Anthony Bourdain, in his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential, had this to say about brunch: “You can dress brunch up with all the focaccia, smoked salmon and caviar in the world, but it’s still breakfast.”
Bourdain is one of many, many restaurant workers who think brunch is ridiculous — overpriced, silly food eaten by customers who really should be at home so that cooks and servers don’t have to work on weekend mornings.
But many New Yorkers love the hell out of brunch. They’ll stand in line for 90 minutes to eat things like salmon Benedict or poached eggs with duck hash or foie gras French toast while sipping Bloody Marys or Bellinis or Mimosas.
If I didn’t think waiting in line for the opportunity to buy food was beneath my dignity, I’d love brunch, too. It’s a great way to spend a late morning or early afternoon, or both, on a Saturday or Sunday, or both. And it’s a high-volume, low food cost daypart for restaurateurs who do it right.
In fact, last weekend I went to brunch twice.
Well, sort of: The first so-called “brunch” was on Friday morning at 9 am — which is no time for brunch. It’s on the wrong day and too early.
“I know, I know! But it was the best time to do it on a Friday. :)” the publicist who invited me said in an email.
That was at Tacombi, an extremely popular taqueria in Manhattan’s trendy Nolita neighborhood.
Nolita stands for “North of Little Italy”
Tacombi stands for “taco” and “kombi” which is one word in Spanish — and German, actually — for a Volkswagen van. So a tacombi is a sort of taco truck, like the one parked in the middle of the restaurant.
The restaurant’s new chef, Luis Aguilar Puente, will start serving brunch there — breakfast tacos, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, cajeta-glazed bread, cheladas and micheladas — soon. He’s not sure when; it was supposed to be this coming weekend, but they’re still working out some kinks, I'm told.
At any rate, here's a picture of my huevos rancheros before I ate them:
Puente and his team also have devised some cold-pressed juices for brunch, too, including one with nopal cactus, apple, kiwi and mint, another with beet, carrots, orange, ginger and strawberries, and a third with papaya, orange and banana.
That was a nice way to start my Friday. And then on Sunday I accepted an invitation to check out the new Champagne brunch of another downtown hotspot: Beauty & Essex, on the Lower East Side.
That restaurant has offered brunch for a while now, downstairs. But they’ve opened the upstairs Locket Room and adjacent Pearl Lounge for its new premium $45 debauchery session.
For that price, customers get two glasses of Champagne and the following:
Dark chocolate croissants; red velvet waffles with cream cheese icing; roasted carrot & avocado salad with baby greens, sunflower seed brittle and sherry vinaigrette; grilled cheese, smoked bacon and tomato soup dumplings (pictured below); braised short rib huevos rancheros; fried chicken biscuit bites with Tabasco honey butter, and skillet roasted potatoes.
That can be followed by more cocktails in the Pearl Lounge, where a DJ will be spinning.