A Month of Sundays: Brunch at Stella San Jac

Stella San Jac
301 E. Fifth St. in the Westin Austin Downtown (map), 512-792-5648, www.stellasanjac.com
Brunch hours: 7am-3pm Sat-Sun
Regular hours: Breakfast 6am-11pm Mon-Fri. Lunch 11am-2pm Mon-Fri.
Dinner 5-10pm Sun-Thu and 5-11pm Fri-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.18.16
In downtown Austin, the new Westin taps into a Texas vibe at Stella San Jac, with lots of weathered wood and rope and rodeo colors as part of an open concept lobby that rides off into an endless horizon. The brunch menu supports the aesthetic with chicken-fried steak, cowboy biscuits, deviled eggs, chilaquiles and churros.
What you’re eating
 Shrimp and Grits: A lot like the South’s answer to chowder, this dish can go rich and creamy or bold and spicy. Stella Jan Jac favors the second version. Four medium shrimp are seared hard but not overcooked, with blackening spices for a sharp herbal twang. The grits glow with cheese and oil, cut in big grains dotted with sweet corn, more like loose porridge than dense, creamy grits. And where the menu promises pork belly, the kitchen delivers instead bland, rubbery breakfast sausage roiled into the mix that raises the spectre of brunch’s tired reputation as the final destination for misfit food. Stella preserves a measure of dignity with a bright garnish of arugula and sweet, blanched tomatoes. ($13)
 #16 Biscuits: I’m weary of paying $5 for a single biscuit, and so Stella restores my faith with an iron pan of three for the same price, with a side of dairy-forward honey butter. They’re armored on all sides with toasted ramparts that yield to a tight, cohesive crumb inside, forsaking fluff for the grainy integrity of cowboy-style biscuits. ($5 for three)
What you’re drinking
 Inspire: I love that brunch at Stella San Jac starts at 7 a.m. But even though I’ve lived in this reddest of states most of my life, I’d forgotten that we don’t serve alcohol before 10 a.m. on Sunday, because St. Peter might see us. Looking out for body and soul alike, Stella eases the sting of the Bible Belt’s lash with smoothies and juice concoctions like this one, the Inspire, with coconut, pomegranate and acai juices. It’s fresh, tart and rejuvenating. Now where did I put that bottle of Smirnoff from the minibar? ($5)
 Bacon Bloody Mary: If I have to linger until 10 o’clock draining my silver hoddle of hot coffee in order to describe a Bloody Mary for my readers, I’ll take the bullet stoically. The Bloody behaves with the same restraint, with a curl of bacon and a long sprig of rosemary crowning a watery wash of tomato, seasoned salt and vodka’s indiscriminate sting. ($7)
Something sweet
 Bacon Churros: Our American appetite for fried dough and our Texican heritage find equal voice in a tangle of curled and beveled churros with cinnamon sugar as clingy as stripper glitter. They’re fried as hard as churro jerky, provisioned inside with specks of bacon too small to taste over the carnival noise. ($6 with spiced chocolate whipped cream)
A Month of Sundays: 31 Austin brunches
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)