In typical House of Yes fashion, when I stopped by last weekend to check out the brunch scene, there was little to distinguish between the meal-eating in the decadent, shimmering dining room and the festive party atmosphere in the adjacent performance space. It was Easter Sunday, and of course the DIY theater collective was hosting an all-ages fundraising bash next door where costumes stayed true to the holiday’s pagan fertility themes.
“Did you see what’s happening in there?!” gushed Anya Sapozhnikova, one-half of the collective’s founding duo. From the black-and-white-tiled dining area, you could see inside the theater space where kids and adults alike were running amok, both dressed up in wacky costumes worthy of Louis XIV’s court, or at least a drag show at Bizarre. The brunch room itself was slightly more subdued, but only slightly. Diners wearing equally incredible costumes were just part of the deal. One woman with a pastel purple wig and enormous false eyelashes was topped with a towering church-lady style hat, stuck with bird figurines and blooming flowers, while another diner wore a long priestess robe and a tightly wound turban.
Brunch is a new thing at House of Yes, having started just a handful of weeks ago. But more improvements are on the way, Anya told me. After all, things are always sort of a work-in-progress here. On Sunday, it was a little too nippy for patio dining, but Anya assured me that the backyard is officially open for outdoor brunching, weather permitting. “Yeah, we just installed an outdoor shower back there,” she said matter-of-factly, as if everyone in Brooklyn builds outdoor showers in their spare time.
“A shower?” my friend asked– she hadn’t heard wrong. Anya tried to explain that the shower buildout, and the procurement of a claw-foot bathtub the performers drag on stage every once in a while, were both inspired by a phenomenon known as autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). We nodded. In my experience, it’s better to just accept whatever’s happening at House of Yes and not ask too many questions. It’ll be fun regardless.
Anya explained the concept behind Sunday brunch as “sexy jazz,” which includes live jazz performances from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm. When I stopped by last weekend, servers were decked out in 1920s standards like sequined dresses while some patrons had stuck feathery headpieces to their skulls and managed to keep them there while slurping up shakshuka. Saturdays hold the promise of an even more daring theme with disco brunch. “We dress in full-costume and serve glittery cocktails,” Danny Orlin, the restaurant’s brunch manager, explained.
Starting next week, disco brunch will include a costume contest. Two rounds of winners will be chosen first at noon and then again at 3 pm. “If you win, you get a free brunch coupon and a trophy,” Anya explained. New costume themes are on the horizon, as are “fashion shows,” and a brunch bazaar where diners can browse offerings from local vendors set up in the performance space.
The food, as you might expect, takes a note or two from Queen of Falafel, the venue’s corner falafel shop, without overlapping too much. At brunch, House of Yes can pull off Middle Eastern and North African fare (shakshuka, for instance) that might be next to impossible to prepare in the tiny falafel nook. Standouts include the malawach, a Yemeni pan-fried bread topped with eggs and served with a spicy tomato sauce and Arabic salad. The place even keeps around some American brunch standards like Eggs Benedict served with Middle-Eastern-inspired sides like za’atar-spiced home fries. There are plenty of vegetarian options and customizable plates, as well. Add-ons also span the East/West divide with items like bacon, hummus with za’atar pita chips, and labne.
Brunch cocktails include classics with a spin like the Lady Macbeth, a horseradish-heavy Bloody Mary made spicy with the addition of harissa chili paste. The mimosa is done straight-up, with fresh-squeezed orange juice, as it should be. I was especially comforted to see the presence of a drink called the Hot Shot, an elixir shooter presumably for curing the wickedest of hangovers. Thankfully it contains zero Fireball, but it does have a shot of bourbon, plus ginger, lime juice, and habanero bitters. If the “sexy jazz” isn’t enough to save you from your next Sunday stupor, we suggest downing a couple of Hot Shots– you’ll be gyrating to the upright bass slapping in no time.
Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 4 pm at House of Yes, 2 Wyckoff Avenue in Bushwick.