As time goes on, one continues to witness the bastardization of the term "brunch" across the United States. So when I hear it nowadays — my mind kind of goes fuzzy in a lot of ways. I don't want to overanalyze, but it is an easy thing to blow out of proportion, social statuses and all. But, not all hope is lost, because when you hit a good brunch — it rules, basically redeeming all hope in the idea that not everything has to be converted into a sociocultural bragging point.
OK, apologies. I know we're just trying to check out what brunch options are available in Champaign-Urbana. So all that said, there are plenty of good options. This is why we're on the Brunch Hunt at all times.
When you're making a plan though, finding the right scope mixed with a decent pricepoint can be a battle. When MIGA announced they had updated their menu, we paid a visit shortly thereafter. With the known vision of MIGA's Asian-infused American cuisine — we were interested to test things out.
A group of four of us paid a visit to MIGA on the first Sunday they rolled out the new menu, and we were able to try a variety of items on said menu (check it out, y'all). This included a few cocktails along the way. The restuarant was filling up fairly quickly even though we'd just sat down — a good sign especially on the first morning of serving this particular brunch menu. We weren't the only ones looking forward to this.
We sat and sipped on a couple of cocktails — the Jillian (pictured upwards and right, vodka: soju, lime, green tea, honey, club soda, orchid) and the Hada Verde (pictured left, mezcal, chartreuse, maraschino, lime, absinthe) — both refreshing and crisp, especially the Jillian. The Hada Verde is especially appealing to those of you out there that are big fans of absinthe and mezcal — a quite potent way to awaken on a Sunday late morning or early afternoon, no doubt.
While there are a variety of options throughout the cocktail menu, we had a couple (with plenty of coffee, of course), and moved onto the dishes that were about to hit our table.
Now starts the main event:
Ground Ribeye Melt Toast ($12)
Considering there was a recent discussion on this here magazine about grilled cheese — ahem, melts — around town, this is something that can surely enter the conversation in some way. The Ground Ribeye Melt felt like something that belonged in that discussion, but a cut above in a few ways — while the "melt" component was a central fixture of the sandwich, it felt like a secondary component once you tasted what topped it: mushrooms, pickled radish, sprouts, carrots, egg, and cucumber. All of that freshly topped on the brioche, it wasn't so bad that the delicious ribeye was something that showed up afterwards. All complementary.
Perhaps the star of the brunch ended up being the Smoked Salmon Poke Rice Bowl because of a few reasons. Though a poke bowl is traditionally filled with cubed cold fish (oftentimes tuna), this poke bowl featured smoked salmon, a seaweed salad, shitake mushrooms, carrots, egg and more. While it wasn't quite that (the salmon is delivered cold, yes, but not cubed), it honestly didn't matter because this was so plentiful and refreshing. The portion is fairly deceiving, I felt like I kept going back for more while the dish didn't deplete whatsoever. Obviously, we eventually completed it — but you get the point. The smoked salmon was just smokey enough while not overpowering the rest of the dish, and if you're in search of a light and plentiful dish all at the same time, this is a wonderful option, especially if you're in the mood to eat veggies and rice with a few complementary components.
Smoked Salmon Poke Rice Bowl ($12)
Our table shared another salmon-based dish — the Smoked Salmon Caper Toast — which is fairly straightforward: salmon, cream cheese, caper, shaved red onion, egg and parsley on brioche. Again, the salmon was approached as a fairly well-smoked feature in the egg-and-toast breakfast basic, with a twist. Capers were plentiful, and it reminded me a of a traditional bagel and lox delivered MIGA-style. A delight that wasn't too overbearing, combining a few simple concepts into one.
Smoked Salmon Caper Toast ($12)
As if we didn't have enough food in our system at this point, we ventured forward to test out a new-ish brunch tradition: chicken and waffles. Oh yes. You can find chicken and waffles in a few places in C-U, Watson's being one of them, but this was a fairly new seafood-injected version of what has become synonymous with brunch these days. While the waffles we recieved seemed a bit dry, once you doused it with the maple syrup and the butter melted a little bit — one could go to town. The chicken was boneless, and the shrimp was pretty difficult to differentiate if you weren't paying attention — so with a little bit more heat on the waffles, this one has some hustle.
Chicken & Shrimp Waffle ($12)
This brings us to what would be known as the dessert of the brunch — french toast and pancakes. Oof — though we had our work cut out for us after all of that, we powered through with some sweetness left in the brunch.
From a personal perspective — french toast is one of my absolute favorite dishes to order at breakfast. It is simply traditional and delicious, and can be combined with a variety of fruits along the way, whether that's banana or strawberry or blueberry or an endless number of other options. In this scenario, it functioned as more of a sweet ending than it did a main entree — though topped with peaches and berries, it could certainly pull off either/or, the entree or the dessert (if split amongst a group of humans). While the presentation seemed slightly lacking compared to the rest of the pictureque dishes, at the end of the day, the whipped cream makes you forget all about that side of things. I asked for a side of maple syrup even though it didn't come with it because, well, c'mon now. A little bit of that never hurt anyone.
Vanilla Cream Cheese French Toast ($11)
Maple Butter Pancake ($11)
In addition to the french toast, the pancake played an additional closer role as a dessert in this situation — and while it was delicious, perhaps an additional pancake would've made the $11 pricetag a no-brainer. However, that's a fairly large 'cake, so it could go either way depending on appetite. All told, a good option.
But wait, there's more.
There were a few children there with us in our group, and the waitstaff was super accommodating. I mean, look at how adorable this is? This is probably the cutest execution of scrambled egg presentation I've ever seen.
If you're in need of a solid go-to brunch option in Champaign-Urbana, and want to find something that is approachable yet adverturous at the same time, MIGA might be the best place for you to visit. $12 across the board, for the most part, is a fine price for these dishes. I'm looking forward to going back to try the rest at some point in the near future.
Photos by Justine Bursoni.
MIGA is located at 301 N. Neil St. Ste #104 in Downtown Champaign. Brunch is available on Sundays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.