Well, here comes Mother’s Day — the holiday no one wants to mess up.
My mom's got a comfortable home, takes a vacation every once in a while, and has raised a stellar oldest son (me) and two serviceable younger siblings.
What do you get the woman who already has everything she wants? A damn delicious meal she doesn't have to plan, cook, or clean up after, that's what. In the grand tradition of Mother's Days, that meal is brunch.
It's time to bust out your “A” game. Step it up and take her somewhere that has some pizazz, some swagger. You need to look like you’ve thought long and hard about where to take the woman that raised you.
We don't all perform well under this kind of pressure, so let’s keep it super simple: I’ve picked out five local restaurants I’d be proud to take my mother to, and teased out a delicious dish — with the perfect drink pairing — at each one. You'll look like a real pro after you pull out her chair, and she turns, smiling, to ask you, "What's good here?"
Now go hug your mom. And don't forget to pick up the tab.
Gaslight Brasserie for the Berkshire Pork Hache with La Resistance
Smack in the middle of the artsy-crafty SoWa part of the South End is a little piece of Paris. Gaslight Brasserie is a gorgeous nod to its Parisian counterparts. Subway tile lines the walls that aren’t covered in giant windows. The floor’s intricate mosaic tiling is obscured only by the dark wood chairs and iron table legs. The 26-foot zinc bar is as gorgeous as the drinks Richard and the gang concoct behind it. The service is excellent. The wine list is 100 percent French, and the menu is spot on.
Gaslight’s brunch is très français. With housemade pastries and croissants, truffled scrambled egg tartines, and Parisian crepes, it's hard to select just one item. But one must make a choice. For me, it’s the Berkshire pork hache. If you’re unfamiliar with pork confit, imagine slowly simmering small chunks of pork in seasoned fat for a looooong time, then letting it cool. Now make a hash from that. Add crispy fried potatoes, a couple fried eggs, and a spicy sauce verte and you’re in business. The spicy sauce counters the rich hache and fried potatoes. You’ll love the flavors, and mom will love that you cleaned your plate. To drink, get La Resistance, a blend of barrel-aged rum, ginger beer, honey, and citrus. Each sip lands a little bit of a punch from the ginger beer and rum, which lets it effortlessly keep pace with the spices in the food.
560 Harrison Ave., Boston, 617-422-0224, gaslight560.com
The Friendly Toast for a Waffle topped with bananas and pecans and a Tropical Smoothie
With a commitment to sustainability (including turning used vegetable oil into biofuel), and a quirky retro-ish interior, The Friendly Toast is just that — a fun and friendly dining spot serving up tasty vittles. It’s impossible not to have a good time here.
In such a light-hearted environment, order something that shares in the fun. Make it an 8” Belgian waffle topped with caramelized bananas, and crushed pecans. As it’s a holiday, feel free to indulge in a zap of fresh whipped cream as well. To drink, I’m all about a custom-made smoothie. Keep with the fruit theme and opt for the banana-mango-pineapple combination. It’s as close to white sand beaches as mom will be all day.
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-621-1200,thefriendlytoast.com
Masa for Huevos Rancheros with Mezcal
If your mom is of the early-rising variety, you need to know about Masa’s Sunday Brunch Fiesta. It runs from 9-11am and features a two-course meal for under ten bucks! It’s a superb offering. Of course, if you are anything like me, there is little chance of getting your act together by 11am on a Sunday. Fortunately, Masa offers their full brunch menu until 3.
Besides the tiny village outside of Cuernavaca, Mexico, where I lived for a bit to practicar mi español, Masa has some of the best huevos rancheros with queso cotija I’ve had in a long, long time. Fried eggs (sunny side-up, of course) on corn tortilla chips, drowned in spicy tomato salsa and topped with queso cotija (a firm, salty cheese) and crema. Bonus points if diced jalapeños are sprinkled on top.
As I learned in Mexico, the best way enjoy your huevos is with a healthy dose of Del Maguey Chichicapa mezcal. Smoky and bright, mezcal keeps up with the spicy salsa quite nicely, and the vegetal tones really brings out the flavor of the chili pepper. I enjoy mine with a little salt on the rim and a couple of orange slices to bite on. Masa has one of the best tequila menus in Boston, and if your mom isn’t a mezcal fan, there are plenty of alternatives, include a whole bunch of amazing margaritas (Habanero watermelon margarita, anyone?)
439 Tremont St., Boston, 617-338-8884, masarestaurant.com
Highland Kitchen for a Dirty Bird with Kentucky Cold-Brew
How can you beat a joint that has received nearly as many accolades for their jukebox as their tasty food? A place that offers spicy coconut goat stew, gorditas, and stompin’ good Jambalaya made with duck confit? I’m not sure you can beat it, so you might as well join it, right? If you’re looking for a somewhere to let your hair down and calorically splurge a bit, Highland Kitchen is the place for you.
Any brunch that starts with beignets (deep-fried choux pastry dusted with confectioner’s sugar) is a winner in my book. Treat mom to a plate of these little gifts alongside a refreshing bloodhound, (vodka mixed with fresh orange and grapefruit juices) while you look over the menu. Eventually, you will come to the same conclusion we always do, and order the Dirty Bird: fried chicken breast topped with applewood smoked bacon, a fried egg, and sausage gravy piled on top a buttermilk biscuit. That is some mighty fine eating right there, and deserves a sweaty glass of Kentucky cold brew. There's nothing finer than washing down fried chicken n’ gravy with cold-brewed coffee laced with bourbon and bitters.
150 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-625-1131, highlandkitchen.com