I always take for granted the amount of interesting people from all over the world who venture to New York City. Whether for work, for play, or reasons unknown, thousands of people are drawn to the bright lights with big dreams.
New York’s melting pot was never more apparent than when a culturally diverse group of friends and I settled in to our table at the East Village’s Café Orlin. We had a handful of Americans, Aussies, a Belgian, and a Texan – which many consider its own country – in our party so we decided to keep it international and dine at a recommended Middle Eastern spot. I used to stroll by Café Orlin frequently from my old 10th Street apartment and mentally added it to my never-ending “to brunch” list after seeing hordes of brunch goers consistently waiting outside on Saturdays and Sundays.
On this particular Saturday afternoon, the requisite crowd was outside, but our party of ten was miraculously seated in less than fifteen minutes. The interior was cozy, warm, and buzzing with activity. The waiters were clearly seasoned at the brunch shift and efficiently turned tables all afternoon.
The brunch menu was extensive and our entire party was instantly overwhelmed with choices. The menu was a bit confusing with separate subtitles such as Brunch Menu, Brunch Featured Items, and Brunch Specials, but provided no explanation to differentiate between these categories. We eventually figured out that you can add a cocktail to a Brunch Special for $6, but the whole crew was up for a cocktail regardless of a deal.
The cocktails came quickly, which was a relief. Our mimosas included fresh squeezed orange juice, which can be an unfortunate rarity in East Village dives. My friends clearly have different Bloody Mary palates; some found it too spicy, some found it too tomatoey, but all agreed that it could use a bit more alcohol.
Following the round of cocktails, a few of my friends were surprised when presented with a small glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. This must have been another quirk in the menu since only a select number were given a gift from the OJ gods; the beverage must have been complimentary with select dishes.
Jen recently returned from a trip to Israel raving about malawach so we immediately placed a side order for the table. She had me at “fried dough with a tomato sauce” and it may have been the best dish of the day. It was exactly as she has described, warm and greasy, which was perfect to alleviate any lingering headaches from the night prior.
My general rule of thumb is to order entrees in the same geography as the restaurant so the Middle Eastern breakfast was a no-brainer. I ordered my eggs over easy per usual, which were accompanied by organic Labne cheese, Israeli salad, and pita. I have never had Labne before and it reminded me of a cross between sour cream and tzatziki sauce. The cheese was perfect for dipping and I slathered it on my eggs, salad, and pita. The Israeli salad, consisting of diced tomatoes and cucumbers, was beautifully seasoned and refreshing.
Nichole, an adventurous eater and world traveler, also went the Middle Eastern route with the Tunisian eggs. She loved that her runny eggs over easy were “cooked to perfection” and found that the tomato and pepper mix complemented her eggs and home fries.
Jen ordered the green omelet with egg whites to balance out the calorie ridden malawach. The omelet was served open-faced and topped with parsley, scallions, and dill. She found the dish a bit dry so she added goat cheese for flavor and moisture, which greatly enhanced her entrée.
Andrew came to brunch with an appetite and went with the Eggs Blackstone. This hearty American dish was accompanied by oven-roasted tomatoes, bacon, and home fries, and topped with hollandaise. “This is the best poached egg I’ve ever had,” he decreed in between bites. However, despite the perfect execution, the overall taste of the dish was not particularly memorable.
Niels also found his spinach and feta omelet slightly lackluster. He lamented that the feta was in the middle of the omelet so it took some digging to get to the gold. Overall, the dish filled him up and was satisfying, but didn’t impress his European taste.
Everyone across the board was a fan of the home fries. They were crisp, flavorful, and hit the spot.
As our brunch wound down, we had a table divided. Those of us who ordered traditional Middle Eastern cuisine were delighted with our selections and couldn’t stop raving about our more exotic entrees. My friends who stuck with American fare concluded that their dishes were “good but not great.” But you better believe that every last crumb of that malawach was consumed by our motley crew.
The Bitches say: B+. This quaint East Village establishment is affordable and accommodating, but stick to the Middle Eastern menu items.
41 St. Marks Place
New York, NY 10003
Café Orlin serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.