Perennial farmers market favorite Foxy Falafel thrilled fans when owner Erica Strait (below) opened a restaurant of the same moniker in the old Caribe space in St. Paul this summer, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that Strait and her friendly staff opened their doors for brunch. And after sampling the Middle Eastern-inspired breakfast dishes in the small but homey dining room Saturday morning, we found ourselves asking: Erica, what took you so long? Not only does she serve up her signature falafel and sabich sandwiches, but Strait brings together a variety of tempting dishes, for both carnivores and herbivores, gluten-free and gluten-friendly, that make brunch into a spicy, savory, and entirely satisfactory affair — even without a strip of bacon.
Yes, Virginia, you can have a bloody amazing brunch without bacon (but still with a Bloody Mary). You won’t miss the pig when you order the chicken two ways ($13.75, below), a gloriously tender, meaty monster of a thigh cooked confit-style and served on the bone. “I debated whether to put it on the brunch menu, but it’s just too good to pass up,” Strait told us as she greeted her first brunch guests.
Take her advice — the succulent, well-seasoned meat melts in the mouth, and even if you don’t normally eat the skin, you’ll want to savor every crispy morsel. The chicken itself is reason to swoon, but add a perfectly poached egg, a tumble of sweet, toothsome butternut squash hash, and a generous drizzle of saffron aioli, and you have a dish you’ll be thinking about well into the evening. No ingredient is extraneous, not even the side of toast because it’s top-notch sourdough from Sun Street Breads and mops up the remnants of that egg with aplomb.
If you prefer something a little lighter to start your day, select the shakshuka ($11.50, pictured top and above), a popular Israeli breakfast dish featuring eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce. A different animal than the version we tried at Shish Cafe earlier this year, Strait’s feta-sprinkled shakshuka sauce offers more spice and a smoother consistency, with plenty of leftovers in which to swipe more of that sourdough toast. The small side salad breaks through the heat with the cooling crunch of lettuce and a preserved lemon and goat cheese dressing.
A mix of traditional American (gluten-free buckwheat pancakes, yogurt parfait) and Mediterranean-influenced (harissa-topped lamb burger, vegetable- or meat-stuffed barikas) dishes round out the menu, along with a rotating variety of gluten-free muffins and scones — watch for the tender-crumbed scone studded with cheese and scallions ($3, above) — and breakfast cocktails. Comforting and craveable, the Foxy brunch is worth driving across town to enjoy. And luckily, you don’t have to wait until the 2013 farmers market season starts to try it.
Middle Eastern fare in St. Paul
791 Raymond Ave
St. Paul, MN 55114
OWNER / CHEF: Erica Strait
HOURS: Brunch served Sat-Sun 10am-2pm
Lunch / dinner served Mon-Sat 11am-9pm
BAR: Beer and wine
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $7-14 for brunch