Six months later, it’s time to reflect.
Reflect on brunch. Now that I’ve been living in Manhattan for 6 months, I decided to write about 6 of my favorite brunch spots. These are the cream of the crop, and all managed to deliver (for the most part – I will note exceptions) great atmosphere, unique choices, and that relaxed feeling that makes brunch so addicting.
Five Points – NoHo
One Saturday morning I walked into Five Points without a reservation. There was one bar table left, and instead of waiting for a table in the dining room, we took it. I’ve never gotten used to the idea of spoiling my appetite before brunch, so I rarely eat beforehand and arrive at the restaurant ravenous. My method worked in the case of Five Points, with its friendly, efficient staff who made recommendations without being too intrusive and took our order as soon as we were ready.
I also have to admit that I’m wary of bar tables – but this one was cozy with a banquette on one side and not so close to neighbors where we could hear conversations. Not clearly anyway. I always know a restaurant is a good match for me when I genuinely can’t decide on a dish. This Saturday morning I was torn between two and vowed to return soon for the other option. The pork-fennel sausage and poached eggs had me at the buttermilk biscuit part of the description. Layered on top of a warm buttermilk biscuit was the sausage and poached eggs, served with a roasted tomato sauce. Unique, and yet not contrived. It worked. And worked beautifully with the cocktail my server recommended.
La Esquina – Nolita
I love a little spice with my brunch, so I had high expectations walking into La Esquina. Many food-loving friends rave about the fresh Mexican cuisine at this cafe, and while I agree, I also thought it was a little cramped for two. I know this is New York City, but when a table for two becomes three because a toddler is sitting next to mommy – and I’m supposed to sit next to the toddler – I think something has gone wrong. Tables for four looked much more normal.
Yet when my plate arrived there was nothing left to complain about. I opted for the Huevos a la Esquina – eggs over a roasted chicken and poblano hash. Instead of fried eggs, I asked to have mine poached, and the generous portion was satisfying in more ways than one. The combination of roasted chicken, potatoes, poblano peppers, and onions was a perfect bed for the poached eggs. The cafe made up for its seating difficulties with its coffee. A cafe con leche arrived in a cute little container, providing the perfect cup and a half portion. I left with the warm and fuzzy feeling that brunch is supposed to provide.
The New French – The West Village
This Saturday brunch at the New French started well: we got the perfect table. A table for four, up against the window, with no noisy neighbors or opportunities for chair bumping. On top of that, we weren’t rushed to order. The waitress seemed to quickly grasp that we were old friends catching up who were more concerned with conversation than the menu – and she didn’t push it. When we finally closed our menus and looked up, she was right there ready to take our order.
My taste at brunch is often more savory – but every once in a while my sweet tooth charges ahead. At The New French I was tempted by the pumpkin ricotta pancakes – and every bite satisfied with its gooey texture, blend of flavors, and generous portion of fresh fruit over the top. French Press coffee is served with a little hourglass – so you know exactly the amount of time to brew a perfect cup. I opted for a cappuccino instead – and equal time was taken to make it with care. If only every Saturday could have this wonderful of a start.
Next week I’ll share details on three more brunch favorites in lower Manhattan. Readers – have any favorites to add to the list for the next six months?