Brunching at Clinton St. deserves a gold medal for patience and perseverance. In the two years I’ve now lived in Manhattan, I have never been able to endure the two hour wait for pancakes, but have always been a wistful onlooker as I pass the famous Lower East Side establishment. Last weekend, this all (finally!) changed.
After a classy-turned-aggressive Gal-entines Day with one of my best friends, Christine, whose boyfriend also left her solo in the city for the holiday, I was extremely slow moving on Saturday morning. Girls nights, marked with cosmo-induced Beyonce dance moves, tend to have these results.
Christine happened to be moving this particular weekend to the Lower East Side, and was tasked with the unfortunate job of meeting her cable company at the crack of dawn while I enjoyed the comforts of my very dark bedroom. Her move to this prime location was a godsend for brunch because she was brilliantly able to put her name in at Clinton St., take care of her apartment, and send me a wake up text right before our table was ready. Thus, I missed the two+ hour wait and slept off my Beyonce alter-ego just in time for some life-altering pancakes with Christine and her sister, Lauren.
I was immediately struck by the small size of the restaurant, making the atmosphere cozy and intimate. It surprised me that in the years of success, Clinton St hasn’t chosen to expand to a bigger space to alleviate some of the wait time. Regardless, the close quarters and limited tables made Clinton St. more inviting and quieter than it would have been if the hordes of people had room to wait inside. The front-facing portion of the restaurant is a takeaway pastry and coffee bar featuring piles of delicious treats, giving locals the option to savor Clinton St. at home.
After upwards of two years waiting to eat at Clinton St., I had a lot of time to combat my usual menu indecision. When it came to my order, there was no doubt I’d be eating banana walnut pancakes served with warm maple butter and drinking a frothy latte. The buildup for these pancakes was completely well-deserved, with a perfectly fluffy consistency. They had surprising but welcome chunks of fresh banana coupled with a delightful crunch of walnut, resembling a majorly upgraded banana bread. The warm maple butter was an ideal proportion to avoid over-soaking the pancakes and masking the flavor.
Lauren ordered the chocolate chunk pancakes, which came topped with globs of half melted chocolate and powdered sugar. Each taste was rich in chocolatey amazingness and was enriched even further with the maple butter. It was dessert in a every bite and worth every calorie.
Christine opted for the spanish scramble, which had diced chorizo, tomatoes, caramelized onions, scallions, melted monterey jack cheese and was served with sourdough bread and hash browns. Christine loved the chorizo, and found herself digging through the omelete for the most appetizing bites. She felt that the hash browns were bland, but otherwise loved her dish.
We ordered a side of sugar cured bacon, which was unexplainably addictive, melt-in-your mouth savory goodness. We also ordered the cheese grits, which were creamy and far from grainy, reminding me of a breakfast mashed potato.
Growing up with my dad’s homemade pancakes as a staple of my childhood and many weekend reunions since, I never thought I would find a restaurant version that satisfied my high expectations. Clinton St. far surpassed any pancake experience I’ve had at a brunch outside of home, and I can’t wait to share this special place with the person who first introduced me to one of my favorite brunch dishes.
The Bitches say A+.The pancakes, among other things, are well worth the hype and even the wait. Try the takeout menu if you would rather savor these delicious brunch offerings at home.
Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant
4 Clinton St
Clinton St. serves brunch daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.