Ahh brunch, you gluttonous, irresistible devil, you! Eggs- scrambled, poached, fried over-medium? Yes please. I’ll take them all…with some buttered toast for yolk sopping, of course. Crispy, delightfully greasy, thick-cut bacon? Heck yes. I’m your biggest fan. Cheesy jalapeno grits, chocolate chip infused pancakes, flaky buttery biscuits covered in creamy sausage gravy…my, oh my. Bring it on. Oh, how I so adore the occasional Saturday or Sunday feast often topped off with Mimosas and Bloody Marys. Brunch is without question, my favorite kind of food party. I say “party” because I don’t typically stuff myself silly and drink alcohol at the 11-o-clock hour unless there’s good reason for the lavish indulging.
When recently asked to attend a local blogger bash in honor of Mangrove’s brand-spanking new brunch menu, I didn’t hesitate for a mere second with my RSVP. Duh. I will definitely go to South Tampa’s better-known late night hot spot for a smorgasbord of breakfast goods. I had the pleasure in dining at the establishment for dinner a couple of times a few years back and knowing that my memory of food always serves me correctly, I was certain this brunch would be absolutely stellar. Crawling out of the car 12:00PM, with the sun shining on my sleepy face and empty stomach, I was insanely ravenous and feeling pretty anxious to get my bacon and egg grub on.
I felt a funny familiar feeling walking through Mangrove’s doors. You see, back in my, ahem, glory days; this place was a late night dance session favorite. Oh, the memories. As I continued to the dining room, loud music was filling my ears-only it wasn’t dance music blaring from a DJ’s turntable…it was the sweet sounds of a woman on her acoustic guitar. The mosaic bar continued to bring back feelings of barely legal nostalgia. And as old times would have it, as soon as I sat down, I was handed a drink. Mangroves and I…well, we were like old friends reuniting after far too long. The Bloody Mary was perfectly spiced and garnished just delightfully. A wonderful start to an awesome late morning feast.
First to my fiercely growling tummy: the timeless classic, Eggs Benedict. Only this Eggs Benedict had one tantalizing twist. The standard English muffin was intelligently replaced with toasted, buttery brioche. My goodness, that was the best Benedict modification ever made. With eggs poached to perfection, this hollandaise topped egg, ham and bread stack was just glorious.
Next up to my hungry mouth was the Huevos Rancheros. A Mexican (and anything spicy) fare fanatic, I’ve seen this dish prepared in every way imaginable. It seems very few restaurants like to stick to the authentic version of this Mexican breakfast special. Mangroves’ Huevos Rancheros is presented as crispy fried tortillas topped with poached eggs and liberally smothered in a spicy onion, pepper and chorizo tomato broth. Beans left out of this one. The poached eggs spewed out that bright yellow yolk, combining so harmoniously with the kicked-up chorizo sauce. Poaching eggs impeccably seems to be a troublesome issue for many breakfast joints. Nothing is worse than a hard yolk in a poached egg. But leave it to Mangroves for poaching precision.
Now...for the Soul Food breakfast trend: Chicken and Waffles…how scrumptious and stylish you are. It makes me laugh when dishes that have been around forever (this one dates back to Thomas Jefferson's days), suddenly gain unusual fame. Chicken and Waffles, a Southern treat, has been all the rage in the last year and I for one, am thankful. Everyone has their own spin on the combo which makes devouring the indulgent plate that much more fun. Mangroves dishes up thick Belgian waffles (with bacon throughout them) and then throws some crispy, juicy flawlessly battered, chicken tenders on top. With a Spicy Maple syrup drizzle, they rank relatively high in my Chicken and waffles book.
Truffled Eggs…are you kidding me? Yes, Mangroves serves up a dish of scrambled eggs infused with truffles, that amazingly sacred ingredient that can make any food heavenly. Generously stuffed in a flaky phyllo cup, these eggs left my mouth watering for more. The extremely decadent and yet, earthiness of the truffles brings standard scrambled eggs to a whole new light.
Saving the best for last…the West Coast French Toast. Let it be known: I am NOT a sweet tooth kind of girl. I mean, I never, ever would opt for a sweet breakfast plate. However, when I took first bite of the Grand Marnier infused French toast, I was in a sugary, little kid, candy land kind of paradise. This French toast is far from what you’d ever expect when ordering the common morning time, starchy, meal. It was as if bread pudding taught French toast a thing or two in the area of ooey gooey goodness. With a crisp, buttery, caramelized coated exterior, the French toast was almost custard like on the inside. The Grand Marnier provided fantastic flavors in combination with the gloriously fresh zing of the orange and lemon zest sprinkled throughout. Simply incredible. Best French Toast ever, indeed.
When I heard word that Mangroves was beginning a new Sunday brunch, I had no doubt it would be fantastic. There is a serious misconception that this South Howard spot is primarily a place for late night drinking and dancing. Hardly the case. The Chef is spot on with his cuisine creations. I can say this because I have also had wonderful dinnertime dining experiences here. A great restaurant that does in fact, double as a late night lounge, their dinner and brunch menus should not be ignored. Oh, did I mention the Bloody Marys and Mimosas are only $5 a pop during the delectable brunch (11-4)? Just another reason to visit an awesome restaurant many people deem a nightclub.