Biting into OC Brunch - TAPS Fish House

If you're going to call it a "Brunch Extravaganza," you better deliver. I must say though, that TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Brea really did. There is no shroud over how excited the restaurant is for their brunch every Sunday nor can you find any shortcuts taken. If you plan on trying out the TAPS brunch, you best come with a large appetite because their buffet-style approach to the weekend ritual will have people rolling out of the restaurant, literally. When we visited and got to talk to General Manager Kerri La Torre, it became even more apparent how TAPS is able to achieve the level of brunch success it has - La Torre has had years of restaurant experience in Las Vegas and seen her fair share of lavish buffets throughout her career. The result? A feast for eyes and stomachs right in the heart of downtown Brea - try it if you dare.

The sumptuous feast actually starts right when you enter and put your name down if you didn't already have a reservation (which is recommended considering how popular the brunch is). The front-facing stations have some homestyle classics and warmer foods but directly on the other side are the cold items which sit either directly on or in trays on top of ice. Down the short few steps of a "stairway" are buffet tables lined with hot dishes of any assortment of breakfast items from the classics like Eggs Benedict to unique riffs on classics such as Red Velvet Pancakes or Sweet Potato French Toast. One of the most popular brunch stations is their Mediterranean area which carries various house cured meats and a rotating cheese list. I picked at delicious cold marinated vegetables that sat invitingly in basins, vegetables such as marinated mushrooms, assorted olives and vinegary artichoke hearts. Spreads, dips, and hummus were available for freshly baked hot slices of pita bread as well. I particularly honed in on the whole bulbs of roasted garlic that were available to be spread on whatever you desired.

Another good point of interest is their carving station which has a variety of rotating meats perfect for the carnivorous guest who is not too keen on the seafood-centric offers near the entrance. However, if you do enjoy seafood and especially shellfish, you might just swoon over the all-you-care-to-eat oyster bar. Freshly shucked oysters are laid out on ice for anyone to grab and are being constantly refreshed to not only keep up with demand but also ensure that they were fine to eat. Too many people kept coming by to fill up their plates with the high-quality oysters, perfect in themselves without the need for the optional garnishes nearby. Because of how important freshness is to Executive Chef Manny Gonzalez, the oyster varietals are never the same in one Sunday as they are based on market availability, an aspect that allows the chefs to excitedly educate guests on flavor profiles of each kind. It's no surprise that an average Sunday will run the restaurant through 1,800-2,200 oysters. Maybe you can make your dent the next time you're in!

If for some reason, all that is laid out does not fit your fancy, there is also an a la carte menu to order from. I had to try a skillet of their take on beignets but they weren't that great that day. You can also order the Chef's omelet of the day through this menu. For all guests, there is a single set price for brunch which includes full access to the buffet and also a choice for either bottomless mimosas (which we saw being very quickly and diligently refreshed at all tables every time) or two pints of their house beers. For a little bit extra, you can also choose a cocktail including La Torre's own Bloody Mary creation. These are great starts and to end the experience, mosey on over to the impressive dessert station formed by tiered tables topped with miniature desserts and centered by a towering chocolate foundation. I loved the chocolate used in this as I played with strawberries, marshmallows, and other sweet goodies by enrobing them in the desserty "liquid gold."

We were impressed by the swiftness of the entire brunch operation and the staff's attentive service. Having done brunch for more than 14 years, TAPS is an expert in moving a brunch buffet through rapidly but comfortably. As for the food, La Torre and Executive Chef Manny Gonzalez attest to and stand by the quality of their value-driven brunch. If this has seemed appealing to you, find them at 101 E Imperial Hwy, Brea, CA 92821 near the Yard House. Brunch is certainly not taken lightly here so you and your dining mates will definitely need to come hungry and with competition-style bellies. It's only $35.99 per person from 9:30am-2:30pm (as of this blog post date) which is more than a steal!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos to be available on Facebook.

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!