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Where to Eat 2008


Barnyard Brunch

The E.U.   

The imposing, profoundly nourishing country ham biscuit (stuffed with salty Kentucky ham, Grafton Cheddar, and homemade jam) served to the bohemian breakfast hordes at Egg is still my favorite mid-morning snack in Williamsburg, or anywhere else, for that matter. My daughters can’t decide which of the tasty brunch items they would like me to recommend at the popular new restaurant in the East Village called The Smith, although without a doubt the dish with the best name is an impressive assemblage of smoked ham, scrambled eggs, Gruyère, and home fries called the “Croaker.” When I wish to impress my righteous locavore friends, however, I take them down to The Tasting Room on Elizabeth Street for a groaning country feast of duck and free-range-pheasant eggs artfully arranged over piles of kasha, buttermilk-dipped fried chicken legs served with cool potato salad just like at a church picnic, and the properly fatty, even gnarly slabs of Red Wattle pork shoulder, smothered in fried eggs.

From there the barnyard bandwagon proceeds to Telepan, on 69th Street, where we’ll line up with the rest of the stolid Upper West Side burghers waiting to gobble down brunch-time helpings of Bill Telepan’s signature Pennsylvania-style scrapple, which the chef plates with a sweet, porky, country-style sauce between a bed of stewed collard greens and two wobbly coddled eggs. If you’re looking for a good duck egg on the Lower East Side, you’ll find it on the brunch menu at The E.U., on East Fourth Street. And if you want a really good stack of pancakes in the West Village, you’ll find them at The Little Owl, on Bedford Street, where Joey Campanaro serves up his patented meatball sliders soaked in breakfast gravy, and, if you still have the energy and the will, one of the great gourmet cheeseburgers in town, made with melted Cheddar, curls of applewood-smoked bacon, and a freshly toasted brioche bun.

If you find yourself staggering woozily around the fringes of the meatpacking district on some lost weekend morning, may I recommend the gourmet version of that great hangover buster, bacon and eggs: a wok-fried farm egg and Malaysian-spiced pork belly over Pullman bread, offered on the new brunch menu at Zak Pelaccio’s Fatty Crab. My wife finds that the compact breakfast club sandwich (two fried eggs, smoked bacon, avocado, spicy mayonnaise) available around the corner, at Cafe Cluny, achieves a similar purpose, albeit in a slightly more civilized, ladylike way. When we want to show my starchy midwestern in-laws a more sedate family-brunch experience, we head to Provence, on Macdougal Street, where brunch experts Vicki Freeman and Marc Meyer have given the venerable restaurant a much-needed face-lift. The atmosphere is slightly more dignified than at their other great brunch mecca, Cookshop, and if you’re smart, you’ll ask to be cordoned off with your unruly children in the sun-splashed, semi-childproof garden room, where you can dine in relative peace on toasty baguettes spread with crème fraîche and honey, thick croque-madames topped with sunnyside eggs, and the little dumpling-shaped house beignets stuffed with currants, sugared apples, and ricotta cheese.

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