Biting into OC Brunch - Hopscotch Tavern

"Brunch is a reflection of my inner fat kid. Everything on the menu is big. We take all the extremes of my being from Texas and put it on a plate - anything we can do to push the limit. My goal is to make it a third more than anyone can eat. If we're going to do it, we're going to kick it off the cliff." - Cody Storts, Executive Chef
It was no surprise when Chef Cody told us that his brunch menu was bigger than one could imagine. We've known him from previous experiences at Hopscotch to be a tad over the top (in a good way) and just downright indulgent with his food. If you are looking for some small bites for brunch, you shouldn't come here. Wooden rafters, taxidermied animal head mounts, and a whole wall of alcohol should be your clues that this won't be a place to take your mom for Mother's Day (unless she's that kind of mother). I'm not discouraging you from coming by though. Oh no no no. You do need to get a taste of Chef Cody's crazy creations because they are one part Southern food and two parts awesome. Then again, Southern food is awesome too so I suppose there's more awesome for your buck here.

A place known mainly for its unique libations and boundary-pushing dinner dishes, Hopscotch has also been making a statement being a "go big or go home" brunch provider (they call it the Epic Brunch). Many people see it as a place to grab dinner or after work drinks but once they introduced breakfast, the popularity grew enough to warrant making brunch a regular mealtime at Hopscotch. The basic breakfast menu of eggs, bacon, and sandwiches wasn't enough to sate the hunger of Fullerton residents so it turned from classic American breakfast to decadent flavorful dishes. Their fine array of cocktails is available in the morning but if you're looking for a hair of the dog drink, shoot for the Bloody Mary which we thought was the best one we tried of all the Bloody Marys we had throughout this brunch series. Chef Cody let me in on the secret of what makes their Bloody Mary so good but I swore not to share the secret - guess you'll just have to ask them yourself when you order a tall glass of this rich, vegetable medley.

It only seems right to touch upon the more "normal" brunch items first though they aren't really all too normal. If you are hankering for pancakes, be prepared to get a load of donut-like pancakes with some childhood nostalgia built in and on the dish. There is a Frosted Captain Crunch Berry Pancake Stack ($10) calling your name out which comes with a glaze on top instead of traditional syrup as well as Captain Crunch Berries cereal. Oh and don't worry, there is even Captain Crunch cereal in the batter for some texture for each bite. Don't have a sweet tooth? You could go simpler and order their Grits ($11 - andouille sausage, red fresno coulis, white Cheddar, fried egg and hollandaise), a smooth homage to the South and just an overall feel-good dish I still crave. We also sunk our teeth into their take on French toast, a wooden paddle plate of Creme Brulee French Toast ($10 - brioche, espresso pastry cream and lemon chantilly cream) that was made by being vacuum-sealed with all of the savory-sweet batter until the bread nearly became a custard itself. Crisp on the outside but creamy and melt-in-your-mouth rice on the inside, this French toast was heavenly.

Once the sweet stuff was out of the way, we headed into cultural territory with heaped servings of Scrapple ($12 - fried pork cornbread, maple syrup, pico de gallo, fried egg, red fresno coulis and micro cilantro) and Chilaquiles ($14 - Spanish chorizo, cotija, avocado, pico, two sunny side eggs). Have you ever had scrapple before? Traditionally, this dish is made with all of the meat "scraps" from the farm so you'll find yourself having bites of sweetbreads, organs, and more. Chef Cody (thankfully for the squeamish) incorporates more cornbread in his version so it turns more into a slightly spicy, slightly sweet breakable meatloaf. As for the chilaquiles, those certainly had a kick to them that was mellowed by the freshness of the vegetables. The Spanish chorizo was a nice touch as well, lending a salty yield to every bite as we had to work on the cured meat. If you are even more daring for your brunch meal, you should ask your waiter/waitress for the Kitchen Sink Omelet, a gargantuan experimental plate that gives you whatever the kitchen staff wants to dump into an omelet for $25 with no "take backs." If you are allergic to something, don't order this. If you are a picky eater, this is not your dish to tackle. Meant for 3-4 people (considering it can have up to 24 eggs), this monster is rife with anything one can think of and comes out on a busboy tray-sized platter instead of a regular serving plate. We would have snagged a picture of it for this post if we could but we didn't want to waste all that food which could easily feed a party...

Our last few dishes were still very savory and beautiful but on the calmer side of brunch. Following the Southern theme that seems to run prominently throughout the brunch menu, the spin on eggs benedict involves warm housemade biscuits instead of English muffins. Why shouldn't they? They have a fantastic pastry chef, Mai Phan, on staff to woo everyone over. So they confessed that they are proudest of these two dishes: the Biscuits and Gravy ($11 - buttermilk biscuits freshly made daily, seasonal pork sausage, pork gravy, and two fried eggs) and the Southern Benedict ($14 - buttermilk biscuits, chicken fried steak, hollandaise, and poached eggs). I can't blame them. They are quite amazing, and I would venture to say that the biscuits are what win people over. Fluffy, warm, and comforting, these mounds of butter and flour sop up the runny egg yolks and thick, creamy sauces with flavor of their own. I especially enjoyed the chicken fried steak's crunch sounding over everything else. Because I love getting corned beef hash for breakfast, we cornered a paddle of Chef Cody's Brisket Hash ($11 - root veggies, butternut squash, salsa, fried egg, micro cilantro) which arrived in a cast iron skillet with the tempting multicolored root vegetables underneath. Though not everyone loves root vegetables, especially parsnips, I enjoyed having them for their crispness and ability to combat any threat of too much seasoning.

All in all, a solid brunch can be had at Hopscotch Tavern, located at 136 E Commonwealth Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832, but don't come expecting any frou frou. It is hearty breakfast ready to rip you out of any slumber-induced hunger or kick back a hangover with comfort food. If you really can't decide, we say shoot for the biscuits at the very least. They are something else.

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.

NOTE: This brunch article is a part of a series that we will be running through to April, the month when the full editorial will appear with a multitude of more articles and informational pieces in the Orange County edition of LOCALE Magazine. Make sure to check stands when the issue drops so you can get the full scoop on brunch in OC!