Love to sleep in? Check. Enjoy conversations with friends over a fantastic meal? Check. Totally open to a socially acceptable reason to enjoy a grown-up beverage before noon?  Yeah, that too. These are just a few of the many reasons why brunch is one of our favorite meals events.

If you haven’t tried it (waking up late on Sunday and enjoying a cold piece of leftover pizza doesn’t count #beentheredonethat), we’re here to usher you into a land of (butter) milk (waffles) and honey (roasted pecan cinnamon rolls).  

It doesn’t have to be fancy…
Brunchers and brunch restaurants come in all different shapes and sizes. Some people like to dress up, get their classy on and find the swankiest spot in the neighborhood. Others roll out of bed, beckoned solely by the promise of eggs benedict and bloody marys at an out-of-this-world hole in the wall restaurant. No matter what your style, brunch is right up your ally. That said, you should know the code of the restaurant you’re trying before you go.  Here are some tips to keep in mind:
–    Is it a family friendly place? If you’re bringing kids, this is important to know.  It’s equally important if you prefer to dine in a more grown-up environment.
–     Do they allow pets? Believe it or not, many restaurants have outdoor seating and (in warmer weather) welcome well-behaved pets on a leash.
–     If you want to imbibe, do they have time restrictions on when they can serve? Some counties have liquor license rules that won’t let restaurants serve alcohol before a certain time. (What’s up, Wheaton, IL!)
–    Should you expect a long wait? This is an important part of your brunch-planning process. If you’re headed to a popular restaurant, they may not take reservations. In which case you might need to employ some guerilla brunch tactics – aka send a friend ahead of the pack to hop on the wait list. Be careful though, many places won’t seat you until your entire party is present.

…It just has to be delicious – With brunch, you can be as adventurous or traditional with your fare as you want. Sometimes I order an amazing quiche filled with cheeses and meats that I can barely pronounce. At other times, I go for the stack of blueberry pancakes with butter-pecan syrup that would make my grandmother proud. Whether you’re looking for a bold, new flavor sensation, or just in the mood for some breakfast comfort food, brunch is where it’s at.

Eggstrordinary Options
o    Omelets – a staple of any brunch menu. Try to order something that sounds just slightly fancier than a dish you would make at home. This helps justify the extra cost of eating out and makes your omelet feel sort of special. (HINT: Most restaurant omelets are made with three eggs, which makes for a giant single serving. Unless you’re planning to take some home with you, ask for yours to be made with 2 eggs for a more manageable portion).
o    Benedicts – Eggs benedict is made with two English muffin halves, Canadian bacon or ham, two poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce (a creamy, buttery sauce with a lemon undertone). The original is great all by itself, but many brunch restaurants offer incredible variations on this theme. Look for vegetarian friendly (ovo-lacto, of course) options that have tomato slices or spinach, hearty beefed up versions with small filets, or get your Omega-3 fix with a smoked salmon rendition.
o    Frittatas – a word that basically means your eggs decided to have a rockin’ party in a skillet with their potato, cheese and meat friends, sometimes they even invite the veggies for a little color. Frittatas are filling, delicious and very versatile.  True frittatas have the eggs scrambled with everything else cooked in. Skillet options will be a mix of ingredients with your choice of egg style on top.

Pancakes and waffles and crepes, oh my – If sweets and griddle cakes are what you’re looking for, brunch is your new best friend. Not only can you get traditional versions of all your faves, many brunch restaurants are experts at amping up the flavor (aka sugar) factor. Items like Silver Dollar ‘Smores Pancakes, Toffee-Walnut Belgian Waffles, and Banana-Nutella Crepes are some of the choices you’re likely to see. While they may send you into a sugar coma later, these plates are guaranteed palate pleasers.

Drink up, me hearties – Let’s be honest, one of the best reasons for going to brunch is the fact that you can order a drink, in the morning, and no one will judge you. This boozy hall pass should be used with caution. Meaning, resist the urge to order a scotch with your eggs and opt for a more brunch appropriate beverage like a…
o    Bloody Mary – tomato juice, vodka, lots of spices and a few vegetables for garnish. If you don’t like a lot of spice, ask for a mild version, but if you can take the heat, extra Tabasco sauce, horseradish and pepper can take this drink to the next level. Some brunch places will even have a Bloody Mary bar that allows you to mix your own concoction.
o    Mimosa – another standard brunch drink option. Champagne or sparkling wine and orange juice combine to make a light and bubbly beverage. Change it up and try a slight variation on this mix with bubbly and peach puree (a Bellini), grapefruit juice (a Grapefruit Sparkler), or St. Germaine, a light, floral and slightly fruity liquor (The Hummingbird).

Location, location, location – No offense to a certain restaurant that rhymes with Lenny’s (raise your hand if you remember those commercials from the 90’s!), your chocolate milkshakes are to-die-for, and Moons Over My-Hammy will always have a special place in our hearts. But you can hit up a breakfast chain anytime. Brunch is something different and we recommend finding a restaurant with a special brunch menu. As in, they don’t normally serve breakfast items. We take it as a sign they’re committed to offering a tasty brunch experience. However, if you know of a breakfast restaurant that serves the best cinnamon rolls you’ve ever had, or an early morning diner that can do amazing things with eggs, sleep in this weekend and head out for brunch. Why mess with a good thing, right?

There are plenty of brunch menu and atmosphere combinations out there. These are just a few of the things we keep in mind when heading out for a tasty mid-morning meal. We’d love to hear your brunch secrets. Where do you go for the best brunch in your neighborhood? Let us know!

FirstBites shares pictures, thoughts and advice about the foods and flavors you’ve always wanted to try. Hungry for more? Check out our guides to tapas, sushi and Indian food