Neighborhood: Lower East Side, 120 Essex St. (between Rivington St. & Delancey St.)
The scoop: We arrived at Essex around 2:30 p.m., and we weren’t sure if we walked into a restaurant or a club. The place was very trendy and jammed packed with lots of young females dressed to the nines. There were groups of people hanging by the bar area drinking mimosas, and also groups waiting to be seated. Luckily we had a reservation, so we did not have to wait long for a table. Even though we finally made it into the dining room around 3 p.m., we were surprised at how many people were still waiting for brunch. The crowd finally died down around 5 p.m., so if you’re looking for a more relaxed brunch and do not want to be rushed out, we recommend going a little later in the day. Essex is also cash only for brunch, and we suspect that they do this because they are used to having big crowds and want to turn tables over as fast as they can. We have yet to figure out what makes this place so trendy or popular.
We were seated on the main floor of the dining area. There are also loft dining areas on both sides of the restaurant, which didn’t seem as chaotic as the floor seating. The seating arrangements are pretty uncomfortable at Essex. We sat inches from the table right behind us, which was a booth intended for four that they added two chairs to so they could accommodate a part of six. Two of our seats literally touched the backs of two seats at that table. The music was more suited for the nighttime than the daytime, with Notorious B.I.G. blaring through the speakers. We noticed that we were shouting just to converse over the loud music.
Bottoms up: The brunch special is $22.95 for an entrée and three bloody Marys, screwdrivers or mimosas. We all decided to order the mimosas, and we were pleased with the ratio of orange juice and champagne. You can tell by the taste and the light color of the drink that they did not skimp on the champagne. Although the menu says there is a limit of three drinks, the servers kept coming to our tables with pitchers and made sure our glasses were filled at all times. We were even given another round of drinks long after our plates were cleared, which a lot of places don’t do.
Chew on this:
Onion roll / Complimentary
Each table is served a plate of onion rolls. The bread was pretty standard and didn’t seem super fresh, but most of us enjoyed the oniony taste on the outside of the bread. There were also pieces of onion baked into the bread as well. If you’re not into strong onion flavors, like Stephanie, then you probably won’t like this bread.
The Aristocrat / Potato pancake topped with house-cured salmon gravlax, salmon caviar & poached eggs
The potato pancake tasted like a crispy hashbrown. It had good flavor, but it was very greasy. I really don’t use sour cream with my food, but the little bit that I tried went well with the potato pancake. Sadly, my eggs were not poached. One of my eggs had a small drop of yolk, and the other one was completely overcooked. The salmon didn’t taste too fresh, but it wasn’t inedible. The meal was filling, but I think I had the worst dish out of everyone.
Baked eggs / Over crisp ham with roasted peppers, shitake mushrooms & monterey jack
This entrée sounded quite good to me, and you know what, it wasn’t bad. Nothing about it really stood out, however, it satisfied me. The roasted peppers, mushrooms and cheese were baked in with the eggs and all blended well together. I feel like you can’t go wrong with a combination like that! If I get meat with an egg dish at brunch, I tend to go for some form of bacon, so the ham was a nice change. Unfortunately, the side of potatoes was pretty bad. The potatoes were cold and bland. I enjoyed the small salad. I ate small bites of the salad with the eggs. Overall, this was a decent dish and definitely way better than Victoria’s.
The CEO / Chorizo, scrambled eggs & onions served with corn tortillas (add jalapeños $1)
This dish was very similar to a scramble. The eggs, chorizo and onions were all cooked together. I also added jalapenos, which gave it quite a kick. The scramble style made it easy to throw the mixture into a tortilla and eat. The potatoes were not good at all. Even though they were an orange color — which usually indicates some sort of spices were added — they lacked flavor. I didn’t realize the CEO came with a side salad; it seemed pretty random.
Mexican Matzo Brei / Scrambled eggs, tortilla crisps, monterey jack & avocado with black beans & pico de gallo (add chorizo $2)
I had no idea what brei was, so I had to ask the waitress. Brei, which is a mix of eggs and matzo, is a pretty popular Jewish dish. My Jewish boyfriend made fun of me when I came home that night told him I had brei for brunch, but had to ask what was in it. Good thing I’m learning more about Jewish food before I become Jennifer Horowitz 🙂 Essex puts a Mexican spin on this brei by substituting the matzo with corn tortilla chips. I had no idea what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the brei. The tortillas added a really nice flavor to the eggs. The red onions from the pico also gave it a little bit of sweetness. One of the things that caught my eye about this entrée on the menu was the avocado, but there was hardly any avocado in it. Instead, there was a scoop of sour cream next to some pico and tortilla chips with two of the most miniscule pieces of avocado that I’ve ever seen in my life. This dish also came with a side of beans, which were really watery and a little hard. For the most part, I was pretty happy with my dish and would recommend this to anyone in the mood for something a little different.
The final bite: Although Essex has an extensive brunch menu and decent drink special, it’s not worth visiting unless you’re in the mood to go to Club Brunch. There’s way better food and drinks out there in a more comfortable atmosphere.
Reviewed by: Jen, Stephanie and Victoria