Al fresco brunch a downtown delight

by Brian Clarey

Good Morning Rudy is more than just a salutation that Bloody Mary drinkers employ when they hit Café Europa for a sunrise eye-opener. It’s also a signature dish served at the thinking man’s drinking hole every Sunday for one of the city’s finest brunches.

The dish, named for the cafés well-loved owner John Rudy, is as simple and elegant as the man himself: a portion of scrambled eggs with cream cheese and dill folded into the mix. Nothing more, nothing less.

They’re perfect to enjoy on the brick patio as a cool fall morning meanders into afternoon, the central fountain rushing and the boughs of white birch whispering in a light breeze, perhaps the finest spot in town on Sunday mornings while the agreeable weather still holds.

There’s more to it than the serene setting and Rudy’s eggs. The menu holds a scaled-down array of essential breakfast foods like the three-egg omelet, eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy, your basic bacon and eggs and the rare gem called Crabs on English, a variation on stockbroker Lemuel Benedict’s improvised hangover cure.

Crabs on English: artfully poached eggs on an English muffin, to be sure, but accented with lump crabmeat, a delicate shrimp and shallot cream sauce and wilted spinach (Café Europa, the waiter assured me, is unaffected by the Great Spinach Scare of 2006 by virtue of greens with documentation to ensure their E. Coli-free status). It is as exorbitant as Rudy’s eggs are minimal, a lush dish that combines tradition with the fruits of the sea.

And every breakfast item comes with sliced fresh fruit and delicately herbed hash brown patties that seem impossibly devoid of grease.

If you’re more into the -unch aspect (as opposed to the br-) of this fantastic weekend meal, a house salad or a club sandwich take space at the bottom of the menu.

On this last visit, a family gathering taken leisurely with plenty of time before kickoff of Week 2 in the NFL in the dappled sunlight of the patio, the tables filled by noon with young childless couples, empty-nesters rustling through the newspaper, small gatherings of friends and at least one party celebrating an occasion that warranted giftwrapped presents. An alarming number of hawks and crows circled the skies over downtown Greensboro, tracing lazy arcs from the Lincoln Financial Building to Wrangler’s brick and mortar fortress. And there were dogs, just a couple of them on the patio, one of them in a T-shirt.

As the children at our table fingered their way through Rudy’s eggs it would have been pointless to dissertate on the wonders of dill weed and its near-perfect dynamic with the fluffed eggs, the stable cream cheese. A treatise on the history of brunch, which in my mind was invented at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans because they had the sensibility to incorporate easy jazz into the Mimosas, turtle soup and pain perdu, would likewise have fallen on ears rendered mute by the discussion of a possible trip to the video game store after our meal and the added distraction of an enthusiastic Bichon Frise. In a T-shirt, no less.

But their pleasure in Rudy’s eggs was evident by the gusto and speed with which they consumed them.

Children don’t understand brunch – the pleasures of an unhurried weekend meal with or without spiritual libation, the novelty of eating eggs that someone else cooked, restaurant-grade orange juice – just like they don’t fully comprehend Rudy’s eggs.

But they like it anyway.

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