On Sundays, many restaurants in New York City feature brunch. I’m under the impression that brunch is a cherished tradition in the city – I couldn’t believe the enthusiasm New Yorkers share for such a meal. I sampled two spots, Penelope on Lexington Avenue and 30th street, and Sarabeth’s on the Upper West Side along Amsterdam Avenue– to experience the brunch hype for myself.
One thing both restaurants had in common – the wait for a table. No reservations, just arrive and put your name on a list. At Penelope, I waited 45 minutes for a table. At Sarabeth’s, I waited the same amount of time. At each establishment, there was limited space to stand inside, so I was forced up against walls, doors and people for extended amounts of time. Not to mention the frigid gusts of wind that poured in through the door every time a new customer walked inside.
Despite the crowd and the cold, the wait only strengthened the anticipation for my meal. At Sarabeth’s my party ordered a basket of muffins, including banana, corn, bran and pumpkin, alongside a selection of jams. Sarabeth’s jams and preserves are available for purchase in the restaurant or online (apparently Oprah is a big fan). Her jams are tasty indeed, with the right amount of sweetness.
Sarabeth’s brunch menu is expansive, offering an assortment of omelets, pancakes, waffles and French toast. I ordered the Garden Omelet, filled with broccoli, corn, carrots, sun-dried tomatoes and cheddar cheese. The Farmer’s Omelet, with leeks, ham and chunks of potato with Gruyere cheese is also an egg-filled delight.
The brunch menu at Penelope offers dishes like pumpkin waffles with apple butter, Nutella French toast, salmon wrapped poached eggs on toast, and Ellie’s spinach pie. The restaurant offers a $14.50 pre-fix deal on Sunday, which includes an entree and apple cider mimosa. I ordered the poached eggs, and added a side of French fries. When sliced open, egg yolk ran across my toast and salmon and mixed with the tangy, “green goddess sauce” topping, creating a savory combination of flavors. The apple cider mimosa is a treat as well.
Sarabeth’s and Penelope provided me with a glimpse into the New York brunch culture. As I feasted on my omelet at Sarabeth’s and also my poached eggs at Penelope, I realized that in such a fast paced city, Sunday brunch allows New Yorkers to start their day a little later.
The big question is, where in Baltimore can you find a similar experience? Baltimore is no New York, but there are a quite a few gems worth trying. The Sunday brunch at Miss Shirley’s is a favorite of mine, and I’ve also heard great things about brunch at Blue Moon Café in Fells Point. Mr. Rain’s Fun House at the Visionary Arts Museum also snagged a Best of Baltimore for its brunch last year.