Downtown Brunch Fever . . .
Once upon a time, weekend brunch was the official province of dazed yuppie couples and the vast roaming baby-stroller hordes of the Upper West Side. These days, however, my raffish downtown friends all agree that the best time to visit Schiller’s Liquor Bar is on weekend mornings, when Keith McNally serves fruity Pimm’s Cups to his bleary clientele, plus fresh-made dollar doughnuts and a thick hazelnut waffle doused in bourbon-flavored maple syrup. At Public, in Nolita, the excellent weekend brunch includes bowls of freshly baked muffins along with novel delicacies like corn, saffron and blueberry pancakes and tea-smoked salmon covered in spoonfuls of hollandaise spiked with yuzu. And then there’s Freemans, the suddenly chic cubbyhole of a restaurant at the end of a narrow street called Freeman Alley, on the Lower East Side. The Rum Swizzle (Haitian rum, lime juice, syrup, bitters) is one of the finer cocktails in town, but if you don’t feel like battling for one during the raucous evening hours, do what I do and order one (or two) on a peaceful Sunday afternoon, along with a bowl of the stewed plums (with Greek yogurt and vanilla syrup), a slab or two of excellent wild-boar terrine, and a fat lamb-sausage patty served with watercress salad, two poached eggs, and thick slices of sourdough.
There are myriad trendy brunch options up in the West Village, but my choice is Snack Taverna, on Bedford Street, where the lovely waitresses dress all in black, like sorrowful Greek widows. This doesn’t detract from the quality of the puffy bourekis (minced lamb in phyllo pastry), the grilled loukaniko (country sausage), or the fine avga me hirino, which, in case you didn’t know, consists of two poached eggs served with braised pork and a mess of cranberry beans. Similar Mediterranean brunch delicacies are on display in midtown at the newly renovated San Domenico NY, where every table is stocked with a pitcher of orange juice mixed with Prosecco, and the aggressively priced menu includes clouds of whipped baccalà served over polenta, and giant cotecchino pork sausages swimming in lentils. And if you feel like braving the Upper West Side brunch scrum, take a number and go to the end of the line outside Nice Matin, where I like to supplement my Sunday-morning pissaladière (the Provencal tart made with sweet onions, anchovies and black olives) with a bite of healthful Swiss-chard frittata, followed by a platter of scrambled eggs tossed with a generous crumbling of spicy merguez sausage.