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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.

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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!

Brunch Away Your Saturday: Sunburnt Cow

18 Jan

Sunburnt Menu

Sunburnt Cow is something of a brunch institution in the East Village (Ave C btwn 8th/9th Sts) – just ask anyone who’s waited up to 2 hours to get in on the boozey brunch action they have going on there.  Walking into the dimly lit tavern is like walking into the perfect meet market.  The crowd is young, hip + good looking, the staff members are all friendly Aussies, and there’s something about the day drinking atmosphere that makes being approached by randos less “stranger danger” than your run-of-the-mill evening out at the bar.

I must admit, when I swung by the Cow this weekend, the wait time was much longer than I’ve ever been subjected to (~1 hr, 45 mins).  However, after letting the bartender know we planned on dining with the bottomless brunch, he gave us free drinks and kept them coming for the next 2 hours or so, which made it more than worth it.  Just to note: we were a party of 3 and we got there at prime brunch time (1:15pm) which did make it tough to seat us – they only take reservations for parties of 6+, so we were at the bottom of a long list.

Aussie Brunch Fare

Eventually, we grabbed a prime table in the back and got to work on brunch – it’s a pretty small yet standard menu.  My brunch mates had the burger (piled high w/ Aussie fixin faves such as beets, pineapple, tomato, lettuce and a fried egg) and the Bush Benedict which was Australian for your standard eggs benedict.  I had egg whites, which our waiter informed me was very boring, but hey – a girl’s gotta leave room for cocktails!  Sides included are salad greens and/or fries and the grub’s actually pretty good, but we’re not really here for the gourmet food, are we kids?!  The main feature is clearly the party atmosphere and the unlimited drinks.  For $18, you’re getting an entrée and hours of inhibition-robbing cocktails (the special includes bloodies, greyhounds, screwdrivers, mimosas and Fosters) – c’mon, that’s a stellar deal.

RR hearts the Cow

A few tips for the best Sunburnt Cow experience: ideally, grab 5 friends and go as a group of 6 – you can snag a rezzie and bypass the wait.  If you want to do a smaller party, I’d make sure you get there by 12pm – after that, the wait grows exponentially – or you can even eat at the bar!  Brunch is always cash only, so make sure you’ve got moola on hand.  LOVE the cow?  Give a visit outside brunch hours – they always offer the option of a 2-hour open bar for 20 bucks (hello, pregame!).

I’m not one to mess around with brunch, folks… get to the Sunburnt Cow STAT!

The Master Brunch List

15 Dec

It’s about time I sat down and put all my top brunch specials down on one post…

My Top 5 Brunch Spots (mapped out below):

1) Essex (LES: Essex/Rivington) – for $22.95 you get at least 3 included brunch drinks (bloodies, mimosas, screwdrivers).  You can make a reservation, big plus.  Food/vibe is GREAT – it truly is the quintessential brunch spot. Menu is here (My fave dish is the Mexican Matzo Brei – YUM). Know before you go: Brunch is cash only!

2) The Sunburnt Cow (E. Ville: Ave C btwn 8th/9th Sts) – for $18 bucks you get fosters, bloodies, mimosas, screw drivers, greyhounds for 2 whole hours.  Service is great, the scene is awesome, just bordering on crowded.  Food is pretty good, but it’s mostly about the experience, in my book. Menu is here (Go with a Greyhound: Grapefruit juice + vodka = YUM).  Know before you go: Cash only. They only take rezzies for 6+ ppl.  Be prepared to wait, but it’s such a meet market, it may be worth it to hang at the bar for a while…

3) Mercadito Grove (W. Ville: 7th Ave S/Grove St) – for $25 you get AYCD Sangria, flavored Mimosas and Beer (cheladas) for 2 hours.  The outdoor location is perfect for warmer weather.  Menu is here (The Guacamole Granada is so creative and the Huevos Rancheros are AWESOME).  Know before you go: They accept reservations!  But before forewarned, the inside dining room is small, if it’s not nice enough to sit outside.

4) Tapeo 29 (LES: Clinton/Stanton) – for $20 you get your brunch entree (or tapas) + 2 bloodies, mimosas, or screwdrivers.  The bar/resto scene makes it a great hang atmosphere.  The egg dishes are great, particularly the Eggs Benedict and the inclusion of tapas in the special gives more diverse options for those who don’t love b-fast food.   Know before you go: they take reservations so make one for sure.  Also, if you want more than 2 drinks, additional cocktails are only $2 each or $5 for a pitcher!

5) Macondo (LES: Houston – Allen/Eldridge) – Brunch entrees are $7-18 and an extra 9 bucks gets you AYCD mimosas of several flavors (Orange+Vanilla is best) – the scene is very low key. Menu is here (start with the Yuca fries, they are GREAT). Know before you go: get a less expensive entree, it’s a better value, and also – if you’re there with singles – ask to sit at a communal table to meet new people.

*****

Some other VERY good notables:

*Agozar (NoHo: Bowery btwn 1st/2nd Sts) – Unlimited Sangria with any brunch item ($9-14).  The party vibe and food is great, but I prefer to have more drink options.

*Diablo Royale Este (E. Ville: Ave A btwn 10th/11th Sts) – for $22 you get AYCD red/white sangria + mimosas. Service is awesome, vibe is great. Menu is here (The Huevos Rancheros w/cheesy grits on the side – wow).  Know before you go: If you want a bloody mary, there’s a “make your own” bar a la carte @ $5 each.

*Double Crown (NoHo: Bowery/2nd St) – 2 Options, both include an entree +tea/coffee; for $20 you get 1 Bloody Mary, for $32 you get unlimited Bloodies.  There’s a make your own Bloody Mary bar, very cool. Menu is here (The Crispy Pork Belly is a major standout). Know before you go: make a reservation to save yourself the wait!

*Philip Marie (W. Ville: Hudson St/W 11 St) – for $24.95, you get 90 mins of brunch drinks (Saturdays-Mimosas, Sunday-Bloodies).  The food is good, the scene is lower key fun… but the wait can be little much for only an hour and a half of hang time.

*Poco (E Ville: Ave B/3rd St) – For $22 you get 3 bloodies/mimosas.sangrias (sometimes more!)  It’s a total party scene, and the food is great. Menu is here (The truffled mushroom omelet was out of control).  Know before you go: with the party vibe comes the noise factor.  Also, for larger parties you can get a 3 hour unlimited brunch for $28.

*PS 450 (Murray Hill: Park btwn 30th/31st Sts) – $13 gets you an entrée and and 1bloody, bellini, or mimosa; $25 will get you unlimited.  Food is good, the menu is limited though.  More fun if you’re bringing a big group.

*Vamos! (Gramercy: 1st Ave btwn 20th/21st Sts) – add $6 to get unlimited frozen margaritas.  Food is good and the outdoor seating is great but some more drink variety would be nice.

*Yerba Buena (E. Ville: Ave A btwn 2nd/3rd Sts) – add $12 to any entrée and get an hour of unlimited cocktails.  A little pricier, but more of an upscale resto. Cash/Amex only.

Make sure to call in advance to check if any policies/specials have changed!

Upscale & Unlimited: Brunch @ Yerba Buena

13 Dec

For some time now, I’ve been meaning to try the unlimited brunch at Yerba Buena’s Alphabet City location (Ave A btwn 1st/2nd Sts) and I finally satisfied my curiosity this weekend…  While I did have a few tiny issues with the service, I think the great food, cool atmosphere, and unlimited drink special (+$12 for all you can drink) make it a great brunch spot.

Chips n Sips

The restaurant itself is somewhat small but very tastefully decorated and has an upscale feel to it.  The Maitre D’ was involved in the service and often came over to see how we were doing which was nice; however, the wait staff did seem more interested in canoodling at the bar than at refilling our unlimited drinks.  Normally, I wouldn’t mind but since they do limit the drink special to an hour, the clock was a-ticking (although they did allow us a few more refills once our time was up). I started with a Jalapeno Bloody Mary (not on the menu – just ask) which was spicy and delish, but it was a bit of a procedure to get another.  Your best bet is to go with a mimosa -they had a pitcher pre-made so those were the easiest to have refilled.

Tilapia Taco-Mania!

We got things started with the guacamole + chips which was a really good dish – it was spicy and the queso fresco on top was a nice spin on it.  For an entree, I chose my go-to dish on the menu – the Huevos Rancheros!  The egg on top was a perfectly sized portion, the tortilla was crunchy and the sauce the dish sat in added some heat, I’m big fan.  Another entree on the table was the Tilapia Tacos which looked amazing (minus the fact that I don’t eat fish).

If you’re going to try out this LES Brunch hot spot, make sure you call in advance to make a reservation; you’ll spare yourself the headache of waiting for a table.  All in all, I’d say if you’re looking for an upscale unlimited brunch, and you don’t mind having a bit of patience, Yerba Buena is definitely worth a try.

Brunch Above Par @ Agozar!

6 Dec

Sangria for Free-a!

Agozar, translated roughly, means “to enjoy yourself” and that’s exactly what this Cuban Restaurant on the Bowery (btwn Bond/Bleecker) is all about.  Everything about this resto is flamboyant and flashy, making it a perfect venue for a Saturday or Sunday party brunch, or just an unruly dinner amongst friends.  But hear this: head there on the weekend, order yourself a brunch entrée (about $9-14 each) and get UNLIMITED Sangria refills at NO extra cost.  Aye Carumba!

It's Hip to Dip

The Brunch menu includes Cuban staples and some interesting twists as well.  My brunch date Aimee and I started with the Mariquitas – plantain chips with guacamole, and black bean hummus – GET THESE.  They’re a perfect crunchy starter.

After a long time (we got our money’s worth of Sangria and THEN some), we ordered the Huevos Rancheros (sans pollo – we’re both veggers) and we had our eggs scrambled, rather than fried.  They were SO accommodating and made any changes we asked for at no charge!

Leggo My Huevos!

This dish was really good – the crispy tortillas beneath our pile-o-eggs sandwiched yummy black beans and the whole dish sat in a warm, smoky sauce.  I would HIGHLY recommend asking them for hot sauce if you like to add a little heat – their rendition is a homemade green jalapeno cream sauce – it brought everything to the next level.

Agozar brunch is definitely one spot you need to try; it will leave your belly and wallet full (our total bill was under $35 – WOW).  Also, check it out on Tuesday nights – book your reservation online (here) for 50% off all your food items from 8-11pm.   Get there – go AGOZAR yourselves.

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