I was warned that Marco & Pepe would look like a hipster haven, but then was reassured they were not hipster jerks but actually really nice. And all of this is really true. The servers were all wearing plaid and jeans, but in the end they were all really nice (just like I was told). The décor looked mildly distressed intentionally. And at the same time there is a kind of picturesque country home feel with the wooden benches against the wall and tables and chairs that look like a cafe bistro, and the large windows at the front of the restaurant. The space is cute and homey but adult at the same time.
I was really hoping to come in and stumble on the dinner menu, but it was still brunch lunch time. Prior to this lunch date with my good friend, I put in some time to research. Marco &Pepe had been an option for a last minute dinner or food meander before, but never realized. So checking out the menu via the website was a familiar process, and driving by the restaurant also resonated familiarity. After looking at the menus, I found myself far more attached to the dinnertime fare, but life brought me to Marco & Pepe for lunch.
The brunch menu ranges from salads to sandwiches to eggs, with a lengthy list of sides but a short list of entrees. It felt more or less like a typical weekend brunch menu, not necessarily something I would expect from a restaurant during the weekday lunch hour.
Because it was chilly and I was starving, I knew I wanted something hearty. Because of the place’s quaintness and mild trendy atmosphere, I was afraid that nothing was going to come in the big girl portions I needed. I ordered the huevos rancheros, slightly hesitant because it only said “fried egg” (singular) on the menu. That singularity became a point of contention in my mind because, after verifying with my friend, “huevos” is plural… so what was it going to be?
In the end, it was plural, hearty and delicious. The dish came in a tiny iron looking pan, lined at the bottom with a corn tortilla (or two) and laden with fatty chorizo on one side, hearty black beans on the other, topped with my fried eggs, cheese and a green tomitillo salsa and a picadillo sauce. I was in brunch heaven. It had all the warmth I wanted, and all the protein I needed. There was definitely a little kick in the sauces and the beans, but the sharpish manchego cheese and the runny yolk of the fried egg, cooled it down, making a creamy sensation. The beans, to my relief, were cooked just right, not too hard but also not too soggy. They were a great aspect to stand up to all the softer textures of the dish.
All of the elements were simple and well executed, except I was not really into the flavors that the chorizo added. Usually I am a sucker for chorizo, fatty and spicy, but this chorizo (like my last experience ), fell more into the category of hot dog. I was really excited to see chorizo as a meat option to go along with my huevos, but in the end the sausage did not taste how I wanted it to, so it kind of clashed with the heavy beans and the various sauces.
My friend ordered the ham & eggs on a croissant. Sounds simple enough. But what she got was an enormous portion of what looked like a hearty round of ham, salty and pan fried, topped by a magical cheesy sweet brie sauce, all hiding the crusty croissant. The eggs floated on top of the heavy mass of ham, glistening with the melted cheese sauce. This sauce was what made the dish special, other than the sheer enormity of the portion size. Everything it touched was made more delicious and special. Even though the menu said melted brie, it felt much more than that, mysterious and delicious. Brie has the reputation of being mild but with a little tang, this melted mysterious sauce had that, but was also sweet, and mixed so well with the saltiness of the ham, the smooth eggs and even the crunchy hidden croissant. A perfect bite included all the elements, accompanied by a feeling of comfort and warmth. It was endless and delicious.
Even after stuffing my face with my food, a side of golden and crispy french fries, and some of my friend’s dish, I had to have dessert, especially after seeing the menu. The dessert menu is a mix of old friends learning new tricks. There was a mango coconut crème brulee, banana bread pudding, a strawberry rhubarb tart, amongst others, all with a twist on the traditional.
There was no way I was leaving that place without trying the banana bread pudding. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, it was a little less than what I expected. I was hopping for warm and soft, custardy and smooth. But the pudding was not warm enough, and it felt like all the little bread bits did not have enough time in the egg mixture, rendering it not smooth and dry in places. The flavor, however, was amazing. It was sweet but not too sweet in the way that bread puddings can be, and the ice cream and the little caramel sauce played with the balance of sweetness, different with every bite.
All and all, it was a fun lunch, in a fun little place. It was quiet which allowed for girl talk, but I think later in the day, with the little bar in place and the great looking dinner menu, Marco & Pepe would get louder and more trendy. I would love to go back to try out the dinner menu and more of the desserts, but maybe next time I will travel in my hipster attire.