I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lets do Brunch: Union Square Cafe

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Sharing is caring, but when bacon is on the table, screw that

Dining in New York, it is unavoidable to try and avoid eating a Danny Meyers ran operation, and beside who would want too? Shake Shack, Gramercy Tavern and others from fine dining to jean casual all his food is top notch and enjoyable for whatever mood you are in. Before he had his stark empire, he had to start somewhere and in 1985 he opened up Union Square Café, a New York classic eatery and up until recently, started brunch service. I went with the family to check it out and covered the menu pretty well. Union Square Café is located well, as the name says by Union Square and tucked away on the side away from the bustle of the Green Market. Stepping into Union Square Café, you feel as if you stepped into someone’s house and somewhat reminds me of the Beard house. It has that classic Americana feel, maybe the show room of a Huffman Koos. My quip with the space in Union Square Café is that if you are seated in the lower level, it feels a bit cramped with the low ceiling, and I was unconsciously watching my head every time I got up from my seat.
Regardless of the space, the most important thing is the food. 

Bread basket like whoa
The bread basket was promising with 3 kinds of bread: a crispy rosemary flatbread, a mini baguette and a country sourdough bread which were all good and with a side of cured olives that had a hit of orange zest, there was almost no need to order any starters or snacks. We started with two snacks, the bacon and eggs and the polenta crisps. The Bacon and Eggs was a favorite snack that I have ordered 5 more off and called it a day. It was a play on chips and dip in which the bacon was the chip and the eggs were scrambled into a creamy consistency that became a dip. Enough bread, Food after jump!

Bacon and Dip

The bacon was thick, crunchy and the manliest chip ever created and the egg “dip” is something I wish I had at tailgating parties. Ron “give me all the bacon and eggs you have” Swanson would approve of this snack, with a tumbler of scotch of course. Those that want to get a small sweet bite, the polenta crisps would fit the bill. Triangles of crisp polenta are fried and sit in a pool of rich maple syrup and raspberries. The polenta was firm and smooth and did not have any grittiness to them at all. 

Crisp Polenta
Fried Green Tomatoes...under the foliage
The combination of breakfast and lunch, I do not mess around and we ordered two appetizers as well, the fried green tomatoes and the scallop crudo. The Fried Green tomatoes had a nice salad on top that was topped with bacon vinaigrette, but I could not really detect the bacon flavors in the vinaigrette. I guess it is the thought of the inclusion of bacon whenever they can is what matters. The Fried green tomatoes were tart and crisp and tasted great because well…it was fried and anything fried well, like these tomatoes are going to taste good. The Nantucket Bay Scallop crudo was another winner too and though some cannot stomach seafood before certain hours, I dare you to take the gamble and get this. The bay scallops were sweet and refreshing with the preserved lemons and a throaty heat from the jalapenos make this a simply executed dish. 

Scallop Crudo


On to the mains, they were overall all done well; the Spaghettini was a light pasta dish that was better than most so called Italian places in the city. The pasta was cooked just right, the slight bite from the garlic and a hint of heat from the chili worked well and the halibut flakes intertwined with the flavors of the pasta. The Porchetta Agnolotti was somehow even better: rich, porky filling exploded with each bite and mixed with malty flavors of caramelized onions, it is a must have for brunch and get the bigger portion. 

Porchetta Agnolotti
Veggie Fritatta with Prosciutto
The vegetable frittata sandwich with prosciutto served on focaccia was a light sandwich that was perfect for brunch. The frittata was fluffy and the prosciutto lends a nice saltiness. Although I could have used a bit more meat being the carnivore I am, but a side of heritage bacon easily solved any meat cravings. The Calabria chili aioli was smoky and tasty and I could easily abuse on everything. 

The Dominican Beef Victor was the only dish that was not completely up to par with everything else. It was a rice and beans kind of dish. Though the addition of a poached egg was nice, I mean egg on top of everything is nice the rice was crunchy and though the beef was cooked, it just seemed like it was a mix of chili and rice and there was nothing that stood out from this dish. 

Dominican Beef Victor

Dessert at Union Square Café is not to be missed; we got the Honey Apple Crostata, Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart and the Pear Crisp. The Honey Apple Crostata was nicely executed. Pairing with a Fromage Blanc sorbet was a smart choice added a nice bite to the dessert. 

Apple Crostata

Chocolate peanut butter tart
The Chocolate Peanut Butter tart was a refined version of eating a Reese’s peanut butter cup. The Tart was rich with chocolate and enough peanut butter for anyone with a nut allergy to check if they have their epi-pen with them; the Vanilla Ice Milk tied the dessert together and played the nostalgia factor card hard. My favorite dessert was the Pear Crisp that had a thick, crunchy oatmeal cookie crumble (an idea I am stealing) that had the light note of ginger and topped with a Sour Cream Ice Cream. This was an ultimate comfort dish and made you feel warm and fuzzy enough that you may be endanger of puking out Unicorns and Pixie dust. 

Pear Crisp with Oatmeal Cookie Crumble
Union Square Café is a great place to go. It is a casual spot that is serving food that you are guaranteed to get a good meal. The prices are reasonable and have the professional, attentive service that you can expect from either going to Shake Shack or to Eleven Madison. Though brunch service is new, from the food and service you would be none the wiser and is a must visit for those in NY or visiting.

Union Square Café
21 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003

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