Monday, August 24, 2015

NYC Dining: A Boozy Brunch at Essex

During my summer in New York City, I came to appreciate the luxury of weekend brunch. Nothing kicks off Saturday or Sunday better than a hearty meal, a bold cup of coffee, and a few well-made cocktails. One brunch destination in particular rises above the rest as my personal favorite: Essex in the Lower East Side.

Essex is a rowdy hotspot with a lively two-story, loft-like venue. Brunchers flock here for the great weekend deal: a nicely portioned meal with three cocktails (screwdrivers, Bloody Mary's, or mimosas) for $25.95. Trust me, that's pretty cheap for NYC. However, I noticed that the waiters don't keep track of how many drinks you've had and fill up glasses whenever the contents run low. So, basically, you get a meal and seemingly unlimited cocktails for $25.95. Don't quote me on that, though.

I brunched at Essex twice – once with my mom and once with my boyfriend, Jake. Both times, the place was absolutely packed with rowdy young people looking to continue the party from the night before. Word of advice: make reservations! The wait list tends to get backed up, especially if you go sometime in the early afternoon. Also, since three drinks come with every meal at Essex, the staff checks ID before letting you in – only 21 and up allowed.

I lucked out during my two visits and sat in the less loud and more spacious balcony area, which had its own bar and attentive wait staff.

The brunch hours are 11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday (crazy, right?!) My mom and I actually came at 11 a.m. on Sunday, and since it's illegal to serve alcohol before noon on Sunday in New York, the waiter offered us an "early bird special" – a meal with no drinks for $14.95. However, you can only order this special from 11 to 11:15 on Sunday; every other time, you need to order the meal and three drink special for $25.95.

However, since we were technically on vacation, my mom and I chose to get mimosas. I ordered the champagne and orange juice combination with Jake, too. Considering that I saw the bartender pour entire bottles of champagne into the pitchers, the bubbly drinks were undoubtably strong.

All of the food I've tried at Essex is delicious and comes in surprisingly large portions. Before ordering, each person is served a roll that has a strong onion-y flavor. I also ordered coffee, which passed my taste test – I always judge a restaurant based on the strength and flavor of their coffee.

With my mom, I ordered the Mexican Matzo Brei (scrambled eggs, tortilla chips, avocado, Monterey Jack cheese, black beans, pico de gallo, and chorizo). The ingredients sound strange mixed together, but I saw several other people order this and it looked delicious. I'm so glad I gave it a try! I'm a huge fan of Mexican food, and the Matzo Brei was like nachos and scrambled eggs combined. Even though I loved the food, I could barely eat more than two-thirds of the gigantic portion.

My mom decided on an omelet with onion, bacon, and Swiss cheese, which turned out to be one of the biggest omelets I've ever seen (the picture doesn't do it justice)! The meal came with potatoes and veggies, and my mom said everything was delicious.

On my second trip to Essex with Jake, I settled on the Eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon, which was smaller than the other options on the menu but tasty nonetheless. I gladly ate the whole thing; however, I wouldn't have minded a bit more Hollandaise sauce.

Jake ordered the "Three Eggs Any Style" and chose scrambled with a sausage patty. He loved the creaminess of the eggs and was impressed with the portion size, but thought the sausage patty was just decent. The fresh fruit and potatoes rounded out the dish nicely.

Verdict: I recommend Essex for a fun, boozy, NYC-style brunch! I loved everything from the food and drinks to the energetic atmosphere.Monterey jack | black beans & pico de gallo