Credit Urban Solace as a building block to the lifestyle destination North Park has become. The neighborhood didn’t yet have that national press cachet when Solace rode a rising comfort food trend into what’s now considered a restaurant row along 30th Street. Its Bourbon Street façade, meatloaf, and Sunday bluegrass brunch have been staples of North Park culture. However, a dozen years later, a flood of craft beer, noodles, pizza, and scooters have changed the landscape, and Urban Solace is apparently changing right back.
3823 30th Street, North Park
Don’t worry, the brunch isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the first change came about last month as the eatery took up weekday breakfast service. Actually, it’s a combined breakfast and lunch service, the same all encompassing menu running 8am til 2pm. That means you can order a pecan sicky bun at noon, or Solace’s vaunted burger at 9am.
Personally, I am rather impressed how comprehensive the morning cocktail list turned out. In addition to mimosa and bloody standbys, the “leaded libations,” menu includes a cold brew black Russian with vanilla and sea salt, and a fernet-based sarsaparilla fizz.
Looking back at the past ten years, I realize I’ve long viewed Urban Solace as a breakfast spot, having brunched here far more often than I’ve taken dinner. Even that’s fallen off, as weekend brunch dining has become the crowded domain of people who say stuff like, “Sunday Funday.” I can make fun of that, because I’m not a 9 to 5er, so may to go out to a breakfast spot on Monday and get the same food without the 40-minute wait.
Thanks to the gig economy, there are far more people like me out there, and we’re among those who benefit most from this change in hours. Are there enough of us who want shrimp and grits ($14.50) on a Wednesday morning, or orange mascarpone French toast ($13.50)?
There’s definitely some creative breakfast work on the new menu, such as gluten free buckwheat-zucchini-banana pancakes. But plenty of tried and true Solace brunch items remain, with or without embellishment. The kitchen sink biscuits and gravy ($15.50), still delivers eggs, brown sugar bacon, and Niman sausage, over cheddar chive biscuits. Instead of beef cheek hash, a rotating seasonal hash switches up proteins (and price). It could be chicken and mushroom hash, or who knows?
Most of the benedicts have been replaced with scrambles, but the one holdover suited me just fine: the Pork Belly Benny ($15.50), served on biscuits with spinach and ancho chili hollandaise. Since I’m not a fan of sugary bacon, this tender slab of fatty pork gets my breakfast attention here, and doesn’t disappoint.
The real question about weekday breakfast is whether a generation of weekday morning brunchers will be as willing to spend so readily as the Sunday crowd. Breakfast, coffee, and tip took me into the $20-plus range, and a taste for that $5.50 pecan sticky bun took it higher. It’s tough to see adding a ten or twelve dollar cocktail, on like a Tuesday, being in the stars.
But prices like this aren’t going anywhere. That’s something else that’s changed in North Park over the years: economic reality. Urban Solace has to respond to that as well, as do all its restaurant row neighbors. Owner and chef Matt Gordon promises a new dinner menu in the new year, so if you’d like to wax nostalgic about the Urban Solace of old, get in for dinner in December.