There are a plethora of restaurant choices here. (A fancy way of saying there are A LOT of restaurants.) So I recently found myself thinking about what draws me back to certain places and what makes me want to try the new kids on the block. This was after enjoying brunch twice and a dinner for a large group at The Smith, and then following that up by finally making it to brunch at Alder — a restaurant my son called “My holy grail”, since I’ve been talking about it since it got on my radar.
The Smith is a chainlet with three locations. I had brunch once in the East Village and once Midtown, and dinner at the Midtown spot. The beauty of The Smith is that there is something (good) for everyone on its expansive menu, the servers were all lovely, the drinks were inventive and the price points run the gamut. At Sunday brunch there are free cocktails or juice with certain entrees and the choices run from healthy salads to decadent waffles with whipped cream. There is the nice touch of your server putting down a carafe of still water and one with sparkling water so you don’t have to pay extra for some fizz or constantly try to get the server’s attention when your water glass is empty. At our party of nine in the Midtown spot the waiter expertly handled the questions that somehow comes with a large group and our choices reflected the varied menu – sides of Brussels sprouts, the short rib special, the seared tuna salad, and of course a burger deluxe with their version of special sauce. Drinks ranged from a good selection of draft beer to the Bee Sting (with five ingredients). The two restaurants (I haven’t been to the one on the West Side) are always packed – which must mean The Smith has found a winning formula. It definitely works for me.
The Alder is a much smaller restaurant, at around 60 seats, is brought to us from Wylie Dufresne, and it personifies quirky food – but in a very good way. Dufresne opened wd-50 in 2003 and brought the phrase “molecular gastronomy” to foodies. That restaurant is quite pricey and I was excited to hear about Alder’s opening — it’s a much more affordable alternative. So at brunch we enjoyed coconut waffles with jerk chicken, pastrami hash with a soft poached egg on top and a smoked chicken salad crostini. We started (because where is it written that dessert comes at the end of the meal?) with warm doughnuts with delicious grape jelly on the side. There were classic Bloody Marys and a glass of fennel-apple juice. Alder describes itself as a “modern interpretation of a public house.” It is a house I wouldn’t mind living in – as the food brought unexpected flavors together and left me wanting to try more. AFW
55 Third Avenue, 1900 Broadway, 956 Second Avenue
Alder – 157 Second Avenue, 212-539-1900