The clock said noon, but the vibe inside the Southie hot spot Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant was somewhere closer to midnight. The bar was packed. The outfits were nightclub hot. The din was so loud that conversation was best shouted.
“If you’re not drinking a Bloody Mary or a mimosa you’re not doing brunch right,” said Mary Grygorcewicz, 26, as she and two friends enjoyed mimosas, agreed that they could switch to beer now that it was no longer morning, and looked forward to their next activity, which was a fund-raiser at a bar for a friend running the Boston Marathon.
“We’re day drinking,” she said.
Welcome to brunch — the new Saturday night.
Let the #NeverBrunch folks rage against brunch’s long lines and high-price, coma-inducing tendencies, but brunch is making a fiery ascent, morphing from a sedate affair into a social scene with DJ’s and Bloody Mary bars.
Nationwide, brunch service grew 22 percent over a five-year period, according to the NPD Group. In 2012, restaurants served brunch to 878 million patrons. In 2017, that number grew to more than 1 billion. That’s as lunch and dinner business is dipping slightly, according to NPD.
In Boston, a growing number of restaurants are adding Saturday brunch, and Lincoln Tavern and Allston’s Deep Ellum now serve brunch daily. Tuesday brunch — it almost sounds obscene.
In Back Bay, Buttermilk & Bourbon has a New Orleans-themed brunch with a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar and a tarot card reader in the “voodoo lounge” area. At Committee, in the Seaport, the DJ starts at 11 on Sunday.
Ashmont Grill in Dorchester also offers a crowd-favorite Saturday and Sunday brunch, and often throws themed brunches with specialty cocktails and foods, said manager Tara O’Riordan. Among the themes: brunches featuring the Olympics, pop stars, pajamas, disco, and — especially popular, she said — a wig-and-mustache brunch.
“People love brunch,” O’Riordan said. “It’s a thing.”
Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, attributes the growth in part to a 2010 change in the state’s alcohol laws that allowed restaurants to start serving alcohol earlier on Sundays — at 10 a.m. instead of noon.
“Day drinking is popular right now,” Luz said.
Day drinking — for those not on-trend alcohol-wise — is a catchy term for what used to be known as “drinking during the day.”
Excessive drinking is never cool, but the dark side of overindulging while “day drinking” is often glossed over in day-drinking memes and guides (“The most important area of focus during your Day Drinking is not, in fact, the drinking” the website Thrillist advised in a 2017 story. “It’s the eating. Proper eating will be your buoy through the day.”).
There’s even a day-drinking song. “Don’t want to wait til the sun’s sinking,” the country music superstar band Little Big Town croons, “We could be feeling all right/I know you know what I’m thinking/Why don’t we do a little day drinking.”
Can we also talk about day eating?
Look at brunch menus. It’s as if chefs are retaliating against diners for making them work on a Sunday by ramping up the calories. The following are actual offerings: Fried chicken and biscuits with sausage gravy, a fried egg, and Sriracha maple syrup. Buttermilk pancakes with spice pumpkin swirl, cream cheese sauce, spiced syrup and candied pepitas. A caramel apple boozy milkshake.
One chef estimated that brunch is 33 percent more fattening than dinner.
But who cares? It’s brunch!
Publicist Nicole Russo said that Puritan & Company’s Sunday brunch got so popular at one point that owner Will Gilson asked her to refocus efforts elsewhere at the restaurant.
“We could use these guests on a random Tuesday night,” he said.
Which is definitely not to dis brunch guests. At a time when restaurants are under intense financial pressure, brunch is a way of expanding into a previously underutilized part of the day, said restaurant consultant Ed Doyle.
“Any time you introduce eggs into the mix it helps to reduce food costs,” he said. “And brunch makes people feel it’s OK to have a Bloody Mary in the morning. Those are great check drivers and profit drivers.”
Even so, not everyone loves brunch. Mention baked stuffed French toast with Nutella, banana, and whipped cream in a crowded room and look out!
“I loathe brunch,” said Anna Asphar, a human resources manager from Brookline.
Brunch rage is a thing for all the reasons you’d think: Brunch forces you to get yourself up and presentable on a weekend so you can stand in line for the privilege of paying too much for glorified comfort food, only to eat and drink yourself into a post-brunch coma that kills the rest of the day.
But brunch’s issues run deeper. Brunch has become political, a dividing line in an already divided world, inspiring a widespread and vehement counter-movement — #NeverBrunch.
It is has become, in so many words, the Donald Trump of meals.
Brunch has developed such an entitled reputation that activists protesting police brutality have staged awareness-raising events at “white spaces” — brunch spots — and used the Twitter hashtag #BlackBrunch.
Merry White, a Boston University anthropologist, says in the “accusatory times” in which we live, “Brunch has picked up the static of divisiveness.”
Brunch divides along class and age issues, she said — noisy brunch spots are not baby boomer-friendly — and often becomes a stage for showing off last night’s hangover. Brunch, once for mothers in corsages, is bro time.
But brunch can’t be stopped. At 23, and so into Instagram that she earns her living as an “influencer” by sharing posts of brunch (and other things) on the social platform, Lena Sternburg (@EastCoastFeastCoast) is in brunch’s grip.
“I love that it’s a free for all,” said Sternburg, of Boston. “Anything goes — no one brunch-shames you.”
Globe correspondent Elise Takahama contributed to this report. Beth Teitell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.