Yesterday a few of the brunch crew and I tried Circa by John Bragg.
Pictured above is the dish I ordered, the Eggs Victor, which is a variation of Eggs Benedict with lump crabmeat, caviar, and hollandaise sauce atop poached eggs on muffins.
I had run into John the night before at Bardog, and he attempted to explain the difference between Circa’s brunch and the brunches I’ve been going to lately (Slim’s and Majestic). “Price-wise, yeah, my dishes are a few dollars more than the places you’ve been going,” he told me. “But at my restaurant, you get value. You get your choice of a side item with any brunch entree, which would be $5 a la carte. You also get a big basket of muffins and biscuits, which some restaurants don’t provide with brunch entrees. When you eat at my brunch, you won’t leave hungry.”
That proved to be true. The Eggs Victor was $16, but the bartender told me I could have my choice of any side item on the list. “Even the meats?” I asked, and he nodded yes. So I went with the sausage, and as you can see in the pic above I got a generous helping of 4 large links. There was also a side salad on my plate. In addition, the brunch included a basket of muffins and biscuits with butter and jelly. The muffins were fruit flavored and were some of the best I’ve ever had. I believe the potatoes, pictured above, were a freebie from John and normally wouldn’t be included in the brunch price (although they’re one of the sides so I could’ve chosen them instead of the sausage). They were excellent as well, mixed with celery and other vegetables. John was right – the food was top notch, and there was so much of it that I couldn’t finish it. It was more expensive, but dollar for dollar it delivers as much value as the places I’ve been going.
There was, however, a considerable price difference in the alcohol. I’ve gotten used to the $2.50-$3.00 mimosa and Bloody Mary specials at Slim’s and Majestic. No such specials at Circa – mimosas were $6. Bloody Marys weren’t on the menu but I believe they’re around the same price. “If you plan on ordering more than two mimosas, it makes sense to go ahead and get a bottle of champagne with set-ups for $14,” the bartender said. That made sense, and $14 for the bottle is pretty competitive with other Downtown brunches. But that meant I had to finish the entire bottle, which is a lot more than I’ve been drinking at brunch yesterday. I ended up leaving about a quarter of it.
My verdict: John was right about having top-quality food, and delivering enough of it so that you get a good value for the money. I will go back there again on occasion, but only when I’m very hungry. When I go back I’ll probably order a Coke rather than a drink so that my tab won’t grow so huge.
Next week for brunch: No idea. I’m going to continue to make my own decision about where to go for brunch, rather than feel like I have to follow the brunch crew’s official decision. The Majestic is still the gold standard and there’s always a chance I’ll be there. Or maybe back to Slim’s. I also hear rumors that Bardog may be starting a brunch, and if they do I’ll certainly be willing to give them a try.
Now let’s discuss what happened once I left Circa and walked over to the Saucer.
After all that food, I was nearly comatose, especially since I got up too late to go on my usual morning caffeine run before brunch. For about 45 minutes I just sat in a chair trying not to fall asleep. Finally I was coaxed onto the pool table. I figured yesterday would be one of those days when I’d lose every game. But miraculously, I won my first one. Then my second. Then… more. I started to wake up as I won more games, and wondered if my record there (11 games won in a row) was within reach. Pete (pictured above) showed up, having attended Soup Sunday, and I beat him to win game 7. About an hour later, I got my 11th win, tying my record, and Pete had the next game.
… And Pete went down in flames again, giving me win number 12 and a new record. I went on to win games 13, 14, and 15, and Pete’s turn came again. This time Pete was finally able to get the win in a close game, ending my streak at 15 games and about three and a half hours on the table. The way Pete was celebrating, you’d think he’d just won Powerball. Somehow he had amnesia concerning the two losses from earlier in the day. But, it’s all good. Congrats to Pete on his fine victory.
By that time it was almost 5, and I once again had the hankering to play poker. “Wonder if anyone’s playing at Calhoun’s?” I thought.
The good thing about Buzztime Poker is that even if no one in the bar is playing, you can play against “bots” with names like Jocko, Fuji, Violet, and Amber, and the chips you win still count toward your weekly and monthly chip totals. So I played against the bots for a while, and then other people in the bar joined in and we selected the “remove bots” option so we could play against each other. (The bots automatically leave the room as soon as the 4th human joins the game.)
I ended up staying until 12. The poker game is incredibly addictive. Owner Max and uber-regular Mikey have been trying for the past year to figure out how to get me in there more. With Buzztime Poker they may have finally done it. Trivia too. This week I’m going to complete the transfer of my old Sleep Out Louie’s trivia points to Calhoun’s, which will put me second on the leaderboard, I believe.
I continued to hone my poker skills, but on the last game I got sloppy and Max went ahead of me in the chip count. Once again I spent a half hour with a notebook this morning, analyzing what I did wrong.
My leather jacket absolutely reeks of smoke this morning thanks to Calhoun’s. It smelled so bad that I left it at home when I went on my morning Mountain Dew run, walking down Main in only a T-shirt in 38 degrees. I didn’t want any neighbors riding with me in the elevator or people standing behind me in line at Walgreens to be subjected to that smell.
Don’t forget that Calhoun’s is doing its “Monday Fun Day” tonight, with all drafts except PBR half off. That means that most domestics are $1.50 and most premiums and imports are $2.50.
That probably won’t be enough to divert me from my regular Monday evening plans though… Pint Nite at the Saucer. Almost 70 drafts for $2.75 a pint. I’ll do three more beers toward my third plate, then drink Dos Equis Lager for the remainder of the evening.
Coming later today or early tomorrow: Fat Tuesday info.