Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away, and we’ve been pondering our options as much as anyone. (If you think we’re tough critics, you should meet our moms.) Restaurants around Washington are bringing out the big brunch guns—as evidenced by our extensive guide—and it can be hard to choose. Here are a few of our personal picks—places where we’d toast our own moms. Caveat: We haven’t tried certain set menus or judged service during a holiday crush. Consider these guidelines, not guarantees.
Todd Kliman, food and wine editor
8407 Kitchen + Bar
My mom enjoys the brunch here, if only for the house-made doughnuts to start—a mood-maker, if ever there was one. From there, the best choices are the smoked salmon platter and the house-made corned beef hash paired with one of the bar’s strong but balanced brunch cocktails.
Hong Kong Pearl
Dim sum is a Mother’s Day tradition in our family, and this restaurant—a scene of happy chaos on weekends at noon—is my current favorite among all the area’s parlors. The roasted meats dangling in a case at the entrance are almost as effective as a platter of antipasti in priming the palate for the feast to come.
Come for the zestily faithful rendition of shakshuka and the Montreal bagels and lox, and stay for the Jewish mother advice. Yes, owner Nick Wiseman’s mom, Robin Jeweler, will be on hand to tell you what you should be doing with your life—even if you didn’t ask.
Expensive? Yes. But if you’re going for grand statements, you can’t get much grander than the elegant, multi-room spread at Seasons in Georgetown. All-you-can-eat has rarely been so classy. The bountiful raw bar is the star, but don’t miss the ceviche station, where the Peruvian treat is assembled while you wait.
Ann Limpert, food and wine editor
Blue Duck Tavern
Even though brunch isn’t my mom’s thing, if I were going to take her out, one of my first picks would be the beautiful herb-pot-lined terrace outside the Park Hyatt. Kick things off with pineapple-mint mimosas or one of the great Bloodys and a house-made croissant.
If you’re throwing together a more-the-merrier family meal, head over to this stylish Vietnamese spot in the Eden Center and squeeze into a banquette. The menu, as with most sit-down spots in the outdoor mall, is massive, and the menu has many standouts, from spring rolls that shatter at the first bite to grilled grape leaves to shaky beef.
Cantler’s Riverside Inn
Hopefully this May 12 will be a sunny, 70-degree day. In that case, there are few better places to celebrate the start of warm weather—and a mom who doesn’t mind getting a little Old Bay on her hands—than this waterside Annapolis crabhouse.
We tend to avoid the brunch crowds, but I always like to do something for dinner. Last year we gathered at my parents’ house and grilled up a bunch of chicken using Estadio’s terrific marinade—it has sambal, yogurt, and Madras curry, among other ingredients—then made the labneh-and-cilantro dipping sauce and Napa-cabbage slaw chef Haidar Karoum pairs it with at the restaurant. For dessert we made Bar Pilar’s buttermilk pie—it’s super-easy—and served it with strawberries. The 14th Street theme was unintentional, but it all made for a great casual yet special meal.
Jessica Voelker, online dining editor
Your mom wants to spend time with you. Hop in the car, drive her to Frederick, and treat her to the great brunch at Bryan Voltaggio’s beautiful restaurant. If it’s serving pork-belly hash with poached eggs and piquillo peppers or the omelet with lobster, mushrooms, and asparagus, you’re in luck—both are knockout dishes. Also not to be missed is the scallion biscuits and gravy, an à-la-carte side dish.
Sunday Gospel Brunch at Howard Theatre
The food isn’t bad—go early to get the best of the buffet of fried chicken, deli meats, eggs, and more—but the real event here is the Harlem Gospel Choir. Its amazing singers perform for church groups, families, and couples, who have plenty of chances to participate. It’s impossible to leave this experience without a soaring sense of well-being.
I trust this Belgian bistro in the Palisades to take good care of the people I love, which is why I frequently bring family and friends here for moules frites in the evenings and, on weekends, the consistently excellent brunch. Try a gallette—a buckwheat pancake—stuffed with spinach, ham, tomato, Gruyére, and egg, or a perfect Benedict with smoked salmon.
I’ve been enjoying Enzo Fargione’s Penn Quarter Italian place ever since it went casual a few weeks back. Take your mom to dinner here and treat her to an olive oil and salt tasting (featuring oils from three regions of Italy), a perfect prosciutto-and-burrata appetizer, (the Roman artichokes are great too), and rustic, bone-sticking entrées. Order house-made limoncello with dessert—I’m a fan of the tiramisu bar.
Anna Spiegel, assistant food and wine editor
The Ashby Inn
Make a day of it by driving Mom out to this beautiful little guesthouse in the Virginia countryside. Tarver King’s three-course brunch is a reason to go in and of itself, but you can also spend a leisurely afternoon wine tasting at nearby vineyards or browsing the boutiques in Middleburg. Snag a table on the garden patio and be prepared for a menu that’s both adventurous (lamb confit omelet) and comforting (bacon-studded chicken and waffles).
Mintwood brunch is just a happy place: a bright, buzzy room, an informal atmosphere, and generous plates of seriously good food. If Mom is the type to dig into warm croissants, blueberry-topped Belgian waffles, and eggs Benedict with house-cured salmon, then this is a great bet. If you’re looking for a hushed atmosphere you might try elsewhere, but the lively room also makes it a good spot for young kids.
Brunch is the quintessential Mother’s Day meal, but there’s no saying you can’t treat her to a wonderful dinner instead—plus it’s probably easier to get a reservation and avoid crowds. My mom and I loved our last meal at Adour. It’s a gorgeous room and quiet enough for easy conversation, but neither the decor nor the staff makes it stuffy or overly formal. Recent standouts included lightly soy-lemon-marinated hamachi and lobster “cookpot” with orecchiette and an intensely flavorful lobster sauce. Another reason to go: The restaurant just announced it will close at the end of May.
Ardeo + Bardeo
If your mom loves free-flowing bubbly, then a great bet is Ashok Bajaj’s Cleveland Park bistro. The restaurant uses actual Champagne, not fizzy sugar water, so you can happily sip straight it straight or mixed with fresh-squeezed orange juice. There’s an à-la-carte menu, but the bottomless brunch is a steal at $27 for a choice of appetizer, entrée, and generous refills. Mom and I like to start by sharing the crispy Brussels sprouts and salmon rillettes, and the fried-egg-topped burger is a mutual favorite.