Breakfast at Brown Cafe

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[Photo: Carey Jones]

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.

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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.

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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.

Brown Cafe

61 Hester Street, New York NY 10002 (map) 212-477-2427
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