The brunch sun over St. Petersburg shines dimmer. On Aug. 9, Engine Rose announced its shocking closure, and my life will never be the same.
It was a special day when I first stumbled upon the former best brunch in Tampa Bay. I was floored — almost a dozen different eggs Benedict? $3 mimosas and draft beers all day? For four glorious hours on Sundays, the Grand Central District restaurant, sister spot to burger joint Engine No. 9, had the best-kept brunch secret in St. Pete.
There was a classic Benny on perfectly toasted English muffins. A smoked salmon Benedict sat over crispy hash browns. Portobello mushrooms were the base for a vegetarian delight. Crab cakes floated over Canadian bacon with a chipotle hollandaise. Chicken and waffles with a poached egg became the ultimate sweet-and-savory pairing. Fried plantains were the base for two boys: a veg-friendly huevos rancheros, and the perfect dance of shrimp and chorizo.
The king of them all was, without a doubt, the fried green tomato Benedict, complete with a chunk of seared pork belly and a chipotle hollandaise.
But the Benedicts were only as good as the poached eggs on top, and Engine Rose's were perfect. There was never an overcooked yolk; they sat atop these dozen indulgences impeccably cooked, the golden egg oozing over the rest of the dish.
It became my mission to eat every one of these varied Benny styles. Now, that mission will forever be a distant dream. I will never be able to stake my claim in completing this legendary list of brunch delights, never be able to overcome my denial of red meat to see how the aged shaved sirloin, American cheese and peppercorn hollandaise came together.
There was fervor. There were days I arrived at Engine Rose, eyes bright and stomach grumbling, yet brunch would be over.
"There was a huuuuge party, it was packed from noon until now," the bartenders would tell me as I slyly rolled in around 2 p.m. "Who told!?" I'd demand, ignorant of the fact I had literally been talking about the brunch to anyone who would listen in the past months.
Today, I only have the photos. I only have the memories of $3 Crank Cycle on tap. I only have the videos of my yolks breaking, squirting gleefully over home fries. I only have the unbelievable story of brunch for under $20 with a full stomach and a soft buzz.
For now, all I can do is pour out some mimosa, choke back my tears and look for the next yolk to break.