You may or may not know this, but Keller's in Isle Casino recently decided to start serving brunch using a new and exciting menu created by Cape Girardeau's culinary superstar, Executive Chef Derek Miller. Along with delicious menu items, there are new hours of operation starting at 11 AM. Sounds pretty awesome, right? We thought so, too.
To get the full scoop, we reached out to Nicole McGinnis, the marketing manager for Isle Casino. She graciously invited us to come out for the first Sunday brunch and try it for ourselves, and we at the 573 could not have been happier!
Kellers is complete with glass doors leading out to a magnificent wrap-around balcony overlooking the mighty Mississippi. The balcony itself looked amazing, and if hadn’t been such a rainy day, we would’ve had our brunch out there for sure. Still, the indoor dining area was just as intriguing.
The Prickly Pear Lemon Mimosa is a Sunday brunch must secretly packing a super sour kick. It looked innocent enough, almost like a champagne flute of pink lemonade. But don't let the soft pink fool you. This sweet and sour treat will awaken your taste buds with a jolt and have your senses tingling in no time. The White Pear Sangria was quite the contrast in a tall glass with various colored liqueurs swirling and hanging like a golden October sunset. It had a sweet and refreshing taste with subtle hints of pineapple and pear dancing on my tongue. It really made my whole face light up! I just had to try this last drink, the Pomegranate Blueberry Rum Punch. With rich violet-red tones in a uniquely curvy glass garnished with fresh oranges, lemons, and blueberries, this drink had me at, "Hello."
When the food came through the kitchen's double doors, the aroma drifted ahead and my mouth watered immediately. The first thing we tried was the Avocado BLT Crepe. This dish combines applewood smoked bacon, oven-roasted tomatoes, Gruyere cheese, and fresh arugula wrapped in a tissue paper-thin and perfectly browned crepe drizzled with tomato aioli and topped with avocado salsa. Light and pleasant, it plays with your taste buds with its clean yet uninhibited blend of sweet and savory. Up next was the Wild Garden Crepe, a vegetarian dish, although had we not been told, I never would have known it. The heartiness of the sautéed crimini mushrooms and Gruyere mixed with the delicate and fresh flavors of the oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, caramelized onion, arugula, and tomato aioli could please even the most carnivorous customers, although looking at the description most meat eaters would not even think to try it.
Speaking of nearly missing out on something awesome, if I had been there as an everyday patron, I never would have thought of ordering something called the Triple Bacon Breakfast Sandwich. Thankfully, we tried it, and it turned out to be one of our favorite dishes. It is comprised of a golden, buttery bun layered with their famous in-house brown sugar bacon, black pepper shoulder bacon, succulent pork belly bacon, a large fried egg, Gruyere cheese, fresh arugula, and tomato slices, then drizzled with garlic aioli and served with seasoned potato wedges. This gloriously complex sweet and meat medley quite literally towered above the other menu items and seemed like the ultimate meal for any time of day. When we later asked about the dish and its mix of contrasting flavors, Chef Derek responded, "We wanted to come up with something out of the ordinary, something more than just your average bacon sandwich." That they did.
Sure to be a hit, the Keller Slinger is best shared unless you have a monster appetite. Breakfast potato wedges layered with a biscuit, fried eggs, golden crisp fried chicken, and smothered in house chorizo gravy and topped with sautéed peppers and onions, it was a spicy and exciting upgrade on the classic biscuits and gravy. This sophisticated and cultured twist of the traditional country favorite took my breath away with its hot and savory Cajun undertones. The spicy flavors were complimented with the sweetness of the roasted peppers and onions that topped this Frankenstein of a feast.
The aptly named Supreme Omelet is another dish that could easily be a meal for two. This rockstar of the new menu is loaded with bacon, chorizo, sautéed peppers, onions, mushrooms, oven-roasted tomatoes, and a creamy cheddar jack cheese. With subtle hints of chili, the Supreme Omelet is a spicy revelation with a wonderful heat that will linger long after the last bite. The next Cajun-style dish that Chef Derek so thoughtfully prepared for us was the Shrimp Nachos. I know this is not a new brunch menu item—its been on the regular menu for some time—but I asked Chef Derek if he could make us one of his specialties, a creation he takes pride in, and man, he did not disappoint! We enjoyed house-made tortilla chips cooked to perfection topped with pepper-jack queso, shredded cheese, fresh pico de gallo, sour cream, avocado salsa, traditional salsa, and of course, lots of jumbo shrimp with that same Cajun-like seasoning I tasted subtle hints of in the previous dishes, only bolder and with a bit more heat.
Don't worry, though—it's not all spicy or hearty. There are options for those who enjoy the sweeter stuff, too. Chef Derek assured me that they're up for making the traditional pancakes or French toast upon request, but if you have a sweet tooth and want to treat your senses, I would highly recommend the Blueberry Lemon Crepes. O...M…G…YUUUUMMMM! A heavenly yet somehow sinful silky smooth, richly sweet yet light cream cheese filling and fresh blueberries with subtle hints of lemon are all wrapped in a delicate golden crepe topped with a caramel drizzle and crumbles of white chocolate streusel. This dish is hypnotic and will draw you into a whole new universe of flavors exploding with melty, divine, and sweet sensations that are sure to both stimulate and satisfy even the most fickle of appetites. A glass of Domino Pinot Grigio compliments this dish perfectly with its sweet aroma of pineapple and vanilla, crisp light flavor, and clean finish.
When the last dish arrived, Chef Derek accompanied by Room Chef Cory Streiler came out to visit with us. After such an excellent meal, I felt like I was meeting a celebrity.
Little did I know, I had been a fan for much longer than I realized. Chef Derek started his culinary career at the old Royal N'Orleans that was once on Broadway in Cape. He rose in the ranks and soon became an investor, part owner, and head chef. I got very excited at the mention of this place because it was one of my favorite restaurants before it closed down, as well as the very place where my husband proposed. It wasn't long before we figured out that Chef Derek was the one who prepared my wedding engagement meal! I couldn't believe the coincidence! Life can be pretty funny.
After hearing about his Midwestern upbringing and a somewhat country, middle America kind of disposition, I had to ask him, "I've noticed many of your dishes have a predominantly Cajun flavor. Where did that influence come from?"
"Paul Prudhomme's cookbook," he replied promptly. Derek's first cookbook, which he used and memorized between the ages of 11 and 12, was by American celebrity Chef Paul Prudhomme, whose specialties were Creole and Cajun cuisines. The cookbook explains both the Cajun heat in his new dishes and his first chef position at the Royal N'Orleans. "I read it front to back and just tried, like, EVERYTHING," he said with a gleam of nostalgia in his eye.
"I'm Derek's right-hand man," said Chef Cory. Chef Derek then told me how he and Chef Cory created the menu together. They’d pretty much been Keller's dynamic duo for the past year and a half or so.