Karisa: Balliceaux has a really great atmosphere, which is by far the best thing I can say about our brunch experience. Everything else was mediocre at best. Actually I'll say one more positive thing - if you love bacon, I mean *really* love bacon, this is the place for you. As a pescetarian, it was not the place for me. There was a granola item and a tofu sandwich option that was Karisa-friendly, but other than that - nada - and I don't want a sandwich or something I can get at a continental breakfast at a cheap hotel for my fun brunch. So I settled for the French toast. Yes, the French toast. I don't particularly care for sweets at breakfast (or anytime for that matter), so this was quite the odd choice for me, but the server insisted it was the best veggie option, so there you. It was, well, French toast. Nothing particularly special, nothing horrible. It was very meh, just like the rest of the brunch.
Andrea: Balliceaux is one of my favorite late-night destinations for dancing and drinking PBR (really, is there anything else better on a Saturday?). I've eaten here twice before - once for dinner (super yummy) and once for brunch 2 1/2 years ago, when I tasted my friend's amaaaaazing duck confit waffles and immediately got dish envy (you know, that thing where you realize you ordered poorly and should have gotten your buddy's meal). I don't even remember what I ended up having. However, what I do remember is that I had wanted to order a warm bowl of noodles called a "hangover bowl" but they were all out. Showing the waiter my pouty, disappointed face did not bring this bowl of deliciousness to me, so I resolved to myself that the next time I brunched here, I would definitely get the hangover bowl. Fast forward to this week's brunch, when I looked at the menu and saw NO HANGOVER BOWL. My heart (and my stomach) sank a little bit. Although they had duck confit waffles on the menu and I knew they were likely to be a hit despite a new chef in the kitchen (the reason for the lack of hangover bowl, I later found out), I decided to go rogue and order a sandwich. In my five years in Richmond, I've begun to develop a taste for pimento cheese, so I thought I'd give their pimento cheese sandwich a try. I liked the diced potatoes that came as an accompaniment - very crispy and spiced with a little bit of paprika perhaps? Or maybe bacon salt? Nearly everything on their menu does have bacon, so I wouldn't be surprised if it were bacon salt. The sandwich itself was wayyyyy too buttery for me and the bread was too thick. Apparently I have figured out that I don't like Texas Toast. The pimento cheese itself was on the spicier end of the pimento cheese continuum, but it was off-set to some degree by the bread and butter pickles. I also had a piece of truffle bacon and a bite of my boyfriend's Chinese 5 spice and orange marmalade bacon slice. For bacon lovers, it's really neat that they have six different styles of bacon that you can buy by the slice (or get a sampler of all 6). I wasn't too enamored with my truffle slice and instead would recommend the one with chili oil if you're in the mood for spicy or the applewood with Nutella if you like chocolately hazelnutty goodness. And, I mean, who doesn't? Where Balliceaux got the most points was in the ambiance department; it's such a cool little space. The front dining area where brunch is served doesn't have that many tables but the extra space and the high ceilings allow the diners to enjoy the eclectic art on the walls - a good mix of colors, textures, and visuals. The adorable orange portholes on the wall next to each booth were a nice touch. My only complaint ambiance-wise is that it's rather cold in the restaurant, especially if you sit toward the front where there are large windows. All in all, the brunch experience at Balliceaux fell into the middle-of-the-road category, so I'm not sure when I'll be returning next. But, new chef, if you happen to put a hangover bowl back on the menu, I'd gladly give you another shot.
Michele: I've had a couple of really great dinners at Balliceaux, as well as some tasty late night fancy cocktails. I've also heard some fantastic live music here, like a local bluegrass band paying tribute to Buddy Holly. I was very excited to try this place out for brunch.
My Bloody Mary tasted strongly of horseradish. This is normally a turn off for me, but I didn't mind it in this drink because it was balanced out nicely by an appropriate amount of spice. It was pointed out to me later that other patrons had received larger pieces of celery than me. That doesn't really bother me all that much. I would have been more irritated if someone had received more olives than me. As an aside, no olives or pickles in the Bloodies at Balliceaux.
I noticed that are not that many egg dishes on the brunch menu. There are lots of interesting sandwiches and sweet items, but only a couple of egg-centered dishes that I've come to associate with brunch. Karisa was not the only frustrated bruncher this week. I will say, the menu does feature quite a variety of different flavored bacon, and it is in just about every dish on the menu.
I settled on the biscuits, sausage, and gravy with two eggs over easy. I added a side salad to my order because I felt like I needed some additional vitamins and minerals in my weekend. Get this, there were two biscuits, a piece of sausage on top of each biscuit, and everything was covered in sausage gravy. While the extra sausage was alright, I don't think it really added much to the dish. The biscuits and gravy were quite delicious. The biscuits were thick and fluffy, and the plate was covered with gravy. There was plenty of biscuit to go around and soak up all that gravy. Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the eggs. While they were on the menu as a standard component of this plate, they were kind of tossed beside the biscuits, floating on top of the gravy, almost like an after thought. I mean, I love runny egg yolk mixed in with gravy as much as the next person, I just did not understand how the eggs in this dish added any value. It almost felt like the eggs were added just so there would be four ingredients to list on the menu.
I'm not sure if I will come back to Balliceaux for brunch. I was a little jealous of Andrea's pimento cheese sandwich. If I do come back, I will be sure to try some of the bacon varieties that they offer.
Food - Fair. Not much variety on the menu, unless you like all the colors of the rainbow of BACON. Bacon was definitely the star of the show, although Michele reported her biscuits were quite tasty. Lots of sandwiches and waffle/french toast dishes on the menu. Not very vegetarian-friendly if you want to order straight off the menu without making any substitutions. Did we mention Andrea's soul was crushed that the menu was new? (note: we don't know exactly how "new" the menu is)
Service - Good. We appreciated that our server shared honest opinions about the menu and sympathized with Andrea when she lamented the changes to the menu. He helped Karisa make decisions on good dishes for a vegetarian because there really weren't that many options to choose from. However, he was a bit slow on the refills and didn't offer us another mimosa.
Atmosphere - Very Good. Cool art on the walls, especially the chalkboard that housed a list of desserts of the day and some very colorful drawings. We all loved the orange portholes on the sides of the booths. Ours featured a rowboat on a beach and a guy standing beside it. Bathroom decor was neat as well. Only complaint was that the main dining area was a bit dark and chilly.
Coffee - Fair. Thin and a little bitter. Got cold really fast.
Mimosa - Good. Lots of ice in a rather small glass. Pricey at $7 a glass. Quality of orange juice wasn't deemed to be very high and seemed to predominate the flavor.
Bloody Mary - Good. Strong horseradish flavor, but not overwhelming, right amount of spice.