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Sunday Best

Saint Genevieve is a worthy heir to La Strada’s brunchy madness.

Frida Kahlo once said, "I tried to drown my sorrows but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling."

If those sorrows are going to learn to swim, they're going to have to do so in the pitchers of bottomless mimosas flying past our heads at ­record speed at Saint Genevieve. We've never seen as much champagne as at this very moment, nor as much orange juice, either. The bottomless drinks at this place might as well come in buckets, which would certainly save the servers some time.

Kahlo's quote would fit almost any bar, but is especially appropriate for this River Oaks Sunday hotspot, where a new generation of brunchers goes to work out those weekend emotional kinks. This particular Sunday we're propped up at a high-top table, taking in the newest addition to Houston's brunch scene in all its glory. Given the sheer volume of people filling this lounge, we're still stunned that we managed to snag a table of any sort. We refuse to move from it, no matter how many bottomless pitchers we consume. Table space is way too precious.

We're about the only ones glued to our seats, though. The DJ's energetic music creates a club-like atmosphere throughout the restaurant, and no one seems to mind. The Saturday-night hangovers are long gone, courtesy of Saint Gen's Bloody Mary bar and those nefarious pitchers. The wobbly, unenthusiastic strides the tall, tanned women were taking upon entering the room have magically morphed into poised and careful dance moves.

Perhaps this place has what it takes to create the type of brunchy commotion worthy of the madcap La Strada scene of some years back. It certainly helps that Saint Gen's atmosphere feels almost Vegas-like, with golden decorative highlights only adding to the exclusive feel. Throw in copious amounts of alcohol and an enthusiastic, beautiful crowd, and it does make for a wicked brunch setting.

Luckily, the healthy mix of ages means we're unlikely to mistake Upper Kirby for the Strip. Older, well-dressed gentlemen are everywhere, often staring awkwardly at the younger, blonder versions of their wives. Several muscled, tanned Washington Avenue guys have transitioned here from last night's festivities, but seem less orange and manscaped than they do under the black lights of the club. The gay society crowd is also right at home, mingling among the Louboutins and Prada bags.

Countless Houston restaurants have attempted to replicate La Strada's party-brunch vibe, but its shoes have been notoriously hard to fill. Everything about Sundays at the now-defunct Montrose restaurant fit together perfectly, leading to some extremely naughty, memorable afternoons. The crowd, the chaos and the pitchers of Bellinis that filled the space to capacity felt oh so right, yet so very, very wrong for a Sunday.

But Sunday brunch is supposed to be a little wrong, which the guy next to us, Taylor, seems to understand. He's been covertly flexing his muscles since the moment he walked in, damn near to the point of ripping his shirt. It's impressive, but he's not looking to us for approval. Instead, he's posing for a group of men across the way, who are seemingly unaware of his advances. This is how the brunch crowd works.

Come-ons like this happen all over the place. Saint Gen's patrons, such as those at the table next to us, are focused on making an impression. They keep attempting to steal another table's stools, but unfortunately, the residents of the other table aren't having it. We're just not sure whether either table really needs those chairs, while also half-wondering if this is some bizarre mating ritual we weren't aware of.

It has, after all, been awhile since we've willingly given another brunch spot a chance. But perhaps we shouldn't have been quite so standoffish with the scene after La Strada closed down. Saint Genevieve seems to be cooking with the same recipe, but has softened the kick somewhat, leaving the craziness a little more palatable.

But this more refined chaos suits Saint Gen's Sunday brunch crowd well. After all, they're way too well-coiffed for table-dancing.

Send your after-dark (or early-afternoon) tips to nightfly@houstonpress.com.

 
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