Unless you were thinking ahead — way ahead — there's no chance for a table this Mother's Day at Sundy House in Delray Beach. It's sold out.
That's OK. Because Sundy House raises the price $17 per person on Mother's Day, Easter and other big brunch holidays. Save this meal for a less-hectic day.
But do take the time to splurge, because brunch at Sundy House is one of the meals you have to have under your belt if you're a foodie living in South Florida. It's right up there with waiting for a table at Joe's Stone Crab or tying on a bib at Rustic Inn in Fort Lauderdale. Do it at least once.
Users of OpenTable.com, the online reservation system, recently named Sundy House one of the Top 100 Best Brunch Restaurants in the Country. The other South Florida restaurants on that list are the Breakers, Palm Beach; 94th Aero Squadron, Miami; the Biltmore, Coral Gables; Mister Collins, Bal Harbour; and Peacock Garden Café, Coconut Grove.
Sundy House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1902 for John and Elizabeth Shaw Sundy, the first mayor of Delray Beach and his wife. From the outside, you'd never know about the restaurant's breathtaking outdoor gardens and dining room, which seats 75. Another 150 seats are available inside.
The restaurant re-upped its game last September by hiring chef Lindsay Autry, the "Top Chef" finalist who worked as executive chef at two of Michelle Bernstein's restaurants. Her Mediterranean-meets-Southern, farm-to-table style isn't so much in evidence at the brunch buffet. I'll have to go back for dinner in the coming months to see what Autry is up to.
Sunday brunch, I've found, is often more about service and setting. A good brunch leaves you saying to yourself, "What a nice way to start the day!" On that point, Sundy House delivers. Getting from your table to the buffet gives you an opportunity to tour the house and gardens. There's plenty of photo-taking in the Taru Gardens, as they're known, after brunch.
On service — 20 percent is automatically added — Sundy House can do better. Brunch service can no doubt get boring, and the staff does indeed seem bored. What's with the grumpy guy at the omelet station? The sullen fellow at the carving station? Is it so hard to smile?
Brunch is set up in two rooms. The central bar, which connects the separate dining rooms and gardens, is set up with warmers of chicken, pork and breakfast potatoes with vegetables. During my visit, traditional breakfast items such as waffles and French toast were available, but both were cold.
The carving station offers prime rib, ham and turkey. Be sure to scoop some of the warm au just over the beef.
At the omelet station, the only cheese available was mozzarella, which didn't work for my go-to omelet: onions, red peppers and cheddar.
Another room of the house features cold salads, vegetables and fresh shrimp and crab legs. If you like seafood, this is where you should start. Strangely, no butter was provided for the various breads, rolls and bagels.
Pastry chef Sarah Sipe creates incredible mini desserts. Recently, she served mango panna cotta, passion-fruit parfait, rice pudding with berries, banana cupcakes, mint marshmallows and s'mores brownies. She also makes what can only be called gourmet Chunky bars with nuts and fruit.
Brunch includes unlimited Bloody Marys or mimosas. Our server encouraged us to personalize our Bloody Marys by going up to the bar. But if you prefer, as I do, a very good house Bloody Mary can be delivered to your table.
Throughout May, Sundy House will donate 5 percent of Sunday brunch sales — excluding Mother's Day — to Share Our Strength, which works to end childhood hunger. Autry is co-chair of this year's big fundraiser, June 20 at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach.
Still another reason to go to brunch at Sundy House.
106 S. Swinton, Delray Beach
Cost: Very expensive (brunch is $58 per person plus tax and a 20 percent tip, $75 on Mother's Day and other holidays; free for kids younger than 5; half price for kids ages 5 to 12)
Hours: Brunch Sunday, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday
Reservations: Strongly suggested
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu items on requestWheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: $5 valet