dragged out of their homes at 10 a.m., resulting in mixed, often cranky groups. I’ve witnessed countless awkward family gatherings where Mom and Dad are irritated because 10:30 a.m. is so late, while the 20-something kids are pissed because they’re still hungover. That combo is enough to stress anyone out — but by 2 p.m., servers will likely have cooled it.

“But,” I hear you whining, “I get hungry before 2 p.m.” Valid! But, counterpoint: You’re a goddamn adult, and should be able to figure something out. Eat an actual breakfast. Go to a local coffee shop and have a pastry — it’ll be more pleasant than standing in a line of 30 other hangry yuppies, and there’ll be plenty of room left to gorge on home fries and mimosas. And if you’re worried about throwing off your dinner schedule, remember, time is a construct, and you can eat that a little later, too.

P.S. What’s one brunch worth making a reservation for? Drag brunch, which is decidedly now mainstream, for better or worse.

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