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Zocalo.

Just enough time for a quick, down and dirty review of Zocalo. My husband and I went there for Sunday brunch with my brother-in-law when he was in town for a visit. We went on Sunday, because evidently most of Charlottesville hasn’t heard of going out to brunch on Saturday. That still floors me, no brunch on Saturday? What gives? In Pittsburgh, most places have lines out the door by 10am on a Saturday because everyone is in a rush to get to the Strip to go shopping. I guess here everyone is so wasted from partying on the Mall Friday night? WTF? Sigh. Who knows, but this old fart sure could use with a few more places open for brunch on Saturday. And I’m not talking “lunch” menus either – I want to see eggs daggumit!

Anyway, I’ve heard from a few folks that they thought Zocalo’s brunch menu was pricey, but I have to disagree. Unless you’re “dinering” it for brunch, you gotta expect to pay a little for those mimosas and fancy hollandaise. And most of the time you do get what you pay for. Not always mind you, I’ve been burned by more than one $40 hotel buffet line. In the case of Zocalo, I think the prices are more than fair for what you get. The food is super yummy, the atmosphere is awesome, and the Bloody Mary’s are the best I’ve had almost anywhere (notice I said, “almost”).

Our food was scrumptious. FINALLY. A place that knows how to cook breakfast potatoes! I ordered the crab cakes which were just all right (I could tell the crab wasn’t the freshest) but the addition of poached eggs added a lot of creaminess to the dish – great idea. And the potatoes! Sliced ultra thin, cooked until done with shallots and peppers. Cooked until DONE, not soggy and limp. Crispy, crunchy, brown chewiness. The people in my party kept stealing slices off my plate, grrrrr….They must have been organic local fingerlings or something, because these were seriously the BEST breakfast potatoes I’ve ever had, and consequently, I’ve spent every weekend since trying to replicate them with my own ration from the CSA. The secret? Not sure, but I’m sure a cast iron pan is involved….

Had a taste of the Huevos Zocalo that both my husband and his brother ordered. Equally yummy, and very pleased to note the chorizo was actually spicy. Too often it says “chorizo” and is just plain sausage. Smoky, spicy chorizo is always good.

Speaking of spice – the Bloody Marys were seriously awesome. Generous amount of vodka, lots of “stuff” added (celery, olive, jalapeno) and the mix itself had a ton of crap floating around – it looked like the East River of Bloody Marys! In my book, “tons of crap” equals a superior bloody. I kept tasting it to see what it had. It wasn’t overly spicy or full of Old Bay (which actually is my favorite kind) but it had more of an herb quality to it. As a Bloody Mary conneissuer, I would rank it as near to or equal what still remains my favorite – Jeff’s Bloody Marys at Roland’s in Pittsburgh. Also Sam ‘n Omie’s in the Outer Banks, and one I had in Atlanta that had salt on the rim. This was equally good, just different.

Really liked the outdoor patio too – smack dab in the heart of the Downtown Mall, but just off the center, so it was pretty quiet. Good people watching without everyone looking down at your plate to eavesdrop on your brunch – best of both worlds.

All in all a superior brunch – the service was nice, the food was great, the atomosphere equally great, the bloodys outstanding. I might not make it a weekend habit or anything because of the prices, but for a special weekend out, or to treat out of towners, Zocalo is a good brunch choice.

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