By Jeff Kosmacher
Bobby Sweet & Lara Tupper at The Starving Artist
“Let’s meet for brunch.” Who doesn’t love that suggestion? It evokes such a great vibe of hanging out around food and conversation, along with, if you like, permission to start drinking early. As if brunch wasn’t already a sublime creation, we must also celebrate whomever was inspired to add live music to the menu. Honestly, you can drop me into the sensory pleasures of a musical brunch and I will soon lose all track of time.
Lucky for us, the glorious alliance of brunch and live music is alive and well in our region, with inspired culinary and melodic offerings.
The Starving Artist Creperie & Café
Musical brunch began the very Sunday this downtown eatery opened in 2011. “I still remember it like it was yesterday,” recounts manager Emmy Davis. “We had The Easy Ridin' Papas
play.” The laid-back place favors acoustic guitarists, with small jazz combos mixed in, all locally sourced (as is their art gallery). Brunch includes more breakfast items than their primary menu. A favorite is the Beet Sweet Hash crepe — sautéed local roasted beets, caramelized onions, uncured organic bacon, sweet potatoes and red potatoes, and local goat cheese, topped with two local sunny side eggs. Or go sweeter, with the crunchy breakfast crepe made with organic sliced bananas and strawberries, and topped with homemade granola, Greek yogurt and local maple syrup.
Brunch Hours: Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m., music 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
40 Main St., Lee, MA
It’s no coincidence that music (bluegrass, blues, jazz or gospel) is on the brunch menu here every Saturday and Sunday, considering the owner is Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates fame. Top touring and regional acts are on stage while you dine, such as on a recent snowy Saturday when I had the great fortune to hear two sets by the banjoist Hubby Jenkins from the Carolina Chocolate Drops. This club, with its rustic and open feel, also takes good care of your tastebuds. Fried chicken and waffles, brioche French toast, and the crabmeat and avocado omelette are fan favorites. Or you can sink your teeth into a burger or fish and chips.
Brunch hours: Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., music noon-2:30 p.m.
130 Route 22, Pawling, NY
The Rhinecliff Hotel
Sunday jazz brunch here goes back to 2008, when this haven alongside the Hudson (and an Amtrak station) re-opened after a thorough restoration. Look forward to a casual and fun atmosphere. The full English breakfast is hard to find anywhere else in the area — sausages, bacon, blood pudding and all — and is a testament to owners James and David Chapman, brothers from across The Pond. Or try the Timbuktu, a simple cheesy hash with onion and tomato topped with a fried egg. Their prix fixe includes juice; choice of mimosa, Bloody Mary or Prosecco; any brunch dish; and coffee or tea. You’ll hear straight-ahead jazz, often from small groups led by Bard professors or a vocalist like Elaine Rachlin.
Brunch Hours: Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., music 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
4 Grinnell St., Rhinecliff, NY
Two newcomers to musical brunching are also worth mentioning. Both present music on a more seasonal schedule:
J&J’s Gourmet Café
Julianne Homola is proud that since she took over this cozy village spot in 2017, every dish has been made fresh daily in-house with local ingredients. She describes building her brunch with an “artistically plated menu.” For your appetite and eyes there’s the Rainbow Sandwich with beet hummus, red cabbage, baby spinach, cucumber, pepper, tomato and a slice of beet on local artisan brioche. The Brunch Bowl became so popular it’s now a weeklong offering — a large mixed baby green salad with sprouts, carrots and tomatoes, topped with edible flowers when they’re in season. J&J’s keeps the music light, mostly with guitarists and vocalists.
Brunch Hours: Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m., music 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (March-Sept.)
1 East Market St., Red Hook, NY
The Stagecoach Tavern at Race Brook Lodge
Duke, Billie, Thelonious and Miles are smiling down from jazz heaven on the setting of this “cozy fireside Sunday brunch,” held in a beautifully maintained space from the 1760s. Sundays featuring area jazz musicians kicked off this January for a limited annual run through April (brunch is served year-round). Chef Laurel Barkan’s inventive menu is divided among savory, sweet, and side dishes, ranging from smoked salmon with potatoes to mouth-watering buttermilk biscuits with eggs. And prepare yourself for her grilled chocolate bread sourced from the nearby Berkshire Mountain Bakery. Talk about orchestration!
Brunch Hours: Sunday 11:00-3:00, music noon-3 p.m. (Jan.-April)
864 Undermountain Rd., Sheffield, MA
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