Brunch review: Third & Hollywood

  • Photos by Jodi Miller
From the December 15, 2011 edition

With Christmas mercilessly inching up on me, I can get a little Grinchy. Frankly, I can’t stand corny yuletide carols. And rather than relaxing holidays, to me, bat-crap-crazy shoppers conjure up images of something a lot more like the apocalypse.

Anyway, on a recent Saturday, I awoke late, hungry and in a mood more foul than the December weather; gloomily, I thought it was really beginning to look a lot like Doomsday. But as despair was taking root, I had this Eureka flash: I needed to treat myself to a hopefully healing and certainly indulgent brunch at Third and Hollywood!

Pulling up to that Grandview stalwart, I could smell nostalgically comforting wood smoke wafting outside. Sure enough, inside, a smiling worker was stoking a large stone hearth. Gazing along the duskily lit, lengthy and handsome bar, I saw warmly glowing lamps prettily lined up. Hearing music I truly love — Thelonious Monk playing with John Coltrane — I figured if the brunchtime food would live up to the restaurant’s casually sophisticated and pampering ambiance as well as its reliable lunch and dinner fare, then surely a Christmas miracle had lured me here.

But first there would be drinks. Third & Hollywood offers great midday quaffs like homemade ginger ale ($4), Boylan’s sodas ($2), French-press coffee ($4), a full range of carefully shaken cocktails (like a salty, rich and peppery Bloody Mary, $9) and fresh juices ($4). I freestyled by requesting a vodka spike in my just-squeezed grapefruit juice; the pure-flavored result was so inspired, I highly recommend it.

Foodwise, you can order off the regular menu, but since the restaurant’s six brunch items are available only 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday through Sunday, they have a special-occasion air about them. After eating my way through most of that lineup, I can attest that what this place does with the basic building blocks of breakfast elevates potentially cliche meals into actual treats. Clearly this owes something to the high quality of Third & Hollywood’s building blocks of eggs (organic Ohio), bread (rich brioche), cheese (potent gouda and gruyere), plus prosciutto-like and justifiably famous Benton’s ham (no relation) — but it’s also meticulous execution. Here’s a taste:

• Winter Vegetable Strada ($12) Basically eggy and savory bread puddings, stradas are criminally under-represented on local menus. This masterpiece could change that. Approximately the size of Pittsburgh, it’s crusty on the exterior, soft in the middle, packed with salty ham, kale, roasty butternut squash and gooey gruyere — and it comes with a terrific arugula salad for bright contrasts.

• Croque Madame ($13): This classic French-style munch is like an inside-out and outside-in sandwich — and it’s a grand-slam. Two slabs of extra crispy griddled Texas toasty bread enclosed fistfuls of salty ham, sharp cheese and a fried egg. Gilding the lily on top: more melted cheese and another fried egg, sunnyside up. Comes with a salad — ask for the butternut squash, arugula and goat cheese.

• Iron Skillet Chorizo and Eggs ($14): A swarm of Southwestern goodies — corn, avocado, black beans, chorizo (though kielbasa-ish), and salsa-y things — formed a sorta loose hash united by melted cheddar. Kicky, filling and fun.

• Deep Dish French Toast ($12): Served in a cute mini casserole dish, it’s baked like a cake and tastes like a dream. Made with banana butter and a “brioche custard,” its crusty top is graced with Nutella, toasted hazelnuts and fresh banana. Verdict: This beauty could enlarge the heart of any Grinchy Christmas pessimist!