Café Savoy

Vitezna 124/5, Prague 150 00, Czech Republic • +420 731 136 144 • Website

So famous for its breakfast, you actually need a reservation. Yes, for breakfast. And yes, they take them. And once you take a sip or a bite of just about anything, you get it. 

The café au lait is smooth and silky. The fresh squeezed orange juice would make Floridians swell with pride (granted I doubt the oranges are sourced from there). And the French Breakfast is like an opus on a plate. Scratch that, two plates. On one, you get buttery, flaky croissant perfection, split and stuffed with cheesy, eggy perfection. Sidled up next to a pair of link sausages, grain mustard and an inconsequential, poor excuse for a salad.

But fuck the salad, because the other plate holds a French toast from the gods. An Ultimate on a skillet, soaked to the core with goodness and then topped with macerated apricots and shredded apples, almost as if they were pulled from a strudel and placed on top. Which begs the question, if this is so damn good, why not just get the French Toast. But the genius of this order is that you get the savory and sweet at the same time. And to quote the wisdom of Lionel Richie, “Oh, what a feeling, when you’re dancing on the ceiling!” Granted, you should be careful while you’re up there, because the ceiling is really quite lovely. 

Pearl at Longshore Restaurant & Bar

260 Compo Rd SWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-6260 • pearlatlongshore.com

Four!!!! That’s the knife count I’m giving, because it is very seldom that country club food is ever this good. Not even remotely. But once again, Westport manages to buck suburban expectations to show the world that you can have your crab cake and eat it too.

Like most country clubs the setting is a stunner, after all, you’re usually sitting amidst an immaculately landscaped golf course. But very few clubs are on the ocean, overlooking the water. Which decidedly takes things up a notch as you sit on the outdoor patio, overlooking a sailing class as they practice in the channel between there and Saugatuck Island. Also, a little know secret, Westport is apparently where Great Gatsby was inspired, looking across the Long Island Sound to the houses on the other shore. And while I sat there having my brunch, I must admit, I felt pretty great.

Things did start off a little rocky, however, with poor service and the Nutella cinnamon buns that tasted a lot like Pillsbury. Not that I have anything against the Dough Boy, but when I go out to a restaurant I expect them to up the game over things my kids could make.

But after that, Pearl went on a tear. The warm, fresh-baked bread and olive oil was so good you could tell it was the start of something special. Then came the Maine lobster benny which was absolutely superb! The eggs, runny, the potatoes spicy and the lobster…lobster-y?

The egg white frittata was also delish, although a bit inconsistent. My wife’s was loaded with all sorts of goodies and full of flavor. Whereas my mother’s was anemic with ingredients and the lesser of the two. So if you get gipped, I’d send it back for a do-over.

The French toast is also really good, soaked like a baller, dusted with confection and berries and hard to resist wolfing it down before anyone asks for a bite.

The only miss for me was the Belgian Waffle. It’s pretty pedestrian compared to the other options.

As for dinner, I haven’t actually been yet. Only for drinks, but watching some of the dishes go by, I have very high hopes.

Walton’s Fancy & Staple

609 W 6th St. Austin, TX 78701(512) 542-3380 waltonsfancyandstaple.com

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I’m not really sure where the fancy is, because it’s definitely not in the décor. Not that it’s a shithole or anything, but fancy it ain’t. It’s your run of the mill counter service café with some prepared foods and several made-to-order options listed on huge boards overhead. Maybe they were going for irony?

As for the staple side of the equation, I think I get it. All of the dishes are your basic staples from sandwiches to French toast to shrimp and grits (a southern staple). But each of them has a little twist, which I suppose could be construed as “fancy,” but I still think that’s being generous with the term. Very caught up on this fancy thing as you can see. Lost a lot of sleep.

As for the “fancy” twists of which I speak, the shrimp and grits was actually the best I’ve ever had, fancied up with blackened shrimp placed over a bed of jalapeno, cheddar grits. It is a savory, spicy masterpiece.

The other fancied up dish was the crème brulee battered French toast, which was good, but not great. It’s just too damn big for its own good. It’s a fatal mistake I see time and time again. Restaurants all trying to get tricky with different batters, coatings, breads and portion sizes, when the only thing that really matters at the end of the day is to soak the bread through and through for fuck sake! How hard is it? Just do that and I could care less about the brioche, challah, raisin walnut, caramelized, bread pudding, burnt brown butter, cinnamon dusted, macerated apple topping.

Back on the plus side, their chai latte is pretty damn skippy.

3 teeth

 

Russ & Daughters Cafe

127 Orchard St. New York, NY 10002(212) 475-4881russanddaughterscafe.com

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The kosher deli is like the tiger of restaurants, loved, but rapidly nearing extinction. As cited by the documentary Deli Man (an obscure Netflix gem), kosher delis in New York alone, have gone from over 1500 in number back in 1931, to today’s very depressing stat of just 21 establishments left. So, call it my Jewish guilt or moral obligation, but I felt the need to help turn the tides by turning my kids onto the glory that I lovingly call “Jew Food.” A cuisine unlike any other, that I have adored since childhood. But sadly, like many other bad Jews (apparently), I haven’t been back in years. Which is a shame, because there’s really no good reason. It’s not like going to Synagogue or anything. It’s actually quite enjoyable. And downright sinful.

Well, also turning the tides is a modern-day twist on the kosher deli, paying faithful homage to its diner roots, while also feeling contemporary somehow at the same time. That’s Russ and Daughters, a beacon of hope for the “chosen” cuisine.

Speaking of chosen things, our first choice was the Pastrami Russ, a small but crazy good sandwich made with their unique salmon pastrami, cucumber, coleslaw and deli mustard all on a cigar-sized pretzel roll, served next to a mountain of homemade waffle potato chips and a half sour pickle that also rocks. Mad mazels on this one.

But as good as the Pastrami Russ was, the Latkas stole the show. Easily the best I’ve ever had, done up at least a half inch thick with a hard, crusty outer layer and moist, fuffy innards. It’s Ultimate Latka perfection. Also, we had ‘em both ways, the new fangled crème fraiche and salmon roe way, as well as the ole tried and true apple sauce way. Both are good, but the kid in me still leans toward the classic A-sauce.

And while we’re on the topic of classics, the Classic Board with Nova, tomatoes, capers, red onions, cream cheese and an everything bagel was also very good. Not quite as inventive as some of the other twists, but as solid as you’ll find anywhere else in the city, Essa included. Granted the Nova is very lightly cured though, so nowhere near as salty as you might be used to.

Lox, eggs and onions were good, but not great. Partly due to the less salty lox, which is what makes this dish normally shine, ya know, cuz salt and eggs and all. That said, the rye bread that comes with it is another Ultimate. So flavorful and packed with texture. In fact, we loved it so much we walked up the street after breakfast to the Russ & Daughters store on Houston to buy a loaf. And my god is that thing dense. One loaf probably ways as much as a Mini Cooper.

We ended the meal on a duo of dishes from the “Sweet” column, the first being the Chocolate Babka French toast. Yes Challah, you just got trumped. Topped with fresh strawberries and sidled up next to a ramekin of sweet cream- no need for syrup on this thing. It’s richer than Daddy Warbucks.

Yet as wonderific as the Babka French Toast was, the kosher purist in me still found the Noodle Kugel to be the shiznet. It’s like muscle memory for your taste buds, bringing you back to that sweet noodle lovin’ fro your childhood that you just can’t deny. And wow did that sound way more child molesty than intended.

All in, Russ is tops in my book. Even if Gweneth Paltrow likes it too. From the incredibly fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juices to both Ultimates I mentioned above to their caviar cream cheese that needs to make its way from store to café (hint-hint Russ).

4 teeth

Canuck

Vancouver Airport • 3211 Grant McConachie Way Richmond, BC, Canada V7B 1M8

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There is a surprisingly thin selection of places to sit and grab a bite to eat in the morning at the Vancouver airport. So, unless you want to try your luck at Tim Horton’s or Burger King, I’m afraid your mouth just got backed into a corner. A corner that serves supermarket orange juice and French Canadian toast that tastes like empty calories and a poor interpretation of the breakfast classic, even with the addition of the Great White North’s bounty, maple syrup.

The breakfast sandwich, however, is much better, made on a brioche roll with a runny egg, marinated mushrooms, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. It’ll do the trick, but it’s not exactly something you would ever swoon over unless you’re nursing a hangover.

Décor is non-existent, assuming you don’t count giant flat screen TV’s playing hockey games as decor, service is friendly and there’s nothing else to really say about this place apart from the convenience of being near your gate.

2 teeth

Alice’s Tea Cup

102 W 73rd St. New York, NY 10023 • (212) 799-3006 • alicesteacup.com

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New York can be so annoying with its Stalin-esque reservation rules, which seem so out of character for a place like this. Charming, whimsical, themed like something pulled straight out of Alice in Wonderland, hence the name. But unless your tea party is six people or greater, prepare to wait, because the Queen of Hearts is apparently running things.

That said, should you have a party of six or simply wait long enough to get a table, you are in for a treat that will have you grinning wider than the Cheshire Cat. It starts with their “wonderful” assortment of interesting and unique teas such as apple-cinnamon and chocolate chai, each served in its very own color-coded pot the size of your head. Which you then pour into a mixed English tea setting comprised of hand-painted floral china. None of the teas were amazing, however. It was actually the food that stole the show.

Stolen with a surprisingly limited brunch menu, but if everything’s good, then who really cares, right? The scones are excellent (pictured), some of the best I’ve ever had. Thick, not too dense, moist and yummy. The French toast is also very good, served in cubes, casserole style, with an amazing drizzle of chocolate, syrup and berries around the perimeter of the plate.

The salmon benedict isn’t too shabby either, although the eggs were a touch overcooked, which is benny blasphemy and borderline worth docking a knife, but because they served it over one of their amazing scones I’m gonna let it slide.

The tower of breakfast is pretty great too, if you’re looking to try a bit of everything, adorned with a poached egg, scone and a nice homemade granola served with fresh berries and vanilla yogurt.

But Alice is also a bakery, making it an ideal place to celebrate birthdays, particularly if you have young birthday girl with you, deep in the princess phase. Mine is a bit of a chocoholic, so we obviously went with the chocolate cake, which I thought was just okay by comparison to the rest of the meal, but that didn’t seem to stop my daughter from wolfing it down like a champ.

All in, a highly successful outing worth the wait and the special trip, because that’s exactly what Alice’s Tea Cup offers… A special experience.

4 teeth

Harper’s

92 Main St. Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522 • (914) 693-2306 • Harpersonmain.com

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I think, like, the term “farm-to-table” is, like, getting to be more overused than the word “like.” Pretty soon McDonald’s is going to come out with a farm-to-table offering at this rate. This is not to dispute the fact that Harper’s might very well source its ingredients from a nearby farm in the tri state area, but I sincerely doubt that they are solely affiliated with that farm to the point where the entirety of its harvest winds up on your plate. I’m also pretty skeptical that ALL of Harper’s ingredients come from farms period. Sure, I would imagine some does, maybe even the majority, but isn’t that technically true of most places. I mean it’s not like the other places are using suppliers who are growing tomatoes right on their trucks. Or cultivating carrots in test tubes. They ALL come from farms at some point. And there’s zero regulation on the whole farm-to-table claim to begin with. So what does it even mean, really, unless you’re like Blue Hill at Stone Barns?

But shelving that gripe for now, I really do like Harper’s a lot. It has a great vibe about it with it’s cool, dark, yet extensive dining rooms (big enough that you can forgo the rezzy and pull a walk-in), each with its own rustic contemporary pub-like personality. And speaking of personality, the servers were all very warm and friendly and most importantly for a Sunday family brunch, good with the kids. They even have an outdoor seating area in the garden at the back of the restaurant which was frozen over when we went, but judging by the taste level of the interior, I’d be willing to bet it’s nicely done as well.

Switching over to the food, the bread is excellent, as is the butter, which is such a rarity in this country, mainly because it actually tastes like butter! Okay, so maybe the butter came from a farm…

For my entree I had the chocolate chip bread pudding French toast, which just sounded killer as I read it on the menu. Almost as if they knew the shortcut to my heart. And while it was definitely good, they screwed it up a hair by serving it up on the burnt side. Thus, Wifey had me bested with her baked eggs and proscuitto, which was so well balanced the way the salt of the meat brought out the flavor of the egg- and together with that bread? – I was such a wonderful thing I was bouncing around like Tigger. I also wound up trying my son’s scrambled eggs, which were pretty damn good too, considering how basic they were, which leads me to believe that perhaps the eggs also came from a farm. Okay, so that’s two things, but I will eat shards of glass if you prove to me that the chocolate chips in the French toast came from a friggin’ farm. I mean c’mon!

3 teeth

EJ’s Luncheonette

1271 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10021(212) 472-0600ejsluncheonette.com

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At one time EJ’s was a solid go-to for diner food at locations all around the city. Sporting one of the better veggie burgers (topped with guac and sprouts) in town and a respectable brunch that had people enduring two hour waits. This is no longer that time. In fact, even back in its hay day I was truthfully unimpressed, baffled by those willing to stand in line for such mediocrity when truly great diner food was only a few blocks up at Googies (RIP). But to give a currently open reference for comparison, it’s on par with Jackson Hole Diners and Stardust. Maybe a quarter of a notch above a Denny’s. Harsh? Perhaps. But truth be truth and there are literally 1000 better places for breakfast/brunch in the city, about 2000 better options for lunch and given adequate time I will eventually have all of them reviewed and posted for your perusal. But in the meantime, please go on trust and do as the police say at a crime scene, which this sort of is, “Keep walking. Nothing to see here!”

If, however, you are a glutton for punishment and are too squeamish to take up cutting, then by all means, enjoy everything from bogus burgers to pedestrian pancakes and forgettable French toast. In fact, not even the veggie burger is what it used to be. Which will go perfectly with your new regimen of self torture.

2 teeth

Rue 57

60 W 57th St. New York, NY 10019 • (212) 307-5656 rue57.com

 

In midtown most of the options for a nice, sit-down breakfast/brunch are either crazy expensive or Ess-a-bagel. Fortunately, Rue fills this void rather nicely, otherwise you’d have to hop in cab to get your brunch on. Unless you consider Starbucks, Le Pain Quotidien or Paris Baguette as nice… or sit down.

I know a lot of people find the service to be rude and pretentious, but I’m just going to chalk that up to them being tourists. It is NYC after all. I have eaten here several times and don’t find the wait staff to be anything out of the norm for the city. And speaking of tourists, this place kinda begs for that clientele, being that it’s the size of most places that typically scream tourist trap, but even so, I personally find that they manage to keep the bistro vibe well in tact.

On the food front, while it is certainly nothing to run down 57th Street singing about, neither is Pastis (RIP) or Balthazar IMO. If you want transcendent morning grub try Norma’s, Clinton Street Baking Co., Cookshop or Upland. Rue, on the other hand, is solid, middle of the road eating. Same goes for lunch. Never been for dinner. So, if you are in the hood and can’t get in to some of the other brunch legends down the street, or simply don’t feel like paying over 50 bucks a person for breakfast, then Rue 57 is your place. The burger is nice and the fries are very good. The eggs dishes are all box checkers and so is the sweeter fare like pancakes and French Toast. The shocker of the menu, however, would be the sushi. Yes, this French named and styled bistro is actually Asian at its roots, so if you should happen to be craving a little raw fish in the wee hours, well, Rue has you covered there too.

3 teeth

The Smith

956 2nd Ave. New York, NY 10022 • (212) 644-2700 • thesmithnyc.com
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I gotta say, they make it pretty damn hard to hate on this place. The décor alone makes me happy. So cool and open with a vibe about it that is social and fun. And I’m not sure what happened with me, but unlike so many other reviews I actually had terrific service. Friendly and attentive and quick.

On the food front, I only had breakfast, so I can’t speak yet about the other two squares of the day. But from what I did have it was a solid good.

The teas seem to be homemade and home packaged. And therefore home good. Much better than the Tazo and Twining crap you find virtually everywhere else.

And the French toast with caramelized bananas (pictured), while not as impressive as the tea, managed to hit the spot, regardless of the fact that it wasn’t soaked through. A major pet peeve of mine. Okay, one of many peeves. Regardless, however, the taste was still solid and so I can only ding it for consistency.

It’s like I stated from the beginning, it’s a hard place not to like, so guess what? I liked it.

3 teeth