Williamsport’s brunch experience

Brunch doesn’t really have a definitive definition. A quick Google search of “what time is brunch” brings up a random assortment of food blogs and ask websites, like Wiki answers and Yahoo! answers, discussing the apparent ambiguity that is “brunch.”

Sure, it’s generally thought of as that window of time between breakfast and lunch, hence its name, but, what if you missed breakfast by a longshot (long night out, perhaps?), and still hadn’t eaten lunch after 3 p.m.? Could it still be considered a brunch? Is it defined by a specific time of day, or by the individual and what meal they have or haven’t eaten?

One person on a forum was confused, as she received an invitation for a “baby shower brunch” that began at 2 p.m., and was concerned that the invitation may have contained a typo and meant to say 12 p.m. Which is it? Can a brunch start at 2 p.m.? For a word that allegedly came into existence in 1896, courtesy of Britain, you’d think we wouldn’t still be confused after more than a century of brunch-eating.

(Also, ironically, the origin is said to have come from a reporter, Frank Ward O’Malley, who in the early 1900s, used the term to describe “typical mid-day eating habits of a newspaper reporter.”)

Dictionary.com defines it simply as, “a meal that serves as both breakfast and lunch.” Apparently, that’s open to a lot of interpretation.

But for restaurants that offer a brunch menu, it is defined by a specific time of day. Between about 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (varies), depending on the menu, you might be able to grab a tasty pancake or waffle breakfast meal, but also, potentially, a more lunch-oriented meal, like a leg of chicken or a bowl of soup. At a brunch buffet, by George, you might even have the ability to put a leg of chicken and a pancake on the same plate. (Be careful that your syrup doesn’t run into your chicken, that could be not-so-tasty.)

But not all restaurants serve brunch, specifically. Many simply offer general breakfast and lunch menus. Some only offer breakfast during certain morning hours, some offer all day.

However, recently, a few restaurants in Williamsport have branded their own brunch experience. Specifically on Sundays seemingly to alleviate those pesky Sunday-morning hangovers that tend to appear after a Saturday night of too many jager bombs, rum and cokes or perhaps, after too many of those heavy-in-alcohol-content, though delicious, craft beers.

Barrel 135 introduced their 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. brunch menu on March 3; it yields bottomless mimosas and a delightful dish called the Hang-over Helper, and of course other yummy dishes, many of which incorporate pancakes and eggs, but also their most popular regular lunch items. Their full brunch menu is available online at barrel135.net/brunch.

“Our chef, Josh Aucker, realized the lack of places providing Sunday brunches and thought it would be something that Barrel 135 could give a shot,” said Meghann McBryan, Barrel’s assistant manager.

“With the addition of the Residence Inn Suites and Towne Place Suites right in our backyard, we thought brunch would also be a nice draw for people checking out on Sundays and wanted to grab a bite to eat before hitting the road,” she said.

So far, they’ve noticed a steady rise in their Sunday-brunch attendance. They offer patio seating – something that other places in town don’t have.

“One thing we feel about our brunch that separates us from the rest is our patio seating. Places like the Bullfrog and the Genetti that offer brunch do not have this seating option,” McBryan said.

Fluffy pancakes and bottomless mimosas on a sunny Sunday morning – what’s not to love?

The Bullfrog might not have patio seating, but they do have what they call “jazz brunch” on Sundays. And, they claim, the best bloody marys in town.

“While we at the Bullfrog, think that everyday is a good day to drink beer, we especially think that Sundays are one of the best days for consumption of both beer and food. Add a little jazz music played by local favorites, and we call this a perfect day,” said Bullfrog’s restaurant manager, Brooke Styborski.

Bullfrog has an established Sunday-brunch experience, having been in the works since 1997, a mere one year after the restaurant initially opened its doors. The next year, in 1998, they added jazz to the mix. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday, Bullfrog Brewery is brimming with hungry brunch-and-music lovers.

“Because we feel so strongly about not only beer and food, but music and local musicians, we couldn’t think of a better way to incorporate more music into our weekly schedule,” Styborski said.

While anyone is encouraged to join in on the music, which is performed from noon to 4 p.m., she said, regular jazz brunch performers include Grammy winning drummer Steve Mitchell, piano player and vocalist Greg Burgess, and bass player Andy Seal.

The Bullfrog offers a brunch menu that can change from week to week, offering a full menu of breakfast and lunch items and weekly specials. This includes an omelet du jour, a pancake or French toast special, a chef’s creation and bellini of the day, which is featured each week.

“Some of our top sellers include the smoked salmon stack, the huevos breakfast bowl, and Jon’s brunch burger,” Styborski said.

One city woman, Tegan Hartman, frequents the Bullfrog for their jazz brunches on a regular basis; their good-natured atmosphere is what draws her in. Her favorite dishes include steak and eggs or French toast, but sometimes, she said, she switches it up and gets the breakfast bowl.

“I started going to jazz brunches because I knew some of the musicians who played there and because it just seemed like a nice way to spend a Sunday morning. I kept going because of the atmosphere, the people and the food and the good nature of it all,” Hartman said.

So, whether you’re going to brunch for a hangover helper, or simply to enjoy a nice meal in a nice atmosphere, it seems that more and more are looking for a brunch experience similar to what Barrel and Bullfrog are offering in Williamsport.

“As the community of downtown Williamsport grows, I think that many restaurants will recognize the desire for brunch spots; comfortable, relaxing environments where patrons can eat, drink and be merry, while supporting local, downtown establishments, and hopefully local farmers, as well,” Styborski said.