Isabella’s Brunch

My New York brunching experience on our Memorial Day trip was nothing spectacular. My dinners were ah-mazing: dates with beau at a charming little Italian eatery, Aria, in the West Village, and at ABC Kitchen, chef Jean Georges’ new farm-to-table restaurant that won the 2011 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant only two weeks prior. But brunch was far less thrilling.

As you read, Pastis was overrated and, as a commenter from New York said, “so four years ago.” Happily, an unplanned brunch at Isabella’s the next day was much better, but similarly nothing special.

In a very uncharacteristic move, we did not have reservations anywhere for brunch. Beau and I met up with friends and wandered through town trying to find a Sunday spot without a two-hour wait.

In comes Isabella’s, a respectable, albeit boring, dining establishment on the Upper West Side. Apparently, the cuisine is Mediterranean, but you really couldn’t tell at brunch.

Unlike the $18 bread basket at Pastis the day prior, brunch at Isabella’s begins with a complimentary basket filled with an assortment of breads including banana chocolate chip, French, and raisin. Butter and strawberry cream cheese spreads join the basket.

isabellas-bread

The menu is both expansive and affordable. There are five types of Benedicts (including a filet mignon Benny), two types of waffles, crepes, French toast and nine egg dishes, including a variety of omelets and huevos rancheros, to choose from with prices ranging between $13 to $16 a dish.

isabellas-drinks

Brunch is served with a complimentary beverage—mimosa, Bloody Mary, Screw Driver, campari, champagne, grapefruit juice or orange juice, along with coffee or tea. All three ladies had mimosas and coffees, included in our entrée price of $16 or less. Not bad, Isabella’s, not bad.

isabellas-omelet

Additionally, the portions were enormous. Both of our New Yorkers had omelets, served with bacon and home fries. Brittany says, “I loved my omelet, it was packed full of vegetables and they were so fresh! I thought the food overall was very good and the portions were great. The prices were very fair considering all we got with our meal”

isabellas-chicken

Beau opted for skewered chicken, served with a Greek salad and lemon French fries with tzatziki dipping sauce. (There, we go, Greek cuisine!) It was chicken. And fries. He arrived hungover and hungry and left well-fed with a few beers in him. He was happy.

isabellas-benedict2

I opted for the crab cake Benedict. Because that’s what I usually opt for. It was served with the same oily, seasoned home fries as the omelets. A little too oily for my liking. The muffins were appropriately toasted, the crab cakes loaded with real crab, and paired with spinach. The Hollandaise was nothing special, and there was plenty—I’d venture to say too much—on it. I’ve had plenty of better Bennys, but I’ve certainly had far worse.

The overall experience—service, pricing and ambiance—at Isabella’s was pleasant. Potted palm trees punctuate round tables with wicker chairs. The walls are white with green trim and the ceilings high. The space feels bright, airy and open, like you’re in the dining room of Club Med in Acapulco and not in New York. (Not sure how this ambiance works in the cold New York winters, however). Our server was prompt, competent and attentive, without being obnoxious, add the New York ladies.

Isabella’s is reliable, fresh food in large portions at affordable prices. To the untrained diner or average person, it is delicious. The food snob, however, will be less impressed.

The Bitches say: B. If you’re hungry and looking for brunch without a two-hour wait on the Upper West Side, head to Isabella’s to fill up on good enough food.

Isabella’s
359 Columbus Ave.
New York, NY
(212) 724-2100

Isabella's on Urbanspoon

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