"Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week."
That sentiment — penned by Guy Beringer in 1895 — is still embraced today, if the line outside new breakfast/brunch spot Ruby Sunshine is any indication. Well, it's true after a mimosa or two, at least. And on my Sunday morning visit last weekend, there was barely a table in sight without a Ruby Mimosa, one of the chain's signature drinks, which adds a splash of pomegranate to the brunch staple.
Arriving around 11 a.m., my sister and I were told there was a 45-minute wait, but we ended up being able to snag two of the 10 or so seats at the bar.
With my back to the restaurant, I honestly didn't get a great sense of the decor, but the space seemed straightforward and bright, imbued with a touch of rustic. The bar stools were simple and resembled hand-hewn wooden beams.
I first thought they'd be uncomfortable with their low backs and low footrests, but either they weren't, or I was so engaged in my dining experience — from the drinks, which were a hefty pour, to the conversation to the food — that I didn't notice.
It says on the company's website that the owners wanted to create a cozy and inviting space, and I'd say they succeeded. Diners don't line up for food alone. It's about an experience. And if you can get diners to line up in New Orleans, where the brand is based, you must be doing something right.
After consistently expanding across the Crescent City (where the restaurants operate as Ruby Slipper Cafe), the small mom-and-pop chain is exploding across the Southeast. The Chattanooga location is the company's fourth in Tennessee, and more are planned.
If you go
› Where: Ruby Sunshine, 405 Market St.
› Hours: 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, with expanded service times on the horizon.
› Prices: $10-$21 (kids’ meals for $6)
› Alcohol: Full bar
› Phone: 423-497-1660
The menu draws from the restaurant's Big Easy home base, with items like Bananas Foster Pain Perdu ($13), a serving of French toast made with French bread covered in rum-flambeed bananas, raisins and butter-caramel sauce; and the Grilled Fish St. Peter ($16), featuring fish of the day over a cheesy grit cake, sauteed spinach and tomatoes, topped with a skewer of grilled shrimp and Creole mustard hollandaise.
An entire section of the menu is devoted to varieties of eggs Benedict, like the Eggs Cochon ($15), which incorporates apple-braised pork "debris"; and the One Tomato, Two Tomato ($14), which features a fried green tomato and a grilled tomato. Both dishes are served over an open- faced buttermilk biscuit and topped with poached eggs and hollandaise.
I was impressed by the drinks menu, which offered some unexpected options alongside standards like the restaurant's award-winning Bloody Mary. For example, the Brandy Milk Punch ($10) features brandy, milk and cream, vanilla syrup and nutmeg; and there were several coffee-based drinks, cocktails and nonalcoholic alike.
All of the cocktails are a standard $10, including the signature Ruby Mimosa, a double pour of sparkling wine topped with orange juice and a splash of pomegranate, which helps cut the acidity.
I just cannot eat sweets for breakfast, and I'm addicted to chorizo, so I went with the Migas ($13), an egg scramble with onion, tomato, cilantro, pepperjack and chorizo, served over tortilla strips with a side of avocado, pico de gallo and chipotle sour cream.
I ate almost all of it. The flavors were well-balanced, the ingredients fresh, and it didn't weigh me down for the rest of the day, a surprising feat given the direction I'd gone.
My sister opted for the Skinny Florentine ($12), an egg-white omelette stuffed with spinach, portobello, goat cheese and thyme. It came with choice of side: fruit, grits or potatoes. She went with the latter.
Her omelette was light but flavorful, without tasting like wilted spinach. It had a hint of skillet flavor, which added a richness, and didn't overly rely on the cheese. The potatoes were perfectly crispy without being overdone, and flecked with sea salt.
I don't like going to restaurants before they've had a chance to work out all the kinks. Ruby Sunshine hadn't even been open a week when we visited. Still, most everything ran smoothly.
The bartender was clearly overwhelmed with having to care for her own customers while also making drinks for everyone on the wait list who sidled up impatiently, but everything else was on point.
We didn't wait long for our food. It was hot. It was correct. And it was delicious.
That's hard for a new restaurant to pull off.
The general manager stopped by several times to check on us and chat, and I learned that only two of the employees buzzing around the restaurant were trainers. That surprised and impressed this former server.
Exclusively serving breakfast/brunch, Ruby Sunshine brings something different to the downtown dining scene.
A slew of other restaurants have failed in the same location over the last few years — Noodles and Co., The Henpecked Chicken, 405 Mid-East Bistro — but I do not expect it to suffer the same fate. I suspect the location and lack of parking had something to do with some of those closings, but Ruby seems well-fitted to the spot and should resonate with locals and tourists alike.
Who doesn't love brunch?
Contact Jennifer Bardoner at firstname.lastname@example.org.