Tag Archives: Brunch

For Brunch, Park Here: Garage Restaurant

21 Jun

When my dad asked to make our Father’s Day plans in NYC, a bunch of ideas came to mind; I mean, my folks love a great time and will always partake in a lil cocktailing… I’ve had the sneaking suspicion they were a little sore I’ve never invited them to a boozy brunch.  So I knew we had to do something a bit upscale that would also satisfy the wild child streak in those crazy kids.   Throw in the fact that we’re a music loving family and the boozy Jazz Brunch at Garage Restaurant in the West Village (7th Ave South @ Grove St) was the way to go; this crowd pleasing filling-station is a spot you won’t want to just drive through.

Alternate Side(walk) Parking: Upon arrival, make some moves and decide whether it’s indoor or outdoor seating.  You can opt to eat on the sun-drenched sidewalk where the service might be a little slow but the people watching and Vitamin D absorption happen fast.  Conversely, play it cool inside the Garage and get close to the live music action, which is better for larger parties as well.  Since we were just a party of 4 and it was a gorgeous little Sunday, we did the hang thang underneath an umbrella outside where we could catch just a little bit of the music AND some rays.

Gourmet Garage:   We started with 4 MASSIVE shrimp from the raw bar ($3.95 each) then moved on to the $16.95 Prix Fixe Brunch, which includes a drink and was lovely.  The Surf & Turf Benedict (+$5) was a big table hit and the Fresh Lobster, Applewood Smoked Bacon & Avocado Sandwich (+$5) made my dad’s day mouth-wateringly memorable.  I was sold at “add $6 for an hour of AYCD brunch cocktails,” but then the Brunch Potatoes happened.  They come with most dishes or a la carte ($3) and are a must-try – think a baked potato, doused with garlicky herbs and then smashed with the skin on… seriously FAB.  Also worth mentioning is the dinner, where the appetizers are affordable and perfect for a meal that’s on the lighter side.  The Green Apple and Bleu Cheese Salad ($14.25) was great and ideal if you’re not looking to splurge on one of their pricier entrees (no one likes to leave the garage with a wallet hit-and-run).

Garage Sale: Score some serious discounts on dining by booking a reservation through Savored – pay just $10 for your rez and you’ll get HUGE 30% savings off the total bill during dinner most nights…  as if you needed another reason to get there.  So put some distance on the old pedometer, drive walk on by and park yourself at Garage for an evening of pleasant jazz and tasty eats.

Jack of all Trades, Master of Fun: Essex

8 Jun

When someone says brunch, I think Essex.  The brunch behemoth has long since established its domination in the world of cocktails and dreams eggs, stealing the hearts of brunch-o-philes everywhere.  What’s surprising is that their dinner offerings, as well as the specials every weeknight, are good enough to give their brunch a run for its money.  Is there anything Essex can’t do?!  I think it’s only fair that this LES spot (Essex @ Rivington) gets the full write up on ALL of its dining splendors.

We all know I heart brunch hard, so let’s get this out of the way… $22.95 gets you 3 cocktails including bloodies, mimosas and screw drivers – they’re VERY lenient on the 3 and will often refill you mid-drink (whoops, we lost count…) The space is huge with 2 well-lit balconies in addition to the main seating area and the crowd is very sceney (read: good looking people).  The dishes are all awesomely eclectic featuring south of the border faves fused with traditional Jewish cuisine (Mexican Matzoh Brie?! I’m in!), tons of vegetarian (+vegan) friendly options, as well as many other well-executed breakfast classics.  Some FYIs: brunch is cash only and they take reservations, which is just fabulous.

Now moving on to dinner… Essex is still a hot scene at night and with ½ off all cocktails Sunday-Thursday from 6-9pm, there’s no guesswork as to why that might be (the The Green Zinger ($11) w/Green Tea Vodka, Pimm’s, Mint + Lime is AWESOME and the Jalapeno Margaritas ($10) are spicy heaven).  Oh and did I mention $1 Oysters all night as well?  Right, well there you go.  Other menu items that give me a heart-on include the Warm Goat Cheese Salad ($8) w/roasted beets, walnuts & arugula and the Seared Diver Scallops ($11), served over croutons, watermelon, roasted peaches & basil.  Oh.Em.Gee. As far as entrees go, I could always eat the Manchego Mac-n-Cheese ($13) but what I should be eating is the DELISH Wasabi Crusted Atlantic Salmon ($19).

So I’ve told you about brunch and I’ve mentioned dinner, but next word association game: I say “Wednesday,” you think “LOBSTER.”  Every Wednesday night Essex is offering up 1¼ lb Maine Lobsters served alongside potatoes and corn on the cob for only $18.  I had never taken on a whole lobster so luckily I had a bold friend there to show me the ropes.  While I’ve decided I’m more of a claws and tails gal, at this pricing, I’ll be going back again and again.

Next time you’re stuck on where to eat, chances are Essex will go over real well with your fellow diners.  That is, unless they don’t like excellent food, great deals on cocktails and, oh yeah, lobster for under 20 bones.  They do excellent private events (with premium open bar!) as well – to book your very own secret society dinner, email PreferredDiners@gmail.com. This one’s a no brainer, kids.  Get over to Essex, stat.

Holy Guacamole: AYCD Brunch @ Mercadito Grove

12 Apr

I’m aware that hearing about a new all-you-can-drink brunch special makes me way too happy.  We all have our own cheap thrills, right?  Mine just happen to be primarily concerned with cheap, boozy brunches…  Throw in outdoor dining on a happening West Village corner (7th Ave South @ Grove St) and Mercadito Grove moves its way right to the top of my list (or way up there).

The Mercadito Group has several restaurants throughout NYC and the US, but Mercadito Grove is by far my favorite member of the family.  With a fairly large outdoor seating area and excellent, inventive Mexican dishes on a very diverse menu, it’s my new warm weather go-to brunch spot.  The best example of their creative take on south of the border standards is the Guacamole Granada ($9.50) which is interspersed with juicy pomegranate seeds and topped with queso fresco – I didn’t think it was too hot, though it does boast habanero as an ingredient.   If you’re looking for a little more heat, ask them for a side of the habanero hot sauce to use throughout the meal.

To fully capitalize on our $25 of all inclusive brunching time, we decided to jump around the drink menu (note: everyone at the table needs to partake in the special – I don’t make the rules…).  We tried all the mimosas (strawberry/pineapple/mango) – they’re the traditional OJ + champagne w/ a puree of the chosen fruit on top – strawberry was by far the best.   The white sangria (white wine, brandy, pineapple, elderflower) was excellent, and t’was lovely to have beer in the AYCD options.  For entrees, the rancheros are where it’s at: an ooey gooey delicious swamp of eggs and beans piled onto crispy tortillas.  Spicy habanero sauce really kicked up the intensity of the somewhat bland Tacos de Camarones (shrimp).  The Torta de Carne is a rosemary marinated skirt steak sandwich topped with bean purée, napa cabbage, tomato, jalapeño, avocado, oaxaca cheese – interested? Yep, thought so.  Throw in the massive plates of black beans and herbed rice served with warm tortillas and you’ve got a feast of epic proportions.

Hungry yet?  Actually, we left QUITE full… and you can believe I’ll be heading back – especially since they take brunch reservations!  Also, have to mention that they have All You Cat Eat Tacos (10 varieties), ALL night Sunday/Monday, after 10pm Tues/Weds/Thurs and after 11pm Fri/Sat for only $23!   So go on, Speedy Gonzales, get your fiesta started.  With these great deals, you’ll be shouting “¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!”

Fall In Love with In Vino

5 Apr

When someone asks me where they should take a date for dinner, I’ll do some Q&A to figure out what they’re looking for… BUT despite their answers, one of my suggestions is almost always bound to be In Vino.  This East Village (4th St btwn Ave A/Ave B) dining destination is the perfect spot to get your love connection on – and regardless of the company, you’re going to adore this eating experience.

The wine list (or bible, if you will) can be a bit intimidating so if you find yourself lost, just ask your server for a recco.  The Cannonau “Nero Sardo” ($32) is a versatile red I’ve gone back to again and again – a very reliable bottle.  The Insalate di Endivia ($10) is a light option with bold flavors (mmm gorgonzola) and I’ve also had the Mussels which may have been a special (not on the online menu) but were definitely a good sized portion and great for sharing.  One item I may not EVER share?  The Ravioli Tartufati ai Porcini ($17); savory sachets of pasta deliciousness with a creamy truffle sauce.  Best Ravioli I’ve ever had, hands down.  Go get your own!  Just to note, the pumpkin ravioli which appears from time to time on the specials menu is good, but I prefer a thinner consistency; they were more like dumplings (but still very tasty).

Though you lose the dark grotto-esque ambience that nighttime lends, weekend brunch at In Vino is still a hip scene with great eats.  We started with customized mini-pitchers of sangria – I had the red and got a sparkling Prosecco topper (do it!).  The brunch entrees were decadent – the Pane Tostato  Mandorla ($10) French toast stuffed with strawberry + marscapone and THEN crusted with sliced almonds was completely over the top – I only got ½ way through but each bite was heaven.  We also had the Uovo Benedetto ($11) – warm Poached Eggs on Rosemary Focaccia Toast w/ Grilled Prosciutto Cotto and Basil Hollandaise.  Wowza.

If you’re a deal lover, book a rez through Savored to get 30% off your dinner bill Mon-Weds nights or Saturday till 3pm for brunch.  Go with friends or bring the object of your heart’s desire and get a heart-on for these amazing Italian eats.

A Little Bit Louder Now: Poco

8 Mar

Lobster Mac: Where It's At

Brunch is always a bit of a party so there’s no shame in a loud brunch; there’s a time and a place for every rip roaring fiesta. Here to show your brunch a monster of a good time is a “little” place in the E.Ville (Ave B @ 3rd St) called Poco.

Poco is a tapas restaurant whose claim to fame is a brunch that balances good food with a superior AYCD brunch deal. If you want to dig up our past, I did have dinner at Poco 2 years ago; picture the following – me, a boy (yes, this was a date) and 2 women in corsets trying to put a mask on said date for a blind vodka taste testing. Clearly, this was not an ideal romance situation. I may have written Poco off altogether had it not been for a friend bringing their phenomenal brunch special to my attention nearly 12 months after said date disaster.

The dealio? $22 bones gets you an entrée and at LEAST 3 drinks (red/white sangria, blood mary, mimosa). We started with Bloodies (complete with blue cheese stuffed olives, mmm) and an order of the Lobster Mac’n’Cheese – I was quite easily persuaded into eating some. I think the Mac could’ve been a tad bit cheesier (t’was a lil runny) but all in all, the panko crusted starter was good for business. That and the free raisin/walnut bread and carrot cake mini muffins all help to curb the worst of your hangover.

We all went for omelets – 2 of us had the Truffled Mushroom Oms – 1 white/1 proper egg – both amazeballs (holler for truffles). The other order was the omelet of the day – Lobster, Goat Cheese, Spinach; awesome but pretty small for whatever reason, perhaps just the luck of the draw. If I wanted to get crazy, I would’ve gone for the pancakes of the day – Reese’s Peanut Buttercup Pancakes – WTF, is this real life?! No matter your order, the ish is good but the scene (if you’re ready/prepped for it) is great; so get your party on, there’s nothing wrong with a little Sunday Funday.

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!

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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