NYC Outdoor Dining – Sunday in Brooklyn

Manhattan is where you grind it out during the week, but Sundays are meant for Brooklyn. Brooklyn is where you go casual and bring your dog and your newspaper to hang out in a park and drink oat milk turmeric lattes. And there is a restaurant that is literally named for this vibe called Sunday in Brooklyn in Williamsburg. It had one of the loveliest dining rooms to brunch in, but now you can catch the vibe on their outdoor patio.

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NYC Outdoor Dining – Roberta’s in Brooklyn

If you have friends from out of town who want a Brooklyn experience, you take them for pizza at Roberta’s. It’s deceptively scrappy from the outside, being housed in a somewhat gritty and industrial lot in Bushwick, and being staffed by workers who look like they stepped out of an episode of High Maintenance, but underneath it all, it runs an extremely well-oiled machine cranking out some amazing food. And now that you have no choice but to be a tourist in your own town, why not revisit the wonderful patio at Roberta’s, which recently opened for the summer? Apparently I wasn’t the only one with this idea, because when I checked Resy for weekend brunch availability, it was already slim pickings. 11:00 am, however, was available. A bite of the fabulous Bee Sting pie made the early wake-up call so worth it–outdoor dining at Roberta’s is the best thing ever.

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NYC Outdoor Dining – La Mercerie

I admire how much the restaurants in NYC have really hustled to get outdoor dining to work. I watched construction crews sawing away at boards to build makeshift patios in record time. And I’m so glad for it, because outdoor dining really has breathed new life into the city. It used to be depressing walking down the eerie, abandoned streets, but now things are lively again. In Soho, in particular, some stretches remind me of the gaiety of nightlife in the Marais in Paris…in years past.

I really have to hand it to La Mercerie for going the extra mile with its outdoor set up, which is arguably the most attractive outdoor restaurant in the city. It feels like a proper outdoor patio, like it was built with permanent intentions, as opposed to being a quick appendage. That’s why La Mercerie wins the award for best outdoor dining in NYC.

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Brunch Roundup: L’Apicio

I was really disappointed by my brunch at L’Apicio. I’m surprised to find myself saying this, because I’ve had dinner here before and really enjoyed it. I was a big fan of their tasty pasta dishes and meatballs, and I thought the beautiful people-watching made for a great scene. I guess some things that make for a great dinner don’t translate well into brunch.

It all started out so great—the weather was gorgeous and people took full advantage of it by sitting outdoors. Nothing like a side of rays with your bacon and eggs!

There was no telling that brunch would take a turn for the worst when our order of the amazing housemade ricotta cheese and rhubarb compote came out. The cheese was so fresh, it seemed like it had just come straight from the wooden churn. It was incredibly dense and smooth, like the texture of butter. Eaten alone it was too much, but with a dollop of the sweet rhubarb compote it was simply divine.

lapicio - ricotta and rhubarb compote
housemade ricotta and rhubarb compote

There were no issues with my order of the house-cured gravlax either. I liked L’Apicio’s sexy, healthy spin on the standard smoked salmon benedict. I could imagine Swedish models taking dainty bites of the slender smoked salmon filets on top of Nordic rye bread. A perfect choice for the stylish clientele that frequents the restaurant.

lapicio - house cured gravlax
house-cured gravlax

Then disaster struck with the eggs and hash. The pesto-based sauce was way too salty, to the point of being inedible. We ordered two of these in our brunch party, and both individuals could not bring themselves to finish them. We informed our waitress of the salt issue, and she dealt with it very professionally and reasonably, offering to bring us another entrée and comping us for the hash. Based on her recommendation, we decided to have another go at it with an order of the trofie nero pasta.

lapicio - eggs and hash
the offending hash dish

But wow, this pasta had a ton of salt in it too. How do you over salt two dishes in a row? Wouldn’t you take care to avoid this with the second entrée? I don’t remember the food being this salty during dinner service. Maybe it was, and I never noticed because the cocktails and bread helped mask it? It’s such a shame, because if the pasta had just a tablespoon less of salt then it could have been perfect. I loved the cream sauce and the briney flavors, and the firmness of the al-dente black squid-ink noodles were just right. The salt level alone literally turned the tide against the dish’s favor.

lapicio - trofie nero
the overly salted trofie nero pasta–pass the water please!

I mentioned earlier that restaurants I like for dinner aren’t necessarily ones that I like for brunch. L’Apicio is one glaring example of this observation taken to the extreme. I still think this place is worth coming to for the evenings, but for brunch it misses the mark.

13 E. 1st St. (and Bowery)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 533-7400

Brunch Roundup: Rosemary’s Enoteca & Trattoria

Now that summer is officially underway, it would be criminal to engage in any kind of dining that isn’t al fresco. Some of you lucky ducks can enjoy open-air dining every week at your Hamptons rental, but for the rest of us stuck in the city, seeking shelter in the charming and bucolic sanctuary that is Rosemary’s is the next best option. During the summer, the restaurant fully opens up its glass doors, filling its picturesque dining room with the kind of sunlight and light summer breeze that most of us can only dream about in our tiny apartments and cubicles.

Sometimes the food doesn’t live up to the atmosphere at a lot of these scene-y West Village restaurants, but I’m happy to report that this isn’t the case at Rosemary’s. The cooking is very simple but effective. Take fresh ingredients, many of them straight from Rosemary’s own rooftop garden, dress them up minimally in some salt and olive oil, and let the natural flavors do all the talking.

beer and mary
beer and mary

Nothing says brunch quite like a bloody mary. Sadly, Rosemary’s does not serve hard liquor, so you will have to make do with a beer-based rendition called the “beer & mary”. I didn’t think the hoppy taste of the beer totally meshed with the tomato juice, but it served its purpose of being cool and refreshing.

caprese focaccia
caprese focaccia

You know what pairs well with beer? Bread. And how is Rosemary’s signature focaccia bread? Amazeballs. We ordered the caprese focaccia, which consisted of fresh melted cheese on top of golden, bubbly bread. It tastes as good as it sounds. Low-carb diet be damned, trendy diets come and go but the deliciousness of this focaccia bread is forever. 

rapini all'uovo
rapini all’uovo

stringhe di funghi
stringhe di funghi

stringhe di funghi egg yolk close-up
egg yolk close-up

eggs benedict
eggs benedict

I am obsessed with the stringhe di funghi platter at Rosemary’s, it has displaced Northern Spy Food’s kale salad as my favorite brunch entree. You wouldn’t think that a plate of cooked vegetables and poached eggs would be anything special, but the oyster mushrooms were so flavorful, and mixing them in the golden egg yolk was truly to die for. The side of crisp, roasted potatoes were pretty incredible as well. If Alice Waters ever had me over for brunch, I feel like she would make something like this. Simple, fresh but delicious. The rapini all’uovo, which similarly featured rapini and radicchio vegetables alongside poached eggs, was also delicious, although the radicchio was a tad bitter. You really can’t go wrong with any of the egg-based entrees. Even the reliable standby eggs benedict was pretty solid.

Rosemary’s dining room looks like it could be in a Martha Stewart spread, which is probably why I love it so much. If I close my eyes, I can imagine the blond domestic goddess serving me some vegetables she picked from the garden and saying that “it’s a good thing.” Clearly this aesthetic appeals to a lot of people, so expect to wait awhile for a brunch seating. The brunch wait has been much more manageable now that people have left for the summer, and we waited a reasonable 45 minutes for a party of three. For al fresco dining in the prettiest of settings served with the freshest of foods, Rosemary’s really can’t be beat. This passes my crosstown test with flying colors!

18 Greenwich Ave. (and 10th St.)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 647-1818