C&B Cafe in East Village

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inside c&b cafe

C&B Cafe is another one of those impossibly tiny, perennially packed East Village cafes with a no-reservations policy that make getting a table something of a headache. The place is quite well known for its breakfast sandwiches, and in a young neighborhood where hearty egg sandwiches are popular cures for hangovers, C&B is crammed with millennials and young hipster families at all hours. The table situation is especially annoying given that some of the millennials have complete disregard for people with food in hand waiting patiently for a table, hogging valuable space with unnecessary chess games and coffee chats about start-ups and breaking into investment banking. Just know that this is what you’re dealing with.

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mushroom and egg bowl
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pig and egg sandwich

Once you do get a seat and can focus on the food, you’ll be pleased to know that the enormous egg sandwiches are very satisfying. The ingredients live up to their promise of being fresh and locally sourced, and I was very impressed by the robust slab of fatty pork belly that was in the pig and egg sandwich. For those who want something lighter but no less hearty, the egg bowls are the way to go. I liked how the mushroom and egg bowl was filling, but not so much that I couldn’t go for a slowish run after. The bready croutons were also a nice textural touch, although they were a bit soggy towards the end, probably because we were waiting so long for one of those millennial coffee chats to wrap up.

I did enjoy the very sensible American cooking at C&B Cafe. The seasoning is pretty minimal, so at times I felt like I was eating off of a grocery list rather than a cohesive recipe. But the ingredients are pretty good to begin with, so I guess that’s half the battle. What’s really a struggle is dealing with the seating situation. I’d probably come here early in the morning or order take out, because it’s not so good that you can deal with waiting for a coffee chat about how one is lucky to take two unpaid internships in a row to wrap up.

C&B Cafe
178 E. 7th St (between Ave A and B)
New York, NY 10009
(212) 674-2985

Brunch @ Egg in Williamsburg

Apparently hating on brunch is a thing. The New York Times published an article titled “Brunch is for Jerks,” bashing the pastime in which spoiled young professionals flaunted their privilege and free time through bottomless bloody marys and mediocre poached eggs. As soon as that article was published, others weighed in, some in agreement, others in dissent, and now “brunch+backlash” is a top search term. It must have been a really slow news day that week.

I really don’t think brunch is a big deal. If you don’t like the inconvenience of the meal, that odd time in between breakfast and lunch, then just make your reservation for a normal lunch lunch. Oftentimes I’ll have a small breakfast and eat my brunch eggs at 12 or 12:30, my schedule still intact. Also, you are under no obligation to order a bloody mary, you can just have a coffee or tea and not be one of those annoying day drinking loiterers that everyone hates. And if you are against poached eggs on top of “__”, then don’t order eggs! Many brunch menus have normal lunch items. Problem solved.

Anyways, enough about my thoughts on the brunch backlash. I recently had an excellent brunch at Egg in Brooklyn. It was extremely pleasant–no one was drunk or loud, and there were people of all ages eating food in a civil manner, with no one obnoxiously flaunting their free time. The fact that I enjoyed the brunch, despite having to wake up early to take 2 train lines to a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations and is super popular, speaks volumes about the food there. Luckily on a Sunday at 11:30, the two of us only waited 5 minutes for a table. It pays to get an early start in a part of town that gets up late.

Egg has Brooklyn twee down to a T. Every table is supplied with scratch paper and crayons so that you can whimsically draw and color while cute, scruffy waiters wearing American workwear serve you food. I personally am wary of the twee movement, I just want the food to be good. The complimentary doughnuts that arrived were a quick, sweet glimpse of Egg’s culinary abilities–warm, crisp and lightly sugared on the edges, soft and fluffy on the inside–so far, so good.

egg - complimentary doughnuts
complimentary donuts

We ordered the famous Eggs Rothko, and one bite of it took me to my happy place. As a child, one of my earliest memories of “cooking” were taking a slice of Wonder Bread and Kraft cheese, putting it into the microwave and happily eating the melted treat. Something about toast and cheese is so reliably tasty and comforting. The Eggs Rothko was like eating that cheesy bread snack, except clearly it tasted so much better. It helps to have some high quality brioche bread as your base, and a slice of thick, luscious and slightly sharp cheddar cheese melted on top. It was just pure cheesy, yolky, buttery magic. In case this was too light of a meal for you, it also came with a side of a hefty, chunky sausage patty. Now we have all the major food groups represented (vegetables also make a slight appearance).

eggs rothko with brioche bread and grafton cheddar
eggs rothko with brioche bread and grafton cheddar

For something different, I ordered the yellow eye beans with corn bread and poached egg, which was one of the specials of the day. Something about this dish reminded me of pioneers in the deep South. I guess the fact that the beans were so front and center, all very well seasoned and tasty, was one reason, as was the presence of a slice of cornbread on top. Isn’t this what miners back in the Gold Rush or people on the Oregon Trail ate? The cornbread wasn’t very sweet and tasted more like a biscuit, and the way it crumbled into the juicy beans created some nice texture in the stew that had formed. It reminded me of eating a hearty, spicy gumbo, which was perfect on a brisk, winter’s day, and the warm runny egg yolk was like icing on top.

yellowed eye beans with cornbread and poached egg
yellow eye beans with cornbread and poached egg
side of hash browns
side of hash browns

Egg is an example of brunch done right, and a reason for all those people calling for an end to brunch to simmer down. My food was prepared thoughtfully and deliciously, and they weren’t lazy creations that just slapped an egg on top for the sake of creating a brunch dish. The prices were also very reasonable, a refreshing change from the $15+ egg dishes that proliferate Manhattan. People were well behaved and civil, and the atmosphere was comfortable and lively. Even if you have to transfer to the L train and come here slightly earlier than you would like, you won’t regret the AM trip.

109 North 3rd Street (between Wythe Ave and Berry St)
Brooklyn, NY 11249