Brunch Roundup: Bikinis in East Village

Bikinis Photo Shoot
courtesy of Bikinis restaurant.

Stuff Stylish Women Like: weekend brunch. good food. fashion. black and white photos. trips to europe. spain. spanish men.

Which means they’ll love super cute East Village restaurant Bikinis, obvi. This small eatery, which is run by former fashionista Karina Correa and her fiance Petrit Pula, serves Spanish fare in a stylish setting reminiscent of a chic cafe and art gallery. You might find the name Bikinis a bit odd, since the only signs of a two-piece are in the nostalgic, glossy photos that hang on the walls. However, it is actually the name of a type of sandwich served in Spain, which was apparently invented in the 1950s at a dance hall called Sala Bikinis. The place started serving its guests triangular shaped croque monsieurs which were soon dubbed “bikinis” since they resembled the bottoms of the notorious swimsuit. You can learn more about the colorful origins of this Spanish sandwich here in a video interview with owner Correa.

The brunch menu at Bikinis features several varieties of its signature sandwich, as well as Spanish-inspired brunch fare and a heartier baguette-based sandwich called the bocadillo. We ordered a little bit of everything–the Huevos con Xistorra for something reminiscent of a traditional eggs dish, the Don Quixote bikini to satiate our curiosity of this peculiarly-named sandwich, and the Pepito de Pollo bocadillo to round things out.

Bikini - Don Quixote
scenes from a trip to spain – the don quixote bikini sandwich
Bikini - Pepito de Pollo
day 2 – the pepito de pollo bocadillo sandwich
Bikini- Huevos con Xistorra
day 3 – huevos con xistorra, a spin on an american brunch classic

Bikinis really knows how to serve solid and delicious comfort foods in a stylish and slightly offbeat manner. The chicken in the bocadillo was well-seasoned and flavorful, the baguette was crisp and not overly-thick, and even the side of salad was simple but tasty. With the Don Quixote, Bikinis refashioned the classic ham and cheese sandwich as an elegant and exotic Spanish adaptation, pairing tangy cured serrano ham and manchego cheese in between two pressed slices of incredibly satisfying challah toast.

Similar Spanish tweaks were made to the familiar eggs and sausage combo in the huevos con xistorra by replacing sausage links with a spicier chorizo-like meat and serving a side of olives and manchego cheese for a unique Barcelonian touch. And that fantastic toasted challah bread made an appearance again. Sopping up the toast with egg yolk, savory sausage and mild cheese was a pretty effective combination. 

Brunch isn’t complete without some bellinis and bloody marys, and the “Bloody Maria” served at Bikinis is really well mixed and a great deal at $5. As opposed to using a vodka base, the restaurant uses soju, which results in a creamy and incredibly smooth drink. I think we need to add Bloody Maria to the list of stuff that stylish girls like. 

The wholesome and chic charms of Bikinis is a refreshing addition to the gritty landscape of Alphabet City. I’m frankly shocked that a place like this even exists on Ave C. It feels like it should be in Nolita next to Cafe Habana or Tacombi somewhere. I think this explains why Bikinis isn’t more popular, along with the fact that getting to Ave C from anywhere can be quite a hike. Which is perfect for those willing to make the trip, since that means more space and time for you to linger and reminisce about that junior year abroad in Spain over a glass of lovely sangria or cerveza. Vicky Cristina Barcelona Part 2, reunion in NYC!

56 Avenue C (between 4th and 5th St)
New York, NY 10009
(212) 777-2277

Smørrebrød Sandwiches at Aamanns-Copenhagen

aamans copenhagen - smørrebrød with potatoes and white fish
meet the smørrebrød

In preparation for my trip to Copenhagen in August, I decided to stop by Aamanns-Copenhagen, a restaurant in Tribeca that specializes in smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich common in Denmark. Prior to this visit, my knowledge of Danish food was extremely limited. I didn’t know such sandwiches existed, and I can honestly say that the only Danish food I’m familiar with is the Danish pastry. And according to Carl Frederiksen, the head chef at Aamanns-Copenhagen, Danishes aren’t even Danish, they’re Viennese in origin. Interesting fact: the Danish was introduced to the country by foreign Austrian bakers who brought over pastries from their homeland during a strike (source: Wikipedia).

So what exactly is a smørrebrød? It traditionally consists of butter, cold cuts and spreads on top of a slice of thick rye bread. In Denmark it originated as a blue collar food, eaten for lunch by farmers and workers. Because the sandwiches were feeding people with labor-intensive jobs, they were very heavy in nature, piled high with fatty meats and mayonnaise.  

Aamans-Copenhagen has refashioned the smørrebrød as a slimmer, sexier version of its former self. Something that beautiful, slender Danes wouldn’t mind eating. Or slim yoga moms in Tribeca for that matter. The slice of rye bread, which is made fresh daily in-house, is pretty small, about the size of a Wasa cracker but obviously denser and slightly thicker.

The toppings are arranged in rows of symmetrical patterns on top of the bread, which make for a very visually stunning presentation. Everything tasted extremely fresh–all the fruits and vegetables seemed as if they had been plucked straight from the garden, a tribute to the foraging tradition that is very trendy today. Per the chef’s recommendation, we ordered two smørrebrøds, the gravad white fish and the boiled potato. They were both light and very appropriate for the summer months.

aamans copenhagen - smørrebrød with fresh, boiled potato and smoked mayonnaise, radish and chives
smørrebrød with fresh, boiled potato and smoked mayonnaise, radish and chives
aamans copenhagen - smørrebrød with gravad white fish served with a summer salad of goat milk yogurt, cucumber, apples, celery and watercress
smørrebrød with gravad white fish served with a summer salad of goat milk yogurt, cucumber, apples, celery and watercress

The sandwiches were a little dainty for me, and I could have done with another. I guess I’m used to humongous American portions and would feel right at home with the heartier ones back in the motherland. Chef Carl was kind enough to give me some insider tips on where to find the best smørrebrøds, and generally which restaurants to go to.

For smørrebrøds: Schønneman* (in Københaven K)
For classic Danish food and beer: Cafe Sorgenfri* (in Københaven K)
For classic Danish food in a formal atmosphere: Ida Davidsen (in Københaven K)
For drinks in a traditional Danish “living room” type setting: Cafe Viking* (in Nørrebro)
For new Nordic cuisine in a relaxed setting: Relæ* (in Nørrebro), Manfreds (in Nørrebro), Kadeau* (in Christianshavn), Pony (in Christianshavn), Geranium (in Østerbro), BROR* (started by Noma alum, in København K)
For affordable new Nordic cuisine:  Höst (very stylish, in København K), Madklubben* (slightly loud, near Tivoli)
For Danish pastries: LagkagehusetReinh van Hauen (favorite of chef at Noma), La Glace
For good hotel restaurants: Marchal* at Hotel d’Angleterre (in København K), Alberto K at Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (run by silver medalist of Bocuse d’Or 2013 competition, in Vesterbro) 

*Indicates Chef Carl’s top picks

13 Laight St.
New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-1313