The Brunch Dish: Sarabeth's
Wait, what? We don't have anything about Sarabeth's on SENY beyond this single slide in a slideshow and a mention of their oatmeal? Maybe that's because we've always just assumed everyone's been there and knows the score. After all, its UES and UWS locations* are legendary brunch spots, and when you show up at either during prime brunch hours it certainly feels like everyone's there. Which is to say, expect a wait, folks.
No worries, though. At the UWS location, which I visit most often, I've never waited more than a half hour (long enough to window-shop at Zabar's nearby), because if there's one thing Sarabeth's is, it's a brunch factory. And I mean that in the best possible way: After serving what must be tens of thousands of meals since the early '80s,** the place makes consistently great plates of breakfast and brunch items -- in addition to the preserves and baked goods that originally gave Sarabeth Levine her first-name-only status among Upper West Siders.
Look, there's nothing "challenging" or trendy about the menu here. You're not going to find a ramp scramble or up-to-the-minute Greenmarket-inspired improvisations. But if what you want is classic breakfast and brunch food, here you go. You've got your egg-based breakfasts (omelets, scrambles, and Benedicts), your sweet breakfasts (waffles, French toast, pancakes), and your cereals (oatmeals and granolas).
There's a nod to the Jewish brunch tradition of bagels and lox in the "Goldie Lox" omelet, which includes smoked salmon and cream cheese. There are cheese blintzes, too. The huevos rancheros are skippable.
Most of the egg dishes, which I gravitate to, come with your choice of muffin, scone, croissant, or toast — oh, and preserves, of course. It seems a shame to opt for boring ol' toast, doncha think? Go for a muffin. My favorites are the pumpkin muffin and the banana one — both have lots of flavor and a moist crumb. (The scone and the bran muffin are a little dry, as is the corn muffin, but it has good flavor — it just needs a lot of butter and jam.)
The lunch menu, which starts at 11 a.m., is a mix of salads and sandwiches. I've never ordered from it. OK, well, I vaguely remember ordering from it once or twice, but I've always returned to the breakfast end of things, which is what, in my book, Sarabeth's does best.
A favorite of mine is the French toast, either in regular form (above) or almond-crusted with cranberry-cherry sauce, or configured with apple-cinnamon and topped with bananas.
The slices are thick, just eggy enough, and almost too spongy-chewy, soaking up the real maple syrup they're served with all too easily, to the point you almost need more.
My wife's favorite is the potato waffle with chicken-apple sausage, apple sauce, and sour cream. It would probably land on my most-ordered list, too, but I just always steal bites of hers.
Note that the potato waffle, the upgraded French toasts, and a pumpkin waffle are available only at brunch on weekends (most of the menu is available for breakfast weekdays) and only at the UWS and UES branches. (The Central Park South location, the one easiest for us to get to, infuriatingly does not serve it.)
Also note that prices are a bit high for what you get. The omelets and scrambles come only with the baked good and jam — no potatoes, no salad, nothing like that. If you're an egg-meat-potato person, you're going to have to hit up the Sides menu ($6.50 for potatoes, $7.25 for meats). One frill I almost always opt for, though, is the Four Flowers Juice (above), a blend of orange, fresh pineapple, banana, and pomegranate juices. Definitely more than the sum of its parts, yet each flavor is discernible.
If you've come this far in the blabbage, you're probably not familiar with Sarabeth's. Do yourself a favor and put it on your list if you're ever in the neighborhoods.
* There's also the Central Park South location; it's always been busy when I've gone but never lines-out-the-door packed. And it just sort of feels like a satellite-location spin-off of the UWS/UES Sarabeth'ses.
** If not more.