#56: Brioche French Toast at Half & Half
Half & Half (8135 Maryland Avenue; 314-725-0719), St. Louis' newest breakfast and brunch eatery, despite being surrounded by breakfast and brunch giants like First Watch, Companion and the City Coffeehouse and Creperie, is becoming a legend in its own right. The menu offers a wide variety of brunch classics and bottomless refills of the restaurant's signature, freshly brewed coffee.
While it's hard to decide on a favorite item, the restaurant's brioche French toast takes the proverbial cake. French toast is tricky -- you can either get it very wrong, or very right. Bread slices are often drowned in egg, and collapse under the weight of the batter. Or worse -- they end up burned in the frying pan, blackened to within an inch of their life.
Half & Half's French toast, however, is nothing short of perfection. Two thick slices of brioche are lightly fried in egg batter, and while the crusts are crispy and browned, the inside is light and fluffy. A hint of vanilla and lemon zest gives the toast a doughnuty taste, all while retaining an airy texture. And what's French toast without maple syrup? A small cup perches on the side of the plate, inviting you to increase the sweetness at your discretion.
Half & Half isn't flashy. The restaurant is understated, and the menu is printed on notebook-style paper, as if the chef just scribbled the day's offerings. Yet, this simplicity creates the backdrop for real, delicious food, and the Brioche French Toast is a fine example. The toast doesn't pretend or try too hard- and in doing so, it tops our list of St. Louis brunch fare.
Beginning last year, RFT restaurant critic Ian Froeb counted down -- in no particular order -- 100 of his favorite dishes in St. Louis. Now Gut Check has taken up where he left off. Check back frequently as we detail our 100 favorites, and don't hesitate to send us yours, too, either via the comments thread or at email@example.com.