Hanson’s Grill & Tavern, at the corner of East Louisiana Avenue and Pearl Street, looks like a typical neighborhood bar from the outside, but a secluded back patio and a new brunch menu make for a peaceful brunch retreat in Platt Park. Chef Isiah Vilante has been in the culinary industry for fourteen years and at Hanson’s for the last year. Since coming on board, Vilante has revamped the menu, including weekend brunch. “Brunch is the first meal of the day, and I want to set the bar high,” he says.
The menu doesn't stray too far from tradition, with eggs Benedict, waffles and other standards, but the chicken-fried steak caught my eye. It's not something I'd typically choose for brunch, but I took a chance on something different — and I’m glad that I did. The beef was tender under its crunchy, fried coating, which held up well against a smothering of creamy, peppery white gravy. The dish comes with breakfast potatoes, eggs, bacon and toast. Chicken-fried steak can often be tough or gristly, but here it was butter-soft. Everything on the plate, including the grilled sourdough toast, was treated with respect.
While the brunch menu is small, Hanson's also offers its lunch menu during brunch — a great move since Vilante has a way with burgers. But of the half-dozen varieties listed, the chef surprisingly recommended the Impossible Burger. This is one of the few items not made in-house, but it turns out to be a great option for those avoiding meat, since it's a vegan product (until you add cheddar and bacon, like I did) that's nearly impossible to distinguish from ground beef. I subbed in the Impossible patty on Vilante's Jameson burger, which is how the bacon and cheddar got there, along with a sweet sauce the chef makes by reducing two quarts of Jameson whiskey per batch (unfortunately, the alcohol cooks off in the process).
Vilante has also spent time as a pastry chef, so I went against my usual brunch instincts and tried his chocolate mousse. The silky mousse fills a parfait cup and comes with a cloud of housemade whipped cream and two crunchy pieces of almond bark.
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The drinks menu doesn't hold any surprises at brunch, but Hanson's also stocks a few interesting local beers on tap. This may not be paradise for day drinkers looking for creative cocktails or unusual mimosas, but the food definitely makes up for it.
The patio is a cute oasis that reflects the neighborhood's style, with lots of greenery, including forty-year-old grape vines (which sadly no longer produce grapes) growing along fence-top trellises. But if overhead misters and twinkly lights aren’t your thing, you you can stay cool in the darker upstairs game lounge, which offers free pool and foosball as well as a jukebox.
Hanson's Grill & Tavern is located at 1301 South Pearl Street and serves brunch beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Call 303-744-1052 for more details.