The Brown Cafe sits on a stretch of Hester Street that's part Lower East Side, part Chinatown; it's a small spot, but a good-looking one, particularly before noon, all wood in the morning light through the full-length windows. Since it doesn't open for breakfast until 9:00am, it's perhaps not the best pre-work stop-off, unless you're located in the area or you're just snagging a pastry. But if you've got time for a leisurely morning meal, the fresh, thoughtful food at Brown will do you right.
Coffee (from Intelligentsia) is cranked out on a La Cimbali and properly served in Lavazza cups—a cappuccino with just enough lush, thick foam; a macchiato that's mostly espresso, not the awkwardly portioned milk-espresso many coffee shops serve. The pastries on the counter are delivered each morning from Ceci-Cela (the winner of our search for the best croissant in NYC). Great choices for a morning treat, even the to-go counter shows the sort of attention to detail that characterizes all of the food you'll find here.
There's a whole section of the menu featuring baked eggs, of which we're partial to the baked eggs with spicy chorizo, tomatoes, leeks, and Gruyere ($12.75). There's nothing to get you hungrier in the morning than the smell of melting Gruyere wafting out from the kitchen. Two eggs are baked together with the add-ins in a small skillet, and though mine were a bit less runny than I would've liked, the delicious chorizo and Gruyere oils more than made up for it. It's served with thick slices of crusty bread, here a white filone that was perfect for scooping the eggs on. It's a bit of a pricey breakfast, but we had trouble finishing the whole platter, particularly with the incredibly well-seasoned, tender-middled potatoes.
Anything called a "breakfast platter" is sized as such; we loved the Tuscan breakfast platter ($13.75), an ample tangle of prosciutto di parma, a sizable mound of creamy, tarragon-speckled ricotta with a small pot of honey alongside, reasonably tasty salted-and-peppered tomatoes, and a lightly dressed pile of mixed greens. It's served with a crusty toasted wheat bread that's perfect for slathering on; the best bites were a smear of cheese with a drizzle of honey and a petal of prosciutto. At almost fourteen bucks, it's not an everyday breakfast, but there's enough food to keep you full well into the afternoon.