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I have been so curious about this place since I first learned of its existence. Located in the affable and lovely Circa 1857 complex, Leola’s—stemming from a childhood nickname of one of the owners—offers weekday lunches and a much-talked-about musically accompanied weekend brunch.
Boards are the star for brunch, but there’s a caveat: They are pre-order only. You must commit to one blindly ahead of time when making an online reservation on the restaurant’s website. They feed 2 to 3 adults and generally include items found on the regular menu along with some seasonal options. Given the seasonality of the boards, part of the fun is you just don’t know what you’ll get. And if gorgeous social media posts are any indication, the boards are large, colorful and varied in tastes and textures.
On arrival for our Sunday outing, we were told the brunch board would take 30 minutes to prepare, which surprised us given the required reservation. But the live music was gracious and soulful, the dog-friendly courtyard peaceful and the weather agreeable, so the wait wasn’t an issue. While waiting, you could definitely get your drink on with a wide variety of cocktails or a mimosa flight—with four different juices—served from the cozy outdoor bar area.
Once our brunch board arrived, it was huge and loaded with bagels and lox, brisket, a caprese quiche and caprese salad, avocado toast, hummus, pancakes, fruit and cheese. Whew!
Everything looked super fresh and beautifully arranged. The homemade 16-hour brisket was fatty deliciousness without oppressive smoke. The avocado toast was rather basic, but the crustless quiche was definitely not—it had abundant mozzarella, an airy texture and a flourish of balsamic vinegar. Garlicky with a touch of texture and bright lemon flavor, the fresh housemade hummus was a delightful dip accompanied by lots of veggies. Though the pancakes were fluffy with a mild sweetness, we found their addition to the board didn’t really stand out.
You don’t see many bagel-and-lox options in the South, and that’s a pity. It’s long been a Northeastern specialty, and we were pleased to see it make an appearance down in south Louisiana and on our board. The bagel was chewy and could have used a slight touch more toasting. The smoked salmon was a peachy orange color and deliciously briny, hinting at a proper curing. This addition was a welcomed treat.
Many of these items appear on the regular menu, meaning you could devote your meal to a full order of bagels and lox, caprese quiche and others.
Across the courtyard, we spied what we thought were tacos served in V-shaped metal holders at another table. Upon menu inspection, we read that these taco-adjacent eye catchers were in fact orders of The Big “A” Special consisting of cheesy eggs, potatoes and crumbled bacon all enveloped within—wait for it—flapjack “shells” with a side of maple honey butter. We couldn’t help but wonder how the diners would tackle such monstrosities. The answer? With a fork, possibly because the soft flapjacks might not hold their shape in a handheld delivery method.
Reservations are a must at Leola’s whether you get a board or not. We watched as some wayward souls dropped in and were turned away. But once here, you are welcome to stay a while. With such a friendly staff, gorgeous setting and live music, linger you’ll want—and linger you should. After all, it’s brunch y’all.
Corey and LeAnn Ringe marked a year anniversary for their lunch and brunch cafe at Circa 1857 this January. The spot has become a must-try for the weekend brunch crowd, thanks to its colorful boards, mimosa flights and fresh ingredients. Reservations are a must. Sit on the patio for a nice meal with live music in the background.
WHAT’S A MUST:
The brunch boards are so popular, you have to request them when you book a reservation. But it’s worth it for the smorgasbord of tasty items like 16-hour brisket, caprese quiche and more. If you don’t want to commit to a sharable board, go for a variety of sandwiches, toasts and straightforward breakfast fare.
Wednesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
This article was originally published in the February 2022 issue of 225 magazine.