When we learned about chef Mark Bryson and wife Alicia’s cozy Wakefield eatery Duck Press (the duo that gave us Binge BBQ in Newport), we were intrigued. When they recently shared that they’d launched a brunch menu, we became determined. This news is how we discovered more than one gem on charming Main Street.
With a couple of friends in tow, we strolled into Caf Bar on a late Sunday morning for a much-needed caffeine fix (and a few snacks!). We soon learned that “Caf” stands for “Coffee and Food,” and that this neighborhood favorite is all about craft and customer service. This is immediately apparent in their regionally roasted coffee and the high-quality ingredients used in their smoothies, toasts, and paninis.
First up was a round of specialty lattes – the group favorite was the seasonally apt Spring Latte. This creamy, sweet, espresso drink includes honey and bee pollen. Order one and thank us later.
Intrigued by their take on a truly trendy lite bite, we decided to sample Caf Bar’s avocado toast, one of many savory options on the menu, before heading over to Duck Press for the main course. Warm toast is spread with mashed avocado and topped with sprouts and a light sprinkle of red pepper flakes – the ideal snack.
But what’s perhaps most heartwarming about Caf Bar is the sense of community the owners have created. Locals, students, and tourists alike are inclined to sit, mingle, and relax for a bit instead of just grabbing a cuppa to go. We found ourselves fitting right in.
Properly caffeinated, we took the two-minute stroll down Main Street to Duck Press. Naturally, we started with their Brunch Board Sampler. House-made cinnamon sugar doughnuts, mini croissants, banana bread, fresh fruit, jam, and honey butter are assembled on a board in this sweet take on charcuterie. Let’s be honest – chef Bryson could have dropped the mic there and we would have left satisfied.
But then came the Smoked Bluefish Beignets with remoulade, which served as another example of how a well-trained chef with sharp attention to detail can turn something simple into utterly sublime. For those of us who grew up fishing blues on the bay, you know that unless it’s extremely fresh, correctly cleaned, and thoughtfully prepared, bluefish can be a little fishy. These beignets, however, were packed with flavor without the fishiness. A crispy and crunchy exterior encased an incredibly creamy, delicate interior with a subtle smokiness. The house-made remoulade was good enough to eat alone by the spoonful!
Next was the Duck Fat Fried Patatas Bravas. Chef Bryson’s take on this popular tapas dish was nothing less than perfection. Topped with a fried, pastured egg, this dish fulfills one of our long-time desires: to have patatas bravas for breakfast. (Thank you, chef!)
It wouldn’t be brunch without bennies. A Brisket Eggs Benedict and another with root vegetables were the envy of the table. The brisket may very well be the only nod to the Brysons’ previous venture with Binge BBQ, and the root vegetables were a perfect way to enjoy a springtime brunch with seasonally relevant produce.
When it comes to eggs benedict, there really are only two measures by which we judge: eggs and hollandaise. Poached eggs can be the most difficult egg preparation to get perfectly each time, and these passed with flying colors. A good hollandaise also takes a lot of patience and practice to get right. Like everything else coming out of the Bryson’s kitchen, no shortcuts are taken with this sauce, which is deceitfully simple and velvety – a testament to the Brysons’ commitment to excellence.
To round out the meal, a plate of Stuffed Brioche French Toast arrived with caramelized banana pastry cream, strawberry jam, and maple syrup. For anyone ordering this dish, please know you’ll be asked to pass this around the table for everyone to taste more than once. Forget what you know about traditional French toast because this decadent interpretation is quite the departure from what we grew up eating.
As ingredients change with the season, so too do the menus of both Caf Bar and Duck Press – as if we needed another reason to return.
To prolong a brunch double date well into the afternoon, you may need to walk off the French toast and bennies by hitting a couple of Main Street shops before swinging by Brickley’s. Recently reopened for the season, Brickley’s is a So Co staple for warm-weather months with over 45 flavors of house-made ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sherberts. Why not round out a morning of deliciousness by grabbing a cone?
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