Ask the Critic: The Best Non-Brunchy Brunches
Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is senior managing editor, former SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!
Where Should I Get A Non-Sucky Brunch?
Hi Carey, I'm meeting a friend I haven't seen in a while next weekend and she asked if we could do brunch. I hate brunch. I hate "doing brunch." I'm sick of paying too much for plates of bad eggs with stale biscuits and watered down mimosas, and I don't want pancakes either. What I do want is a comfortable place to chat and eat that'll make my dining companion happy without souring me on the meal. Any suggestions?
Oh, I'm right there with you.
I'm flashing back to a traumatic incident from a year or so ago. An out-of-town friend was visiting and emailed several of us: "Let's get brunch on Sunday!" Before I could jump in, another friend of hers replied, "Great! Let's take you to Cookshop, or Penelope, or..."
Friend A could probably hear my anguished cries from Chicago.
You've outlined many of the problems with brunch above: The crowds. The lines. The shelling out of $25 for two eggs and a weak mimosa.
That said, there are plenty of ways to eat during the weekend that don't require even uttering the word Brunch. I'm one of those who considers a subway ride out to Totonno's a perfectly normal way to spend a Saturday morning. (Fact: I prefer 45 minutes on the Q train to 90 minutes waiting outside Cookshop for a table.)
Here are a few other non-brunchy brunches to consider.
The "Similar Menu" Genre
If a restaurant is famous for its offal-y Italian dishes or killer carnitas, why are they suddenly serving French toast on weekend afternoons? Go to a restaurant that sticks to its strengths. Like Kin Shop, where lunch is called "lunch" even on Sundays, and you've got the choice of a 2-course $17 prix fixe or a full menu of Thai specialties; or Buvette, whose French plates of awesome are charming whatever the hour; or Perla (which also has a "lunch" menu, though it's only Friday-Sunday), with a full list of its excellent pastas.
Maybe that's a new rule: If a midday weekend meal is called "Lunch," it's less likely to offend.
The "Make Reservations" Genre
When it's a special occasion brunch, I find that making reservations eliminates a great deal of hassle. Restaurants like Maialino or Locanda Verde or Il Buco Alimentari or DBGB all accept reservations, and all have staff professional enough that you don't get that "I can't believe I'm working again at noon on a Sunday" server attitude.*
*Not that all servers are this way! But you know what I mean? That indifferent, "You bet your ass I'm hungover," foot-dragging thing? I honestly can't cast stones here: I'd be pissy if I had to work brunch service, too. Still, it's no fun as a diner.
The "If I'm Going to Put Up With Brunch, I Might as Well Make it Worth It" Genre
I'm actually just thinking of one restaurant here. If you're intent on waiting in line, getting gruff service, and stuffing yourself silly, probably on pricey eggs or pancakes or fried things, why not just go to Shopsins—where the hassles are considerable but the payoff is incomparable?
The "Food From Other Cultures" Genre
I can promise you that no Malaysian restaurant in Queens has lines out the door for their $15 Eggs Benedict. If a restaurant just has one menu, and it's always open during the day, that's a good insulation from the Brunch Effect. Check out Sripraphai or The Islands or Cafe Tibet or Taci's Beyti.
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