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Mimosas Latinas: Macondo

1 Mar

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t wake up every weekend morning knowing full well what my brunch plans (if any) will entail. In fact, some of the best brunches I’ve had are the result of spontaneously seeing who’s around and picking a brunch resto at random; not worrying about rezzies and a big production. The best example of this practice set into motion is Macondo, a Latin spot bringing fuss-free brunch to impulsive diners in the LES (Houston btwn Allen/Eldridge).

The dining room at Macondo is open and bright with sprawling bench-like tables perfect for larger groups or communal seating (get to know your neighbors, wink wink). The relaxed atmosphere is perpetuated by the friendly servers who are always popping up to bring your next mimosa… Have I not gotten to the mimosas yet?! So here’s the scoop: $9 bucks gets you your first mimosa and ALL your following drinks are included! They have several flavors but the best by miles is the orange vanilla; you may be tempted to bring vanilla bean to future brunches to “Macondize” all subsequent mimosas – be forewarned.

We started with Yuca fries (think French fries but with much more fiber) – they were FANTASTIC served in a skillet with onions, Chimichurri sauce and queso fresco sprinkled on top. They’re in the “sides” section of the menu and are the perfect starter to share. My brunch date went with the Steak & Eggs which were a good sized portion (for $18, you’d hope it would be) that included 2 White Corn Arepas topped with Cabrales Cheese (the Arepas were good for a bite before the chalky consistency dried out my mouth – the one thing that I’d say they can work on).  I was stuffed from the fries, which are a bit heavy, so I opted for a lighter option – the Manchego & Mushroom Omelet (I had whites) which comes with nutty toasted bread and home fries +peppers, a bargain at $10.

I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other dishes; the Blueberry Pancakes are at the top of my to-do list. I may EVEN make advanced plans to go the next time.  You should DEF plan to get there for brunch, or don’t plan at all (impromptu brunch party!) – Either way it’s a spot that shouldn’t be missed!

The Master Party List

21 Feb

We Like to Party.

When it comes to birthdays and other celebrations, most people love a good party, but can do without handling the logistics. Here to take the guesswork out of planning your next fiesta is Rhea Recommends’ Master Party List:

Best Large Group Party (Up to 30): Kumo Sushi takes the cake on this one. They have a massive party room in the back that’s easy to reserve. Plus with their $31.99 all you can eat and drink special, your party-goers will be full and drunk well imbibed in no time flat. Sake Bomb!

Best Party for a Mid-Sized Group: There’s something about eating at a big round table that makes any celebration better. My two fave round table options perfect for 8-10 heads? Mario Batali’s Otto (which also happens to be one of my top spots in NYC) or Chinatown Brasserie – both have large round tables and dishes built to share for the table.

Best BYOB Dinner: Birthday celebrations can get pricey, so bringing your own bottle of wine (or 6) can really help keep prices down. Round up your crew and head to the excellent Italian spot 11B or if you’re feeling Thai food, try Sticky Rice in the LES.

Biggest Shizz Show: Tortilla Flats. Tequila, Cinco de Mayo decorations year round, and more (very cheap) tequila. You’re going to have one hell of a good time and one hell of a headache the next day. Embrace the cheesy décor and let your inhibitions go.

Best Cocktails w/Light Bites: The Dove serves up excellent cocktails and has the perfect seating accommodations for a group ordering small bites with their drinks. Try to reserve the window seat! Another great option is Lunasa – they have very simple bar fare but the draw is the awesome backyard with picnic tables – it’s an excellent warm-weather option.

Best B-Day Brunch: No birthday is complete until you’ve met with your friends the next day to rehash the idiocy of the evening prior, and brunch is the perfect venue. For full on debauchery, I’d say Sunburnt Cow is the way to go, but if you’re looking to class it up a bit, you can always go with Essex… or any of the excellent options I’ve laid out for you here.

Whatever it is that you’re celebrating, cheers to you!

Southern Hospitality: Nolita House

15 Feb

The next time you’re wrangling a group of your peeps for a lively brunch with comfort food offerings (the ideal meal for hangovers), look no further than Nolita House (Houston btwn Mott/Mulberry).  The mixed crowd of hipsters, professionals and Bluegrass fans – yes, they have a live Bluegrass band – sets the perfect vibe to get your Saturday or Sunday started off right.  Know that you’re going to wait a tick (if you’re with 5+ ppl, def make a rezzie).  The good news is you’ll join the folks surrounding the bar and enjoying the resto’s Southern hospitality and tunes.

The menu is jam packed with comfort staples like the New Orleans Shrimp w/Sunny Side Eggs over Cheesy Grits (INCREDIBLE) and the Croque Madame (just under the Monsieur – NOT to be missed). Also offered are some less traditional options (how did the Brick Oven Pizza get on there? who cares, it’s awesome!).  There are also 4 Benedicts; one of my pals had the Maryland – Eggs Benedict w/Crab Cakes in lieu of an English Muffin – very tasty.

The best part is the deal; everything on the menu comes with a brunch cocktail!  For a second round, I recommend opting for sangria, warm apple cider+brandy or even an espresso with Kahlua.  All were inspired departures from the common morning libation; Nolita House is certainly a departure from the common brunch.

Tap into Tapeo 29

31 Jan

All Hail Cocktails

Listen up, because this one’s making the list of TOP brunch spots.  Too often I’ve come to find that when you’re getting an excellent brunch special, the sacrifice is in the quality of the food.  So when I heard about Tapeo 29, a Zagat’s rated tapas spot offering a stellar brunch deal, I knew my weekend research was going to take me to the Lower East Side (Clinton @ Stanton).

Tapeo is a true bar and restaurant that, unlike many spots with both these features, doesn’t suffer from an identity crisis.  The resto’s expansive center bar is surrounded by high top tables which are closely situated and make it easy to strike up a conversation with your neighbors, if you so desire.  With the drink special, which is $20 for an entrée + 2 drinks (mimosas, bloodies, screw drivers), I’m certain you’ll be chatting up your fellow brunchers in no time.  Done with your first 2 drinks and fiending for more?  No worries, after your included drinks, additional cocktails are $2 each or $5 for a pitcher, if you’re really looking to get after it.

Wrapped Up in Brunch Bliss

The special also gives you free range of the whole menu, so you have the option to choose a traditional breakfast item, or to order $20 worth of tapas.  The Brunch Wrap with eggs, cheddar and avocado slices was great; the salsa verde was an awesome sauce and the home fries are the ISH – the Eggs Benedict were “super” as well.  A table favorite was the Chorizo al Sidra – medallions of chorizo slow cooked in apple cider and cinnamon, which even I had to admit, smelled phenomenal.

This Benedict's No Traitor

The bartenders and wait staff are friendly and accommodating, which makes it easy to settle into a nice long day of debauchery.  So assemble a crew, make a reservation and get ready to warm up your barstool – Tapeo 29 is the spot.

Bloody Mary Throwdown: Double Crown

24 Jan

Visit the Bloody Bar!

If you’re a fan of Bloody Marys, you’re going to LOVE the do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar at Double Crown.  The NoHo (Bowery/2nd St) hot spot offers up several prix fixe brunch options that will have you challenging your friends to a Bloody Throwdown of epic proportions.  Oh, and they serve brunch food too!

Double Crown is a British fusion resto with a really interesting menu that incorporates Asian influences into both the food and décor.  It’s a really large space that is upscale and swanky – the crowd is rather attractive too, might I add!  There wasn’t a wait (although the place was pretty full), which is a big plus.  The brunch at DC is offered either a la carte or with 2 prix fixe choices – for $20 you’ll get an entrée + 1 cocktail or for $32 you’ve got yourself as many drinks as you can imbibe – heck yes.  Get creative with the Bloody bar’s accoutrements – the pickled vegetables (unexpectedly) stole the show for me.

Yummy in My Tummy

The food was good, but a little salt bumped it up to great.  I had the Old English Breakfast – the beans were SO good and the bread was delicious (I may even opt for the French Toast next time).  My brunch partner du jour went with the Grilled Sambal Prawns & Scrambled Eggs – the avocado + tomato salad served with it was legit.  Also, word on the street is that the Crispy Pork Belly on steamed rice with chili caramel, mint and fried egg is amazing.

Fawn Over Prawn

While the unlimited option is a little pricey, you definitely are getting your money’s worth.  Go with a large group and make a day out of it – use the initial Bloody to hone your skills then go head to head with your friends for the Throwdown title of Best Bloody.  Bobby Flay would be proud.  Oh, and if you want to try dinner, book through Savored to get 25% off your total bill Monday-Wednesday.  Get down with Double Crown!

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