I went to New York last weekend. I had to get out of town. And, a full week after their epic blizzard (who’s talking smack now, huh, New York?), there was nothing on the streets except excessive garbage and the usual Manhattan grit, for which I was pleased … Because despite the bitter, biting cold, I just wanted to wander.
I chose a hotel close to Penn Station, in the so-called Fashion District, so I could easily zip in and out. My spot, which is très trendy, has a lovely concierge who, in my total state of laziness, I relied on for most of the weekend for various recommendations. Bagel place? Check. He found me Brooklyn Bagel in Chelsea, which was divine. Dinner? Check. He sent me to Wallse in the West Village, which had a phenomenal menu partially built around cucumbers (my favorite). Brunch? Fail.
We were sent to Elmo. Elmo? “Yeah, like the Sesame Street character … [awkward pause] … It’s super chic,” he reassured me over the phone. Uh, ok. Surely the words “Elmo” and “chic” don’t belong in the same sentence together (but perhaps, I thought, it’s named after El Morocco, the fabulous 1940s New York hotspot … ?). I should have followed my gut. It was decent, alright, but it certainly wasn’t chic. Perhaps, colorful. Or rather … flamboyant. Yes, that’s how I would describe Elmo.
When we arrived at 11, the place was deserted. A cadre of servers stood staring at us as we walked in. Should we sit? Please direct, fabulous army of gorgeous gay men. We were eventually directed to a booth in the back, under the sparkly chandeliers and the rainbow-striped upholstery. Our server took ages to get to us, but once he did, he laid it on thick. Questions, conversation, compliments. At one point I thought he was going to pull up a chair and join us.
The brunch menu has a decent selection: starters, egg dishes, griddle, salads, sandwiches and sides. It’s total greasy comfort food. The cocktail list is pretty standard, too. It has the basic requirements—mimosas, bloody Marys, bellinis, kir royale—with one twist: the wasabi Mary with cucumber and celery.
For grub, we started with the truffle French fries. “Excellent choice,” I was reaffirmed. They’re tossed with fresh grated Parmesan and—of course—truffle oil, which is exactly what you need on a Sunday morning. I would have preferred some imaginative dipping sauces, but ketchup it was that morning.
I ordered the mini breakfast burritos for my entrée, which sounded delicious: three tortillas with scrambled eggs, chorizo, poblano peppers, cheddar, cilantro, tomato, onion and potatoes, all topped with ranchero sauce and even more cilantro. They weren’t lying. The burritos were, in fact, mini. And a bit boring. There was no crazy breakfast burrito taste, which I was expecting. Not even the dips—salsa, sour cream and guac—could spice it up a notch. Tres sad.
The Belgian waffles were cute (small, again) and were topped with strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Again, nothing spectacular to write home about. Papa Love, the veggie at our table, went for the old fashioned oatmeal with sliced bananas and raisins. On that freezing New York morning, oatmeal was just what was needed. The omelets—made to order—weren’t that fantastic either.
I never have had bad food in New York. And Elmo’s is no exception—it wasn’t horrible, it just wasn’t outstanding like everything else I had eaten over the weekend. But, the place was hopping by the time we left, full of young hipster families and their strollers. So, clearly it has a local following.
But if you’re not a local, I say skip this spot and go for something better.
The Bitches say: B- Greasy comfort food, crazy decor, super sweet service; but surely there’s better brunch in this fantastic city.
156 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10011-1813