Breakfast, as we all know, is the most important meal of the day. So what about those days when you want to sleep off the previous night’s partying or head to church before you get a chance to eat your morning meal (or, gulp, both)? Those days are the reason the good Lord invented brunch — that heavenly combination of breakfast and lunch that offers diners the best of both worlds, and within a much larger time frame than traditional breakfast.

Here in the Lowcountry, midday brunching restaurant options are nearly as numerous as the brunch offerings themselves, particularly on Sundays. Good thing, too, because morning appetites can (and often do) range from the buffet buster with a bottomless gullet to the nibbler who considers the garnishes on the Bloody Mary a meal.

We decided to focus on five restaurants that each have a unique element that keeps both locals and visitors coming back for more, whether “more” means another clean plate or a dessert that absolutely cannot be passed up.

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Mia’s Cafe

West Ashley. 3669 Savannah Hwy.

769-7433

Brunch served Sunday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Mia’s was the only brunch buffet we visited for the story, but it turned out to be just about the be-all-end-all of brunch buffets. You pull into the gravel lot next to a tiny pink building and step into a small, homey room with a few steam tables, a carving station, and a dessert table off to one side. Not so impressive. Then you walk up to the steam tables: the cold table overflows with the sea’s bounty as crab legs, raw oysters, and shrimp all vie for space with a bowl of freshly-made Caesar salad, while the hot table to the right holds perfectly seasoned wild rice, roasted vegetables, lasagna, and a delectable poached chicken in horseradish sauce, in which the tender, flavorful meat makes the perfect foil for the spicy horseradish (and sits quite well atop the wild rice). Finish the meal off with a visit to the dessert table, where you can run strawberries, melon, or pineapple under a bubbling chocolate fondue fountain or grab a tiny petit four that bursts with either banana, mint, or berry flavor.

A.C.’s Bar and Grill

Downtown. 467 King St.

577-6742

Brunch served Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

If you’re looking for a place where you can stumble in wearing pajamas and large sunglasses and not attract attention while tucking into a late, down-home brunch, A.C.’s is it. The specials at A.C.’s change weekly, but there are a few stalwarts — the “you’ve gotta try this” chicken and waffles (fried chicken fingers served atop piping hot Belgian waffles), the “white trash omelet” (an omelet filled with hashbrown casserole, fried chicken, and shredded cheddar), and the visually arresting and tongue-delighting spicy grits and sausage (served in a shallow bowl with a martini glass filled with scrambled eggs in the center). While you’re placing your order at the bar (there’s no table service at the “no frills watering hole”), consider picking up a $2 mimosa or Bloody Mary, or hey, maybe some coffee to finally wake up.

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Atlanticville


Sullivan’s Island. 2063 Middle St.

883-9452

Brunch served Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Located on Sullivan’s Island in a converted beachfront residence, Atlanticville is the place to take out-of-town relatives who want an old-fashioned brunch with culinary flair. There’s an inviting porch facing the street that’s covered and surrounded by plastic, so diners can eat al fresco no matter what the weather’s like. The prices are higher at Atlanticville, but the service is impeccable and the menu offers loads of seafood dishes — appropriate for a restaurant located about 100 feet away from the water. Their stone-ground grits, with just a tiny kick of pepper, are the real deal — perfect for converting grit-hating Yankees who’ve only experienced the instant variety. The buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy with a chive scramble come with flaky, crunchy biscuits topped with a sauce so good you may be tempted to run your finger around the inside of the bowl, manners be damned.

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Joseph’s Restaurant

Downtown. 129 Meeting St.

958-8500

Brunch served Sunday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

This Meeting Street establishment is so warm and Southern, they keep an urn of fresh coffee outside for patrons to enjoy during the inevitable wait — Joseph’s is always a popular place on Sundays. Their powdered-sugar-dusted beignets are a fantastic start or end to the meal, perfect for eating alone or dipping in coffee. Entrées like the sweet potato pancakes, served with toasted pecan butter, arrive at the table in perfectly-sized portions, as does the filet benedict, which is a tower of steak-and-egg flavor built on a solid base of Holland rusks and savory roasted red peppers. There are also six creative omelets on the menu with ingredients like “fresh crab, oven dried tomatoes, ricotta cheese, and fresh herbs,” all of which are served with a choice of breakfast potatoes, toast, or grits (which they’ll kindly add cheese to on request).

Hominy Grill


Downtown. 207 Rutledge Ave.

937-0930

Brunch served Saturday and Sunday,

9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Chef Robert Stehling’s mecca of Charleston specialties isn’t a buffet, but it’s irresistibly tempting to pretend like it is when presented with the brunch menu, which is served from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays. Hominy is a fine place to take picky eaters, whether they’re small children or vegetarians — if you’ve got a favorite breakfast food, chances are good that it or some variation of it is on the menu. There’s fresh granola with bananas and yogurt, the traditional country breakfast (two eggs any style with grits and toast and bacon or sausage), buttermilk pancakes (the day we went there was a cornmeal pancakes special), the Lowcountry omelet stuffed with red rice, sausage, and peppers and with a shrimp cream sauce on top … and many more. The pumpkin-ginger bread is a never-fail starter for the meal (unless you’d rather indulge in a spicy Absolut Peppar Bloody Mary made with fresh tomato juice and garnished with a housemade okra pickle and a slice of lime), and although it’s a difficult task, try to save room for dessert. The buttermilk pie is a rarity that Hominy does just right, and their chocolate pudding has inspired orgasmic responses that put When Harry Met Sally to shame.