Have you ever noticed that people don’t eat brunch, they do brunch. Well I don’t. Well not very often. On Saturdays, I’m usually too busy shopping for food. On Sundays, I’m usually too busy doing nothing (currently that means winding my way down the list of the top 100 film noirs ever made).
But last Sunday we needed Chinese vermicelli from Supermercado Bonanza. And so off we traipsed down Calle Mesones, dum diddy dum diddy dumming the theme from the old Sunday night TV show. Bonanza just happens to be quite close to Hank’s. And, Hank’s might be, quite simply, the home of San Miguel’s very best bargain brunch.
I remember the first time I saw Hank’s brunch menu. It was one of those you’ve got to be kidding moments. A fruit plate, corn muffins, beignets, eggs benny and a mimosa. All for 135 pesos. I’ve paid more than that just for a mimosa!
There are about 20 dishes on the brunch menu including a couple of seldom seen New Orleans classics. Eggs Sardou has creamed spinach and artichokes. Eggs Baronne includes crab cakes. My choice though was a dish that New York not New Orleans takes credit for. I’m talking about the old faithful, the classic, the best friend hollandaise sauce ever had, Eggs Benedict.
As everyone knows, the second biggest cause of broken marriages is because neither partner knows how to make hollandaise sauce (the biggest cause is when both know how). Personally possessing only the skill to open a Knorr Swiss foil package, I still remember my excitement when I saw Brennan’s New Orleans Cookbook in Don Day’s Wife’s dowry.
Last Saturday, I tried to barter half of my benny if she’d order a Montecristo and give half of that to me. But no. It was bennies for two.
We commented about it being such a shame that, as usual, Hank’s was mostly empty at lunchtime. But, full or empty, service is pretty much always the same at Hank’s. Friendly, courteous, fast and efficient.
The mimosas, made from a decent brut Italian sparkler, were the right balance of bubbles and fresh squeezed juice.
The fruit plate had pineapple, watermelon, kiwi, plum, papaya, honeydew and cantaloupe. The canteloupe was, unfortunately, what we call airplane melon, meaning it could have done with a couple more weeks on the vine, but, otherwise, it was a sweet, juicy and impressively wide selection of fruit.
Next up, beignets, the very rarely seen beignets, because kitchens don’t like beignets. Because bad beignets can sink to the bottom of an ocean. Hank’s kitchen can be proud of their beignets. They float like fluffy cumulus puffs.
More good baked goods arrived next. Warm corn muffins.
Plus creamy butter and strawberry jam. They should come with a warning: Do not eat more than half a muffin or it will be absolutely impossible to enjoy the upcoming plate of Eggs Benedict.
Don Day’s Wife stuck to the half muffin rule but still did her hold the tummy, puff the cheeks bit to show how full she was (she disallowed my use of the photo). The large amount of food for such a small amount of money borders on the insane.
The perfectly cooked eggs (just about to turn hard yolks) arrived on homemade muffins. All baked goods but Hank’s baguette are sort of homemade. That sort of is best explained by manager Big Bob (big as opposed to average size Bob who is Hank’s majority owner).
“They’re not baked in our kitchen here”, said Big Bob, “a minor owner of Hank’s also has a bakery and everything is done there.”
Don Day’s Wife and I were sat at a high-top in the bar area. We watched one, two, ten, maybe twenty eggs benny pass by within about fifteen minutes. It’s obvious what the first choice of Hank’s brunch menu items is. But I always wonder, what does everyone else think of the hollandaise?
You see, this isn’t traditional hollandaise. Hank’s hollandaise has an extra ingredient. Chile. Now I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like chefs messing with the tried and true. But there are exceptions. The Mexicanization of the sauce, the addition of a little heat, works. And, even though I wouldn’t always want my Eggs Benedict this way, a change is as good as…well you know what.
There’s one more thing you should have at Hank’s brunch. And it’s not even included in that tiny tab. You should have a coffee. Because Hank’s coffee is, as the old Maxwell House (does any one drink that stuff anymore?) campaign said, good to the very last drop.
“Let me get the check, Honey”, I said to Don Day’s Wife. “You can pick up dinner tonight.”
Hank’s New Orleans Cafe & Oyster Bar is located at Hidalgo 12 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Brunch is served on Sundays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.