Sons of Essex

21 Jul




133 Essex St. (between Stanton and Rivington)
New York NY 10002 (Map)

Attendees: :jump_to_Shelley:, :jump_to_Reid:, :jump_to_Sylvia:, :jump_to_Jeff:, :jump_to_Alan:




It was time once again for one of the WBC’s semi-regular Manhattan brunch outings. Our destination this time was Sons of Essex on the Lower East Side. Sylvia and I had made the journey down nice and early, so that we could spend a couple of morning hours searching for graffiti to photograph (that’s another story). Needless to say, by the time 11:00 rolled around, we were hungry. Walking into Sons of Essex from the bright Saturday morning, I had to give my eyes a couple of moments to adjust to the darkness. Oddly, although I’m pretty sure I’m the WBC member with the poorest vision, I was able to see the menu just fine. (Sylvia’s just getting really old, I guess.) To be fair, I had spent several hours studying it online beforehand, so I already had my morning meal narrowed down to two options: the butter scramble on crostini, or an omelette. Although the words “butter scramble” were like music to my ears, I thought I might need something a bit more substantial to get me through the rest of the day, so I opted for an omelette. Turns out you get to add to your omelette 1 meat choice, 1 cheese choice, and 1 vegetable choice. Bacon, cheddar, and spinach, please. And why not throw in a side of shoestring fries for the table? Why not indeed!

My omelette came out last, leading me to think, well, what could be so complicated about making an omelette? But when it finally arrived, I saw why it took time. Sons of Essex, you make a superb omelette. This was a very large, hearily filled concoction. And instead of putting the cheese inside, the cheddar was generously spread across the top of the omelette, providing very pleasing browned edges of cheese along the perimeter. The spinach and bacon were cushioned in the middle of the omelette, and the eggs were so delightfully fluffy. (Unfortunately, in my hunger I apparently forgot to take a photo of this omelette from the gods. I hang my head in shame.)
I have to say, in my current “Top 3 Omelette” list, only one place in Westchester makes the cut; that would be Stanz in Larchmont. Rounding out my top 3 omelette list are two Manhattan establishments: Le Grainne Cafe, and now Sons of Essex. And while this was a $13 omelette, it was well worth it.
Additionally, the piece of French toast that Whitney offered to me was superb. It was a French toast stuffed with mascarpone (and not just any mascarpone, but maple sweetened mascarpone), topped with powdered sugar and some strawberries. The mascarpone blended so well with the cake-like French toast. It felt so decadent.
You know, as we’ve found, there are many restaurants that unfortunately just tack on brunch in order to add some cash flow. At some places brunch is an afterthought, with little care put into the menu or meal preparation. Fortunately there are places like Sons of Essex to prove that a restaurant can do brunch justice. And I have to say, it was quite surprising to get such a high-quality morning meal from what is in all intents and purposes a cool urban lounge.
Sons of Essex, thank you. I’ll be back.

The Case: Sons of Essex v. The Westchester Breakfast Club

The Venue: The pretty-far southeast of the island of Manhattan.

The Facts:  Here’s a quick tip for future restauranteurs:  You should only have, at most, one of the following three things:

a) really low light

b) tiny font on the menus

c) menu items written in black with a dark brown background

Because if you have more than one of those things, it’s really freaking hard for your customers to determine what it is you’re selling.

That being said, though it was an exercise in extreme squinting to figure out what I wanted, when I finally did decide, I was quite pleased with what I received.  The cold sesame noodles, though a somewhat odd choice as brunch fare, were sweet without being cloying.  In terms of texture, squarely in the acceptable “al dente” spectrum (if a bit on the firm side of that spectrum, as you’d expect with cold noodles), and had a palatable stickiness without adhering to my mouth surfaces. The chunks of chicken I got with it balanced the sweetness a bit and gave a bit more variation in the mouthfeel, but were otherwise unremarkable. (Editor’s note: we don’t know what to think, really, about Reid’s use of the word “mouthfeel.”)

I greatly enjoyed the tater tots and the shoestring fries, both of which had generous helpings of truffle-icious flavor.

The Verdict:  Though it’s a bit of a schlep for me from the Upper West Side, I think I’ll come back here, though next time, I’ll bring a magnifying glass and a flashlight.




On the outside, Sons of Essex looks like a cheery old timey food shop.  Then you go further in through the doors into the dining area and bar, and everything changes.  The light is now by candlelight or by the various vintage light fixtures that dot the low ceilings.  Everything in there is dark, but cozy, a perfect place to hide away on a Saturday night with one of their yummy sounding drink concoctions and companions.  However, it wasn’t even noon yet, and we were here for brunch, so some of those effects were not as desirable, 12 hours early.

We were a large group this time around and had made reservations ahead of time.  That wasn’t so necessary since, at 11:00, we were one of two parties there.  Everything (including the prices) was very Nuevo-LES New York-esque.  The faux vintage print outs of the menus were presented nicely on clipboards, complete with small print.  Perhaps this was a testament to how uncool I was, but I had a lot of trouble reading the menu in the low light.  Being second oldest at the table (and least cool) I ended up absconding one of the two candles on the table and using that to read the menu.

I ordered the LES Breakfast Cubano with a side of truffled tater tots and a cup of coffee.

The LES Breakfast Cubano had baby swiss cheese, black forest ham, braised pork belly, pickled jalapeno salsa, and a fried egg.  It was served with a side salad.  The sandwich itself was delicious.  The pickled jalapeno salsa was incredible and served on the side in a little container.  I found myself smearing on a bit for every bite.  It wasn’t spicy jalapeno hot, but gave each bite a nice pickled kick.   I love pork belly, and this did not disappoint.  The included amount was generous and flavorful.  The bread the sandwich was served on was hearty enough to hold everything together without getting soggy but soft enough to bite through without losing a few teeth.

The truffled tater tots were good, but I’m not sure if I tasted the truffled part very much.  For tater tots, they were well fried and crispy without being oily.

The czar says:  There’s a dichotomy with this place that I struggle with.  The food is really very good, and the brunch offerings are so strong that they prove that Sons of Essex isn’t a place that opens for brunch just for the sake of it.  However, the environment in which we are served is not very brunch-oriented.  The dark colors, low light, and cozy environment were more suited for nighttime dining activities, not so much a late morning brunch (unless you have a massive hangover from the night before…then this would be perfect).  Regardless, I’m more for the food, so I’d say go and spend a nice quiet brunch in the dark before heading back into the sun and laid back chaos that is the LES.




Yet again, the WBC ventures down to the city.  Yes, we are the “Westchester” Breakfast Club, but since we got picked up by Small Bites, I figure we should expand.  We did.  We went out to Nyack last week.  We may even want to head up to Putnum, or even Orange County.  So why the city?  Well, we’re not ignorant to the idea people of the lower Hudson Valley sometimes venture into the city.  And some of these people might want to eat breakfast.  That’s our excuse.  If you don’t like it, find another breakfast blog! (Just kidding, please don’t find another breakfast blog. We love you, and hope you love us.)

So, Sons of Essex.  Reservations weren’t entirely neccessary.  We were only one of two groups there eating breakfast.  The rest of the place was empty. And dark.  Really dark.  It’s obviously not a breakfast place, more like a nighttime social bar place.  I’m sure there’s a schnazzy word for it that I don’t know. Whatever.

The food was good!  I tried a lot of stuff around the table and thought that the food was excellent.  I ordered the Latin Breakfast Empanadas.  There were two of them.  The meal wasn’t terribly filling, but the empanadas tasted good!  I guess they would be filling for a normal sized individual, but I’m a huskier guy, so I usually need an unreasonably large amount of food.

Sons of Essex was a good choice.  The prices are reasonable for what you’d expect in the city.  I’d reccomend this place to people visiting from the lower Hudson Valley.




Brunch adventure with the Westchester Breakfast Club was at the Sons of Essex located on the lower east side of Manhattan.  I must admit, I was fooled by the deli store front.  Kept thinking to myself “Am I at the right place?”  I did find out later that Sons of Essex is a deli/restaurant/bar establishment.

The restaurant itself had a cozy and comfortable feel to it.  Candlelit tables with a nice cove lighting gives a great atmosphere for socializing, but it does not help the fact that the menus become hard to read in the low lit dining area.

I ordered the Eggs Benedictowitz.  This was poached eggs on top of a potato pancake and smoked salmon.  It was delicious!  The part that caught my taste buds was the potato pancake.  The potato pancake was done perfectly.  It had a nice solid crust on the outside and a tater tots taste and feel on the inside.  Top that off with a poached egg and smoked salmon and you will have an enjoyable brunch.

Overall, the food was great and I loved the atmosphere in the restaurant.  It would be a great place to go to relax with friends and grab a bite to eat.


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