It would be all too easy to pass right by Carlos Quirarte's and Matt Kliegman's Bond Street cafe The Smile, set downstairs in the basement of an 1830s building. But its less-than-obvious address hasn't hindered the spot's success, called "the white-hot center of NY cool" in GQ just last year (not completely suprising, considering Quirarte and Kliegman are also behind the Jane Ballroom). It has that rough-hewn, laid-back, vintage-NY aesthetic (evocative of Ernest Sewn, where Quirarte used to work) that could easily be dismissed as overdone if it weren't backed up so well by Chef Melia Marden's cooking. The menu skews--as the aesthetic would suggest--seasonal American, with simple options made with quality ingredients.
Much of the clientele seems to stop-in simply to take away coffee and a pastry. The beans are from Rockland County-based Plowshares, and a cup is a worthy-enough reason to stop in.
But I was happy we took a seat and tried their breakfast sandwich: an egg sandwich with ham, Gruyere, and caramelized onions on a toasted English muffin ($8). The onions have been cooked down until they have been rendered extra sweet (a potential complaint for some), but they're balanced nicely by the Gruyere and a side of bitter greens.
Buttered multi-grain toast with raspberry preserves ($4.50) is not in and of itself remarkable, but the seeded slices can also be paired with a delicious side of house-made almond butter. You could tell immediately that this stuff didn't come from a jar.
Steel-cut oatmeal ($7.50) is prepared with coconut milk and a touch of cinnamon, adding a very subtle sweetness (and wonderful fragrance) to the nutty, chewy dish.
The stewed seasonal fruit with Greek yogurt and crushed almonds ($8) seemed equal parts pears and whole-fat yogurt, and the combination was so creamy and sweet that it seemed almost like dessert. So many popular breakfast options could be dessert (French toast, anyone?), so there really isn't a problem there—but it's something one should be prepared for.
The Smile could easily coast on artifice alone (evidenced by all the model-material customers in combos of sheer-tops-and-black-bras, or skinny jeans and workman shirts), but it doesn't need to: the breakfast menu is straightforward yet thoughtful--and, overall, delicious. Breakfast is served until 4:30pm.