Breakfast and Brunch

Brunch of the Week: A Secluded South Pearl Morning at Hanson's

Chicken-fried steak makes for a hearty brunch at Hanson's.
Chicken-fried steak makes for a hearty brunch at Hanson's. Bridget Wood
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.

click to enlarge The Impossible Burger is vegan — but I cheated. - BRIDGET WOOD
The Impossible Burger is vegan — but I cheated.
Bridget Wood
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.

click to enlarge The fenced-in patio at Hanson's is a cozy place to enjoy brunch. - BRIDGET WOOD
The fenced-in patio at Hanson's is a cozy place to enjoy brunch.
Bridget Wood
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.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bridget Wood is a contributor to Westword’s Food & Drink section. She can be found wandering Denver, mimosa in hand, searching for the best brunch spots the city has to offer. She spends her weekends shopping for obscure records and working on the Sunday crossword puzzle. Despite her Boston roots, she is learning to love green chile.