The Spotted Pig
314 West 11th Street, New York NY 10014 (at Greenwich St; map); (212) 620-0393; thespottedpig.com
Service: Reasonably friendly and efficient
Setting: A good-looking (and nearly always packed) West Village pub
Must-Haves: Fried Duck Egg and Ramps, Gingerbread Pancakes
Drinks: Check out our post »
Cost: $15 brunch entrees
Perhaps it's because we've so often found ourselves at The Spotted Pig well after midnight that it's never occurred to us as a destination for brunch the next morning. (Even though we're the kind of people who often start dreaming about meals a day before.) But once we were struck by the idea of a Spotted Pig brunch, we couldn't get it out of our heads. For a weekend day's kickoff meal, we usually want (or, well, need) something fatty and salty and gut-satisfyingly delicious, and that's just the kind of food the Spotted Pig excels at.
Of course, we weren't the only ones to hit upon this idea—a line had already formed out the door when we showed up last Saturday morning at the stroke of eleven. But what we tried of their brunch offerings was more than enough to justify a wait.
Counter Culture coffee ($5) is thick and dark and refilled from French presses throughout the meal, a brew made for anyone needing a powerful kick into consciousness. They've also got a long drink menu, as well as their usual roster of beers and wines; of the drinks, we enjoyed a grapefruit-vodka Salty Dog ($11) and the Pig's Bloody Mary ($12). (For more on the drinks, check our our post)
While a number of dishes from lunch and dinner service show up on the brunch menu (we saw hardly a table without their famous Roquefort-topped burger, a fine meal if ever there were one), there are a number of brunch exclusives, too. On the sweeter side, the gingerbread pancakes ($16) were deeply spiced but light in texture, moist and fluffy with nice, crisp edges. Three to a plate, with a light vanilla cream, candied almonds, and a blizzard of powdered sugar, they constitute an brunch plate that one could actually finish.
The Dutch Baby ($15), like a crisp-edged, eggy crepe, is another sweet dish that's not overwhelmingly so; atop it lie two thick slices of the Spotted Pig's housemade bacon. It's thick and chewy, not shatter-thin, with a smokiness that builds the longer you chew it. Ending up covered in maple syrup from the pancake, its sweet-meaty bite is the best part of the dish.
Eggs poached or fried (or poached, then fried) dominate the rest of the brunch dishes. Deep Fried Poached Eggs with Chorizo Stew ($16) sounded like the sort of borderline-excessive dish the Spotted Pig does best. On the plate, the thick chunks of chorizo were drowned in a sweet sea of cooked-down onions and sherry vinegar; though that savory-sweet-tangy balance was appealing at first, it was a little too greasy to stay appealing for more than a few bites. Though the panko-coated deep-fried eggs were done right, they didn't stay crunchy long in a sea of chorizo oil; they weren't the star of the dish, and the fry didn't do much other than add novelty. Criticisms aside, it's still a plenty tasty plate of food, that some of our number would order again.
Simpler and lighter, the fried duck egg with ramps and anchovy dressing ($16) was a knockout plate of food—and not only because ramps get us so excited this time of year. They're done extraordinarily well here, the slender greens amply salted and oiled and picking up a good char, the duck egg runny and molten, all topped off with an anchovy-butter emulsion; even the bread is perfectly suited, it too salted and charred and olive-oiled. It reminds us that the Spotted Pig can make vegetable dishes just as indulgent-seeming as its fattier, meatier ones.
In the more traditional camp, the Two Poached Eggs with Roast Pork Hash ($16) was a bit less porky than we'd expected, but we have no complaints: the potatoes were soft and buttery, with tons of crispy charred bits, incredibly tasty with a runny egg oozing over the top. Again, it's straightforward food, but done right.
While we preferred some dishes to others, there's really nothing we've tried from this brunch menu that we wouldn't eat again. (There are even dishes we'd consider forgoing the burger for.) It's not a cheap brunch, particularly once you factor in double-digit cocktails and $5 coffee, but it's across-the-board delicious enough to be totally recommendable, particularly when considering the number of profoundly mediocre $15 egg dishes out there in the West Village. Perhaps it's not an every-weekend destination, but we're just happy to find that the Spotted Pig is as good a place to kill a hangover as it is to create one.