Girard Brasserie & Bruncherie


A nasty bout of the flu kept me housebound for more than a week. A steady diet of chicken soup, tea and toast quickly became tiresome. As soon as my taste buds made a recovery, all I wanted to do was go out for Sunday brunch.

On a snowy afternoon, we picked up cousin Carl and headed to Hawthorne’s, which recently re-opened after a fire closed the restaurant for nearly a year. I knew major renovations had occurred and was curious to see any new additions to the menu.

The hostess told us there was a 45-minute-to-an-hour wait. People were seated or standing by the newly expanded fireplace in the packed room. It appears everyone in the neighborhood decided to have brunch at the same time.

Plan B quickly took us to Girard Brasserie & Bruncherie in Fishtown. Those who watch “Saturday Night Live” may recall Michael Che, one of the Weekend Update anchors, explained that Girard is the first restaurant in Philadelphia to establish a no-tipping policy.

Snow was still falling as we entered the cheery room decked out in black and white stripes and sunny yellow paint. We were the only patrons in the 40-plus seat restaurant.

All we wanted was a hot cup of coffee to warm us up. Girard offers French press coffee. There was a Columbian, a Kenyan blend and another that I cannot recall. I like strong coffee like La Colombe, Green Street and Rival Brothers. The Columbian ($4.75) for a 2-cup was shared amongst the three of us. It had a bitter acidic taste that was most unpleasant. One of the servers made me another type, but it did not fare much better.

The kitchen is under the supervision of chef Brian Oliveira, who owns Girard with his business partner, Christian Mora. The menu, which lacks focus and organization, aspires to be too many things at brunch, lunch or dinner. Customers can order brunch a la carte or prix fixe.

I opted for the prix fixe ($23). A glass of freshly squeezed sweet orange juice was refreshingly delicious. Oliviera prepared the omelette with bacon, cheddar and avocado. I nixed the avocado and went classic, as bacon and cheddar is a fine combination. The omelette was rolled like a carpet and was golden on the outside and creamy inside. Because it was served on a cold plate, it cooled down rather quickly. Lyonnaise potatoes, a classic French side dish, comes with egg dishes. The potatoes are fried and served with sautéed onions. The potatoes were way too salty, some were crisp and some were soggy. A side choice of salad was not a good idea, as the greens were overdressed and contained much too much vinegar. A julienne of carrot and red onions did not add any crunch or texture.

Carl decided on eggs Benedict ($13). He had a choice of spinach, cured salmon or duck breast. Two poached eggs topped with rich Hollandaise were placed on thinly-sliced house-cured salmon that imparted a fine flavor. Instead of a regular muffin, Girard uses what it calls an “everything” muffin. Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion — every topping one would find in an everything bagel was used in baking the muffins.

The Brasserie burger ($17) was ordered rare, and it came to the table rare. It lacked a good sear on the outside, but the bacon jam, cheddar and caramelized onions were a nice touch. Lyonnaise potatoes came with the burger as well.

I am a biscuit lover and wanted to try Girard’s version ($2). There are a few schools of culinary thought on how to bake the perfect biscuit. I prefer them buttery and flaky. Hot from the oven and slathered with butter and jam is a triumph. Unfortunately for me, I received a cool biscuit that lacked flavor. I asked for some butter, but its addition did little to the overall taste and texture.

I think the menu should be simplified. A whole trout for $24 dollars is not a dish I would order for Sunday brunch. Perhaps Oliveira and Mora should re-think their offerings. The bill for brunch for three came to $64.55, tip included. ""

One tip of the toque to Girard Brasserie & Bruncherie. ■

Girard Brasserie & Bruncherie

300 E. Girard Ave.