Saturday, September 05, 2009

Travel Mini Dish: Clinton Street Baking Co.

Continuing reports of “The Single Guy and The City” as I blog from New York. I did dinner and lunch, now breakfast.

Stacks of Fluffy Goodness
4 Clinton St. (at E. Houston), New York
Lower East Side
Breakfast weekdays, weekend brunch, lunch daily, dinner nightly (except Sunday)
No reservations, cash only

Brunch is huge in New York, even more than in San Francisco. It’s definitely from staying up all night and the convenience of combining breakfast and lunch in one sitting.

Clinton Street Baking was voted the best brunch spot by Time Out and its pancakes were declared best pancakes by New York magazine. I learned about Clinton Street Baking and its famous pancakes when watching an episode of “Throwdown” with Bobby Flay when Chef Flay challenged the husband-and-wife owners, Neil Kleinberg and DeDe Lahman to a blueberry pancake throwdown.

When visiting the favorite breakfast spot, there are very few signs of their fame. They don’t hang clips of their recognitions nor are there photos of them with Bobby Flay. It looks like any charming neighborhood breakfast joint, but its sign of success is the crowds of people (some tourists like me) that pack every table and wait outside. There can be long lines for weekend brunch, so I went for breakfast on a weekday.

You walk in to see a small counter with beautiful baked goods to the left and then the dining area to the right, with tables typically squeezed together to pack people in. The black-and-white photos and brick walls give it a real New York feel.

The menu offers straightforward breakfast items, but the owners make a point of sourcing quality ingredients. Everyone was eating sausages and eggs but I ordered the blueberry pancakes, of course. I should note that I generally don’t order pancakes for breakfast because I feel like it can fill you up, but not ordering pancakes would be like going to San Francisco and not ordering cioppino.

My plate of pancakes arrived with a heaping serving of blueberries on top. I have to say that the pancakes looked heavenly. They weren’t brown like you sometimes think of pancakes. They just looked so light and fluffy. And they were indeed fluffy, with the stack of three pancakes airy and light. The pancakes are served with the equally famous maple butter syrup.

Although I enjoyed the fluffy nature of the pancakes, I wasn’t wowed by the flavor. It’s weird because I’m generally not a sweet tooth person, but I wanted a bit more sweetness in these pancakes. Either it needed more powdered sugar or the maple butter syrup needed more maple flavor instead of the butter.

Side note: I ordered a bowl of fruit to balance out the nutrition of my breakfast and got a nice bowl of seasonal fruits.

I can’t recall if Clinton Street or Bobby Flay won that episode of Throwdown. Even though I enjoyed the pancakes, I have to say I think it could be beaten by an Iron Chef. When a place gets voted the best brunch and the best pancakes, then it’s too discovered and it’s tough to meet expectations, IMHO. Still, at its core Clinton Street Baking is a charming neighborhood restaurant with great service. Just go during off times and avoid the crowds.

Since this is a mini review, no ratings. I would go here if you’re wandering the neighborhood, which still offers a gritty side of New York despite the huge Whole Foods that opened up there.

Clinton St. Baking Company on Urbanspoon

Other posts on brunch:
Maverick: “Refined American Classics for Brunch and Beyond”
Foreign Cinema: “Now Playing: An Innovative Brunch Menu”
La Note: “A Touch of Provence in Berkeley”


Carolyn Jung said...

So my theory that bars and brunch are so big in NY is because the apartments are so tiny, so it's a great excuse to get out for something or another. You agree? Hah!

Single Guy Ben said...

Yes, you're probably right. But I live in a studio now so for me I'm totally at home! :)