Brunch at Mia Bella: Houston's Best-Kept Secret

I've never been good at keeping secrets. I have a mouth like a sieve. I laugh when I try to lie. And this is no lie: Mia Bella's weekend brunch at its Main Street location is one of Houston's best-kept secrets.

How did this happen? Perhaps because no one ventures downtown on Sunday mornings, perhaps because other Mia Bella locations are more popular, perhaps because more "routine" brunch spots like Backstreet Cafe or Stella Sola are more ingrained in peoples' minds. It could be any number of reasons.

Regardless, as I took bite after perfectly balanced bite of my Eggs Mia Bella this past Sunday morning, I couldn't help but think that Houston has it all wrong on the weekends. Downtown is the place to be.

Eggs Mia Bella are the restaurant's own twist on Eggs Benedict, of which it has several. But this version, swimming in a bright, citrusy Hollandaise sauce that was neither too heavy nor too thin, is my favorite: poached eggs on top of an English muffin with sauteed spinach, mushrooms, onions and potatoes in the middle in place of ham.

I normally crave bacon in the mornings, but this brunch plate is savory and hearty to the exclusion of requiring any meat. And even though I was happily full afterward, I still helped myself to some very generous portions of my friend's French toast. Here at Mia Bella, it's beautifully spongy sourdough bread, generously covered in an eggy batter that tones down most of the sour punch of the bread. In between is a thick spread of cinnamon-and-sugar-spiked ricotta cheese. On top, your choice of fruit.

In other words, it's like IHOP's Stuffed French Toast, but far fancier and far better...and it costs exactly the same. Tell your family that the next time they try to drag you to IHOP or Denny's for breakfast because "it's more cost efficient."

And what would brunch be without alcoholic beverages served in the guise of friendly breakfast drinks? The mimosas here are good, but the frozen bellinis are magnificent things, made even better by the fact that they are virtually "bottomless." (Only 25 cents for a refill. Suck it up a straw, TABC.)

But what absolutely can't be beat is the view from one of the bay windows on a sunny day. With sunshine glinting off the skyscrapers and the light rail rumbling by every so often, it's a brilliant way of enjoying the "city" aspect of our city, without those minor aggravations like full parking lots and meters with two-hour limits.

Because remember: It's free to park downtown on Sundays. For as long as you like.

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Katharine Shilcutt