Some mornings it's absolutely essential that you find a place to get brunch that's dark as shit—say, for instance, the morning after you ill-advisedly ordered a case of Yuengling to go from Club Charles to keep the party rolling at a nearby house. You also most definitely need some strong drinks to delay that inevitable hangover. Rocket to Venus delivers on both accounts.
After dragging ourselves to the Hampden spot, we were instantly welcomed into a brunch bat cave of sorts. It was so dark that we could barely tell if it was daytime out (there's also outdoor seating for you non-vampires). The place was pretty crowded, as we've seen on multiple occasions, so we were glad to nestle into a corner out of view of anyone who might see us in our less-than-optimal state.
We quickly sat down at our table and ordered a bloody mary ($6) and a drink from their cocktail menu that's popular with the regulars, a figgy pop ($8). Made with a combination of fig vodka, fresh lime, muddled orange, and seltzer, the figgy pop was like an elevated fig-infused screwdriver and had us instantly regretting not doubling up on that order. That is until we tried the bloody, which was a much-needed jolt of salt, spice, and that always-essential strong dose of vodka.
After we opened the menu, the coconut French toast ($9), two slices of coconut encrusted baguette, strawberries, pineapple, and crème fraiche, instantly jumped out. We quickly ordered it as our appetizer and were glad we did, because it might have been the best thing we had all day. Soaked in an egg wash, encrusted in little crispy golden-brown strands of coconut, and then seemingly deep-fried, the baguette alone was over-the-top indulgence, but the added one-two punch of the fruit and the crème had us giving our cohorts that silent "can you believe this shit?" look of bliss.
Unfortunately, some of the entrees didn't fare as well. A stack of buckwheat pancakes ($8) came out looking fluffy and beautifully presented with splashes of blueberry compote and white powdered sugar. But we were pretty disappointed to find them a bit dry and without any noticeable flavor in the pancake itself—a letdown, since they looked almost too good to eat.
The breakfast bahn mi ($11), on the other hand, was a refreshing alternative to the traditional Vietnamese sandwich. Pickled carrots and daikon (although the pickling was very light), spicy jalapenos, lettuce, cilantro, cucumber, and tofu (scrambled eggs are also an option) were pressed between a crunchy baguette that had been slathered in a lovely mint aoli that brightened up the sandwich without weighing it down. It's also nice to see they have a couple vegetarian options on the menu.
The crab benedict ($14), although salvageable—because it's pretty hard to fuck up a benedict—was not as good as the menu depicted. The crab cakes were dry and lacking any strong crab flavor (the good sweet kind), the eggs weren’t poached—instead they'd been fried sunny-side up in egg rings—and the hollandaise wasn't thick enough to stay on top, instead running into a sad puddle onto the side of the plate. The side of grits ($3) we ordered almost made up for it though, with their creamy consistency, sweet corn backbone, and the salty kick from the cheese melted throughout.
But despite the kitchens suboptimal execution, we really did enjoy our afternoon at Rocket to Venus. The staff was friendly and attentive without being too annoying—critical when your head's on the brink of hitting the eject button—the music was good without being too loud, and, most importantly, the drinks were excellent. But be weary of the Death in the Afternoon ($10)— a drink Ernest Hemingway claimed to have invented that’s a heady mix of champagne and absinthe—because it kicked us in the face and out into the blazing heat with the same hangover we entered with.