Friday, May 21, 2010

Clinton St. Baking Company

4 Clinton St
(between Ave B & Houston St)
New York, NY 10002
(646) 602-6263

Brunch That's Worth Its Weight In Biscuits

If you're like most New Yorkers, the weekend only means one thing: brunch.

But not just any ol' brunch. Because if you're a real New Yorker, your run of the mill Greek diner won't do. If you're a real New Yorker, brunch is a place to see and be seen. A place where the mimosas and bloody mary's flow from large bottomless pitchers. A place where you can walk in at noon and walk out at 4. And not to mention, if you're a real New Yorker, it's a place where they don't accept reservations and there's a minimum wait of 1 hour. (Good food helps too, but I'm convinced not as much as the other factors.)

To me, Clinton St. Baking Company (CSBC) is the New Yorker's quintessential brunch place.

My interest was piqued about CSBC a couple of years ago, after hearing about its notorious "2 to 3 hour wait times," but I really couldn't see myself making that kind of investment for eggs and waffles. Then Bobby Flay had to go and really mess things up by doing a Throwdown! with the owner to see who could make the best blueberry pancakes. (Bobby won, btw.) Not to mention that New York Magazine previously voted CSBC's blueberry pancakes the best in NYC and Time Out New York voted CSBC the best place for brunch.

Now, let me say that I prefer savory foods to sweet any day of the year, but I have a weakness for blueberry pancakes. And after all the hype, how could I not want to (need to) try CSBS's signature dish drizzled in warm maple butter? Luckily my boyfriend felt the same way and surprised me with a Saturday afternoon brunch trip to the Lower East Side. We immediately recognized the place by the congregation of people waiting outside for their names to be called (secretly praying the person before them in line hadn't come back yet.) We put our name down and went for a drink around the corner. About an hour later, we returned to the line and I found myself joining the masses, rejoicing every time the host called a name that didn't illicit a response.

I think we waited a little over an hour in total to be seated, which was awesome (considering the rumors). And when I walked in, I was really surprised at how plain-Jane their quaint, little 32-seat restaurant was. It looked your run of the mill coffee shop. But they definitely don't serve your run of the mill food, and don't offer your run of the mill prices.

My order was obvious, the blueberry pancakes. Mike ordered the Southern Breakfast (two eggs any style, sugar-cured bacon, cheese grits, and fried green tomatoes). We also got an order of biscuits and Bloody Mary's. Fifteen minutes after ordering, our waitress came by and admitted she forgot to put our order in and asked us what we wanted again. She assured us it would be quick and that the biscuits would be out in no time. I don't know why, but this really peeved me. This place has a reputation, a 1+ hour wait time, they only accept cash, they compete with Bobby Flay, they have the "best breakfast" in town, AND you mean to tell me their waitress "forgot" to put our order in? Not acceptable.

Luckily for her, the food was delicious. The homemade biscuits came out quickly, as promised, and they were piping hot. Each biscuit was the size of a softball and perfectly golden brown. The thick shards of dough crumbled off easily and were so flavorful that they didn't need any additional butter (or the raspberry jam they serve with them, for that matter). My pancakes also came piping hot, but I was disappointed with the blueberry sauce they glopped on the top of the stack. Luckily the pancakes were massive, so I put the first one to the side and dug in to the remaining two. There was a high blueberry to pancake ratio, which was a bit overwhelming for me. But the consistency of the pancakes was on point. Fluffy and moist. I don't typically use syrup on my pancakes (just butter), but I did try their warm maple butter on a couple of pieces. It was good--sweet and savory--just a bit too sweet for my taste. Mike enjoyed his eggs, but the winner on his plate was the cheese grits. I can't really describe what they tasted like, but if you like cheese and you like cooked cornmeal (and even if you don't), you'll be in heaven.

Massive Biscuits

Blueberry pancakes

Southern Breakfast. Check out those cheesy grits!

So, all in all, the blueberry pancakes were good. That's all I can say. Good. Have I had better? Yes. In New York? Yes. Would I wait an hour for these blueberry pancakes again? No. But I probably would wait an hour for those enormous biscuits and cheese grits again.

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