Monday, November 17, 2008
Essex - The Best Brunch Deal in Manhattan
Essex - 120 Essex Street, New York, New York 10002
F Train to Delancey Street
Brunch is my favorite meal--I could eat eggs, bacon, pancakes and French toast till I drop. Naturally, I make a lot of brunch plans on the weekends and always try to find affordable deals. Saturday topped my brunch experience, as my girlfriends and I dined at the famous Essex Restaurant on the Lower East Side.
Being there once before for my friend Julie Z's birthday, I knew that the food was delicious and worth every penny of their affordable prices. That's what attracted me to Essex in the first place--their unbelievable prices, especially for brunch, which is $16 including an entree and three cocktails.
Loud, boisterous and very social are words I'd use to describe Essex. The minute that you walk in, the place is buzzing. The front bar area is super crowded with eager brunchees, sipping mimosas and bloody Marys to pass the time. If you want to avoid the wait like we did, make a reservation at least a week in advance.
We sat in the main dining room on the ground floor but there are also two mezzanine areas, which are sometimes reserved for private parties. Our crescent-shaped booth was in the middle of all the action. We liked this because even though we were deeply engrossed in conversation, we were still able to observe everything that went on.
The decor at Essex is very simple but it all works well to create a trendy and vibrant atmosphere. The ceilings are high, and even though the walls are painted white, they're textured and decorated with a sprinkling of tennis balls. It's very fun to look at and the whole place has that Sex and the City feel.
While waiting to be seated, we spied some of the dishes that were being served and oh boy, were we excited to order! Overall, the food highly surpassed our expectations and I'll definitely go back to try the other 23 dishes on their brunch menu.
Challah French Toast - When I saw this on the menu, I just had to have it! I adore challah bread and a good challah French toast is hard to come by. When it arrived, I was impressed--the pieces of toast were generous in portion and also came with a topping of bananas foster. I spread the banana, rum mixture on both pieces of challah and proceeded to devour them along with the side of fresh fruit salad. The whole thing was stupendous--especially the bananas foster, which had a slightly pudding-ey consistency. The flavors worked well together and it felt more like a dessert than an entree. If you have a sweet tooth, you'll love this!
Chocolate Banana Pancakes - This was Katie's dish and I had the pleasure to try it. First off, just looking at it was a treat. The pancakes were so thick and cakey that just like my dish, it was more a dessert than an entree. I think Katie agreed because she said that her dish was super rich and packed with maybe a little too much chocolate. I tried it and loved it but understood Katie's point--I would've felt the same if I had the whole thing in front of me to finish.
Other Dishes - No two friends of mine are alike and this was well represented by the dishes that they chose. Julie M. went for the baked eggs, which she adored--they looked tempting and especially the crispy ham that was in them. Rikki got the Mexican Matzo Brei with scrambled eggs, avocados, beans and pico de gallo. She seemed to enjoy it and was initially attracted to this dish because it sounded so non-traditional. Janel, who's more particular about her brunch dishes went for the potato pancake topped with salmon, gravlax, poached eggs and caviar. She too was satisfied and I must admit that this dish looked the most gourmet out of the bunch. I might have to try it next time!
Service and Cost:
Not sure if it's Essex or if it's just me but their waitstaff is eccentric. When I dined here for Julie Z's birthday, our waitress was slightly off her rocker and we had to repeat our order back to her a couple of times. This time was no different, as our waitress came back about 3 minutes after we ordered, asking us to repeat everything. She grew on me by the end of our meal, as she asked us how we all met--and we told her the abridged version of our story. One more thing that annoyed me is that we didn't immediately get knives--our waitress told us that "we're out of those right now." What?!? Weird indeed...
As mentioned above, the prices are incredible and if you do get ticked off at the waitstaff, just remember how much you're paying to be here. So...once again, 1 entree + 3 drinks = $16. Brunch must be paid in cash. 1 word for all this--yumlicious!
3 loud Mmmms