Smile Politely

Brunch it up

Brunch is a hobby of mine. I prefer to brunch regularly, and I want to brunch somewhere with damn good food. Brunch is great because it’s early enough in the day that I can still siesta afterward but not too early that I have to stick with only coffee to drink. 

I sought out the best brunch options in town, and I found five stellar options. My requirements for brunch were twofold: that there was a specific brunch menu and alcoholic drinks available. So don’t come at me saying that some place has great brunch if they don’t serve something boozy with the meal. That’s breakfast, darling.

For each brunch spot, I’ll share about what I ordered, the seating options (indoor or outdoor), the pricing, and of course, the drinks.

On a brown picnic table at the patio of Cowboy Monkey, there is a white plate with three pancakes on it. The pancakes have a dark pink syrup and a melting yellow butter. There is a hurricane glass of red sangria and a red mug of coffee behind the white plate of pancakes. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Cowboy Monkey

On Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30 a.m. until 2 in the afternoon, Cowboy Monkey serves a Tex-Mex brunch. I ordered masa pancakes with maple chipotle butter and strawberry tequila syrup ($10) with a sangria and a coffee cocktail. The pancakes were bomb: just expertly cooked. The masa flavor was subtle and buttery, and the gritty corn meal was a nice texture on the finish of every pancake bite. The butter and syrup were served on the side, but I dumped those bad boys all over my ‘cakes, and I regret nothing. The syrup started with a tequila taste and finished with a sweet strawberry flavor. The butter was softened, salted (my god, I love salted butter), and had a light chipotle kick. Altogether, it was amazing, and I highly recommend the masa pancakes. There were also omelettes, churro French toast, and more on the brunch menu. Check out the whole menu here.

With my meal, I ordered two drinks for brunch research: Aroma Amaretto ($4.50) and the red cowboy sangria ($6 on Sundays, $8 regularly). The coffee cocktail tasted like a better version of black coffee, and it was. There was a very light booze factor on this, so I could still enjoy the roast of the coffee (from Aroma Cafe, housed in the same location). The cowboy sangria was awesome: fruity and very strong. I’m talking pretty boozy: I tasted the liquor, then the red wine, then the fruit — and since my friend was driving, I enjoyed it. 

The prices of the brunch dishes range from $5 to $12, making Cowboy Monkey an affordable brunch option. Seating is available indoors at Cowboy Monkey and outside on the patio. However, I will note that I arrived at 9:36 in the morning, just six minutes after opening, and we snagged the last shady table. There are lots of tables, so do get there early — or around 10:45 when the early bird diners are leaving the best tables.

Cowboy Monkey
6 Taylor Street
M-Th 4 to 11 p.m.
F 4 p.m. to midnight
Sa 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. + 4 p.m. to midnight
Su 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. + 4 to 9 p.m.

On a parchment paper printed with words

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.


Brunch at NAYA is open from 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. on Satudays only. When I visited NAYA, I ordered the breakfast bacon-egg-and-cheese cronut sandwich ($13), and it was amazing: salty, sweet, and unique. The bacon was the boss of this sandwich: bacon stacked on stacks, coming out of the sides. It was a very bacon-y bacon sandwich. The egg was cooked fluffy and well seasoned. The cheese melted all over that thick bacon, and I couldn’t get enough. The best part — and what made this dish so unique — was NAYA replaced the bun with a cronut from Central Illinois Bakehouse. The sugar on the cronut paired with the bacon was a brunch dream come true. And the fries! They’re so skinny, crispy, and delicious. I wrote about four brunch dishes from NAYA here, if you want to see photos of what else NAYA has for brunch.

Menu items range from $8 to $13, and the brunch drink prices are the best I’ve seen in town with mimosas at $4.50 a glass and sangria for $5. I love the pineapple mimosa, and there are choices of orange or grapefruit mimosas as well. Because it’s such a good price, I usually have two. Read the whole brunch menu here (scroll all the way down for the brunch menu). Seating is available indoors only, and reservations are recommended.

212 E Green St
T+W 5 to 10 p.m.
Th 5 to 9 p.m.
F 5 to 10 p.m.
Sa 11 a.m. to 1:45 + 5 to 10 p.m.

On a white plate, there are four crostinis filled with sliced orange and green tomatoes. Behind the large plate, there is a smaller white plate with a chocolate chip scone and a mason jar glass of Bloody Mary. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery

Tucked away from town, the goat farm serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. When I visited this past Sunday, I ordered the crositini du jour, a chocolate chip scone, and the Bloody Mary. The crostini changes daily, but the crostini du jour I ordered had pretty orange and green sliced tomatoes, chévre, olive oil, balsalmic drizzle, and fresh bail. It was heavenly. There were four crostinis for $9, and they were crisp carriers for the vibrant tomato topping. The tomatoes were fresh, and they burst in my mouth atop the creamy chévre and the sweet balsalmic glaze. It was a truly lovely dish.

The chocolate chip scone ($4 plus $2 for chévre) was great. It had a lot of chocolate chips in it, and it was served with a cup of honey chévre. We used that chévre like it was butter, and it was damn good: sweet, tangy, and tasty. The Bloody Mary ($9) was made with tomatoes from Blue Moon Farm and garnished with olives, cherry tomatoes, a pickled green bean, and a hunk of feta cheese. The drink had a great peppery, herby taste. It was flavorful, and the feta with a big gulp of the drink was the best. You can only get the Bloody Mary on Sundays at the farm — and it’s the only alcoholic brunch drink on the menu here, but they have local beer and wine available in a cooler inside.

At Prairie Fruits Farm, the menu is small, and items range from $4.50 to $16. You can sit inside the newly renovated cafe or outside at one of their many large tables. We sat outside and watched sunflowers wave in the wind, visited the baby goats, and just enjoyed the beautiful weekend morning in a really peaceful place. No reservations are needed.

Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery
4410 N Lincoln Ave
F 4 to 8 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On a black patio table at Sunsinger, there is a white plate with fries and two eggs benedict. There are three small cups of sauces beside the plate. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.


Open for brunch on both Saturday and Sunday, Sunsinger serves a brunch menu in addition to most of their regular menu. I ordered the lobster eggs benedict ($16 plus $3 to upgrade my side) with a Freixenet brut ($7.50). The eggs benedict is always on the brunch menu at Sunsinger, but the special right now is the lobster eggs benedict — and it was incredible. The lobster was tender and in big pieces beneath chunked Roma tomatoes, a poached egg, and a pour of hollandaise sauce. The lobster was definitely the main attraction, and if you see it on special, go get some. The lobster claw meat was cooked well, and it was a decadent bite that I loved. Both of the eggs were perfectly poached, just a thick, eggy yolk joining with the hollandaise into the nooks of the toasted muffin, the ripples of the sautéed spinach, and all over the sweet lobster bites. 

The dish came with a choice of hashbrowns or veggie hash, but I’m not down with either. If I’m at Sunsinger, I need the truffle fries, and for $3, I ordered them. They were garlicky, salty, crispy, and fantastic. There are three special brunch drinks available, but I didn’t want to pay $7 for a mimosa when I could get some bubbly, hold the juice, for $7.50 in my split bottle of Freixenet. This little bottle of bubbles was dry, very bubbly, and poured a glass and a half — and it paired very well with the richness of the lobster eggs benedict.

Peep the regular brunch menu here. You can get dishes from $8.50 to $16 on Sunsinger’s weekend brunch menu. Seating is available indoors and on the patio overlooking Windsor. You can (and should) make a reservation here before arriving.

Sunsinger Wine & Spirits
1115 Windsor Rd
M-Th 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Fr 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

On an outdoor patio table, there is a plate with a chicken sandwich and skinny fries on a red-and-white checkered parchment paper. Beside the sandwich plate, there is a small white plate with two slices of pork belly. In the background, there is an orange slushie drink. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Watson’s Shack & Rail

Watson’s serves brunch (and their awesome brunch jams) on Sundays from 10 to 2 p.m. in Downtown Champaign. I ordered the fried chicken sandwich with a side of pork belly and a Protect Ya Nectar slush. The fried chicken sandwich ($12) was served on a soft brioche bun with a huge fried chicken thigh, pickles, lettuce, and herb mayo. It was piping hot and so tasty: the salty crunch of the chicken, the creamy mayo, and the sour pickles. I love this sandwich so much. When you order the sandwich on any other day, it comes with Watson’s thick potato wedges, but on Sundays at brunch, it comes with skinny seasoned fries which were great. I also ordered a side of pork belly ($3). If you like softer bacon, you will love pork belly. Watson’s has a sorghum-glazed pork belly, and I think it’s what bacon aspires to be. It’s thick, salty, and the glaze gives it the most amazing sweetness to go with the fatty pork. For $3, you need to try it, and let me know.

All the slushies at Watson’s are available at brunch for $8, and the Protect Ya Nectar is a classic I can’t quit. I wrote about it in this list of boozy slushies. Made with rum, mango, guava, strawberry banana nectars, triple sec, and lime juice, this boozy slush was a great complement to the fried chicken sandwich. There are lots of brunch cocktails available, and if you want, check out the brunch menu here. I also tried the Cafe Diablo (not pictured), a tequila coffee drink topped with whipped cream, and it was incredible.

The menu has brunch dishes ranging from $6 to $17. Watson’s has seating available inside as well as a few tables outside in front and beside the restaurant. You can make your reservation here, and you should because this is a popular spot.

Watson’s Shack & Rail
211 N Neil St
T-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Su 4 to 9 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

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