See also: Get Up for Brunch at Root Down
The Bean's brunch only happens on Sundays, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; bingo fun begins at 1 p.m. We made a reservation just to make sure we'd get a front row seat for all the action, but there were plenty of empty tables around, which our server said wasn't typical -- but better safe than sorry. Hosted by local comedian Sam Tallent, this is an activity best for the afternoon crowd of Sunday drinkers, with brash jokes of the junior-high-school-boy variety. Tallent also has quite the booming voice (which my hangover did not appreciate) and has no problem mocking guests, so unless you're looking to participate in the games, come early or sit on the small patio, otherwise there's no escaping Bingo Bonanza. And don't wear anything too out-of-the-ordinary if you don't want to get called out by the host (sorry hipster orange-pants dude). Despite the modest turnout early on, the entire dining room eventually filled with big groups getting rowdy.
Since it's Bingo, prizes are part of the game. Winners in the first hour receive gag gifts in mystery brown paper bags (a screwdriver?) or brunch items: a bottle of prosecco, a plate of bacon, a jug of mimosas. The second hour is where the higher value prizes are won -- if you can call Casa Bonita gift cards and shots of booze prizes -- with a $50 Squeaky Bean gift card as the weekly grand prize.
A chic, lofty interior decorated with reclaimed wood and three-tiered chandeliers made of spoons, the Bean is airy and welcoming. It's a good place to ease into the day, with plenty of natural light. Cool retro accents like an old movie theater wall and shrines to various celebrities add hipness without being overstated.
The servers encourage hanging out if you'd like to continue playing Bingo after your meal is done, so you don't have to eat slowly to keep the fun going. There were no kids around, although there were prizes for the youngsters, so it seemed like it could be fun for the whole family if you don't mind exposing your kids to Tallent's humor. The competition is all in good fun, but if there are multiple "Bingos" in one round, the winner is decided by shotgunning a beer -- so consider yourself warned.
Squeaky Bean is known for its innovative nighttime cocktail program, with menu sections devoted to liquid nitrogen drinks and fizzy creations; the brunch options are no less daring. The bar also offers standard mimosas (orange or grapefruit) and Bloody Marys. We opted to stay sober with chilled tomato juice and iced tea.
All brunch guests receive a flavor-of-the-week mini-doughnut as an amuse -- the perfect light and doughy bite-size portion to start the meal. The apple-blueberry filling in this week's doughnuts were the ideal, sweet, end-of-summer treat.
My shrimp and grits (one of my can't-resist dishes), smelled overwhelmingly fishy but tasted better than the initial shell shock. The grits were topped with a perfectly poached egg that, when broken, mixed with the Choron sauce (a tomato-enhanced variation of classic Bearnaise) to become one of the richest, creamiest bowls I've ever consumed. Chunks of prosciutto added more decadence but also provided textural contrast.
My friend Alison ordered eggs Benedict, which come either with one variety or with one each of the three choices: bacon, veggie and smoked salmon. Feeling adventurous, we opted to sample them all. Sitting on toasted sourdough instead of a traditional English muffin, the bacon and salmon versions stuck close to the classic standard, although you could definitely taste the quality of fish used in the paper-thin, lightly salty cuts. The real standout, though, was the veggie Benedict (and this is coming from a serious carnivore), with mushrooms, artichokes, and multiple types of peppers -- grown on the the restaurant's own Bean Acres farm -- all seasoned and roasted to perfection.
The chef was looking for input on a new dish, so he also sent out his version of chicken and waffles for us to try, a dish that will be on the menu starting in the next few weeks. There was a lot happening on the plate: two whole-grain waffles with cream cheese, house-made sage chicken sausage, a fried egg and figs, elegantly decorated with sorpressata and white cheddar bites. Complex, sweet and salty, the mix of tastes and textures might be great as an appetizer or as a dish to share but seemed a little too over-the-top for a traditional breakfast plate.
With the boisterous crowd, some good-natured heckling and delicious food, the Bean delivered a great brunch with a side of free entertainment. Bingo!
Brunch: it's a time-honored tradition, a mingling of friends over bottomless mimosas for chatting and gluttonous gorging on pancake stacks and egg creations. If your typical Sunday morning debate goes back and forth between heading to the reliable greasy spoon or someplace new and trendy, indecision could have you growing roots in the couch. Meanwhile, wait times at Denver favorites won't get any shorter. So that's where Out to Brunch comes in: In this weekly feature, Lauren Monitz will explore new places and revisit the old faithfuls to help you decide where to go on your next brunch adventure.