French Fare & Fancy Brunching at Brasserie 19

It didn't matter that I'd immediately dribbled coffee down the front of my silk blouse, I still felt fancy. How could I not? I was brunching at Brasserie 19, the white-clothed French brewery in one of the city's most upscale zip codes -- the 019 (read that like 'o-one-nine' sound because it sounds cool).

No one was paying attention to me anyway. They were too busy being fancy themselves; like the the European guy with a sick comb-over popping bottles next to his platinum blonde date; the group of 20-somethings chatting and rocking sky-high heels; or the older gentleman enjoying a cappuccino and a paper by himself at the bar. The crowd was eclectic for sure, but everyone still had that laid-back H-town charm. I people watched for for about a minute or so before moving on to why I was really here -- the fantastical looking brunch menu I'd been eyeing for weeks.

And much to me and my coffee-stained shirt's delight, that menu did not disappoint.

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We started with the coffee service, which was impeccable itself. I want this setup for my house -- the stainless steel French Press, the miniature creamer, and the spoon -- oh the spoon! I know that may sound odd, but love a good heavy-bottomed utensil. And this one was perfect. More importantly, though, was the coffee. It was the Goldilocks of brews, just the right strength, temp, and aroma. It was also just the right wake-me-up for my mimosa that followed.

But the real champion here is the food. For $15 each, my date and I split the Croque Madame and the Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes. Honestly, with these beastly meals, we probably could have shared one plate. But thankfully we we were feeling particularly ravenous that morning, because I still can't decide which dish I loved more.

If you've never had one, a croque-madame is basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with a béchamel sauce, more cheese for good measure, and an egg. You can order it without the egg, but then it'd be a croque-monsieur and that's just not as cool.

It's one of those super-indulgent French classics...and Brasserie 19 does that classic more than justice. The thick slices of brioche are deep golden-brown and buttery crisp; The French ham is thick-cut, meaty, and salty, perfectly balancing the nutty and sharp Gruyere cheese and rich, velvety béchamel; Oh, and the expertly cooked sunny-side-up farm fresh egg on top? That's just a bonus. Break the yolk and watch in awe as it oozes over your sandwich, making it even more incredibly rich, if possible. The sandwich comes with a mountainous pile of pomme frites so crunchy and perfectly seasoned that you'll want to stuff them in your pocket for later. I already can't wait to go back for dinner and try them with steak (and that's how you know a place is good).

Then there's the pancakes Oh, the lemon ricotta pancakes! So light and airy they were practically dancing off the plate..and right into my mouth. That is, after I smothered them in salted whipped butter, the world's most wonderful real maple syrup, and a fresh blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry compote.

My god that shit was good.

Oops, I forgot I was being fancy. No matter -- no one's watching me anyway.

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