Stepping Out: Half & Half
First Half way better than second at brunch/Mexican combo
Half & Half
8133 Maryland Avenue
Clayton, MO 63105
Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I would venture to say that while breakfast is a beloved meal, the classic breakfast cuisine is best enjoyed mid-day or even in the evening. That is why I have always found it frustrating that breakfast and brunch cafés never remain open past 3 p.m. There is definitely a breakfast- for-dinner market out there, yet restaurant owners too often neglect these perfectly good business hours, closing their stores early and losing money from customers like me. Half & Half, a brunch restaurant and coffee shop in Clayton, has found a unique solution: After 5 p.m., it transforms into a Mexican food restaurant called MEDIAnoche. I ate at both halves of Half & Half, and I must say that although the concept of MEDIAnoche was intriguing, its food left me disappointed, while Half & Half’s breakfast (the restaurant’s original purpose) left me wishing it was open 24 hours a day.
I experienced the MEDIAnoche side of Half & Half first. Upon entering, it was clear that the decor did not match the cuisine, which was to be expected considering its original purpose as a morning café. The space pretty much looked like a coffee shop with some of its lights turned off. However, within a few minutes of sitting down, we were treated with chips and two types of salsa (traditional and red pepper), bringing the night’s Mexican theme to light.
The menu was limited—there were only four appetizers, four types of tacos and six entrees—and expensive, so we skipped the appetizers. The taco varieties did not make sense to me. There was pork belly ($9), beef cheek ($10), skirt steak ($9), and avocado ($7.50). However there was no chicken or fish, only options for red meat and essentially a guacamole taco. Two of my dining companions ordered the tacos (beef cheek and skirt steak), served on paper trays containing three tacos loaded with red onions and tons of cilantro. As a cilantro fan, I appreciated that, but I recognize the herb is not for everyone. The tacos were satisfactory, but the meat was slightly well done, and they really could have benefited from some cheese.
The tacos came a la carte, so rice and beans had to be ordered separately, and at $3.50, they seemed overpriced. The sides came side by side in a warm skillet, but the presentation was aesthetically disturbing because the rice was an odd greenish color. As it turns out, the rice was heavily flavored with cilantro, an apparent favorite of the MEDIAnoche cooking staff. The beans were mediocre, sort of half-refried with a peculiar texture.
For an entree, I ordered the Lomo de Cerdo ($14), a pork tenderloin dish covered in a spicy red sauce. The pork medallions were cooked quite well, but I had no warning the dish would be so spicy, and I found myself turning to my cup of water fairly often. The dish was paired with a side of over-salted corn bread, which was filled with ground chorizo and some cheese I could not identify. My friend ordered the Medio Pollo ($14.50), a mild but good dish of chicken breast, leg and thigh in a mango habañero sauce. However, the pickled beet side dish served as an awkward and unnatural combination with the chicken.
MEDIAnoche was decent, but not worth the fairly high price, especially for college students. I much preferred the breakfast at Half & Half, although I was initially disappointed to hear that they ran out of biscuits before I arrived at 11:30 a.m. The menu offered a wide variety of options, serving both breakfast and lunch items at the time we visited. The breakfast options ranged from the classics: pancakes, French toast and eggs, to other sweet granolas and oatmeals, whereas the lunch items included salads and sandwiches which came with a side choice of chips, fruit, breakfast potatoes or house greens.
I ordered the Blueberry Pancakes ($8.50) with a side of ham ($3), simply because I am uncomfortable eating a meal that is entirely carbs. Although I am not a huge fan of the texture of blueberries, I loved their flavor and thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast. The three giant pancakes came with blueberry-flavored butter, which was to die for. The dish was just sweet enough to be wonderful. I only ate half my meal, not out of distaste, but solely because the pancakes were huge (like 10-inches-in-diameter huge). These fluffy pancakes could spar with the best from IHOP.
My brunch companion ordered the Half & Half: two eggs, potatoes and toast ($7) with a reasonably priced side of bacon ($1.50). Although the bacon portion was half as large as my order of ham, both were cooked to perfection and neither was too fatty. My friend’s sunny-side-up eggs, potatoes and toast were what you would expect, but that is not a bad thing at all.
Clearly the more popular restaurant, Half & Half was significantly more crowded than MEDIAnoche. We arrived in time to sit at the counter with no delay, but within 15 minutes or so, there was a crowd of 12 people eagerly awaiting our departure. The variety of food at Half & Half was far better than at MEDIAnoche, and I enjoyed my brunch experience much more than my Mexican immersion. Although Half & Half and MEDIAnoche were equally as expensive, I would highly recommend the former, which I thought was much more worth the price as I left the restaurant pleasantly satiated and ready to start the day.