Brunch is this lawless canvas for culinary artistry and deviance. Booze in the AM, waffles in the afternoon, a weekend outlet for the fiendish cravings we didn’t even know we had.
St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar is the latest addition to downtown Raleigh’s brunch offerings, serving Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m. Chef Sunny Gerhart’s take on brunch follows the Cajun tone set by St. Roch’s dinner menu, with many dishes heavy on spice, sausage and seafood.
Raleigh and other North Carolina cities are still only months into true followers of brunchism, after last year’s passing of the so-called Brunch Bill allowed restaurants to serve alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays.
In addition to oysters shucked or roasted, St. Roch does brunch with a pair of waffles – one sweet and topped with fruit and maple syrup, another savory and stuffed with sausage and topped with creole cane syrup. In place of doughnuts, Gerhart serves his dinner dessert, a mound of brioche beignets, the New Orleans breakfast icon, served here with bourbon caramel sauce.
Shrimp and grits is done here with rich and buttery barbecued shrimp. The sure-fire hangover cure might be the cornmeal Johnny Cake, topped with collards and mole and two sunny side-up eggs and crumbled Mexican cheese. There are traditional sides: grits, home fries, bacon and a big biscuit and jam.
For more of a savory lunch dish, the fired catfish po’boy comes wiht roasted tomato and Tabasco aioli.
For drinks, St. Roch gets creative. The best name is “Mary Smokes When She Drinks,” a Bloody Mary riff made with smoked tomato juice and hot sauce. There’s also a matcha gimlet for those craving the popular green tea, but also gin.
Gerhart, a Poole’s Diner alum, opened St. Roch last May in the former Joule coffee shop at 223 S. Wilmington St. It’s proven to be a quality debut for Gerhart, earning a four-star review from N&O dining critic Greg Cox and cultivated a following of oyster slurping fans.
Adding brunch service also turns St. Roch into an all-day oyster bar. Dinner still starts at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, but the oyster bar will continue shucking from 2 to 5 p.m.
Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson