It was a chilly but sunny Sunday afternoon and a group of 13 of us gathered for my friend Jen’s birthday brunch. After a lot of miscellaneous travel plans between our group of friends over the past month, it was the perfect occasion to all get together for some much needed catch up over drinks and guacamole.
As the resident bruncher of the group, I recommended Esperanto in Alphabet City. I had never entered the establishment, but passed by its cheery exterior many times when I used to live in the hood. They accommodated our large party reservation and were relatively flexible when we had to adjust the party size last minute, which was appreciated.
Esperanto fits right in the quirky neighborhood with bright colors, tropical placements, and a walk-up juice bar. A few brave souls took advantage of the outdoor seating in the 50 degree weather.
We were delighted that the interior of Esperanto was just as vivacious as the outside. The decor truly embodies the restaurant’s Latin and Caribbean spirit and made me forget about the NYC March blizzards for a few hours.
Our full party was miraculously on time and we were seated by our friendly server. We shared a long table in the dining room and began surveying the menu.
But first, coffee. Esperanto provided pots of coffee right on our table so we could serve ourselves when needed. This was helpful as members of our group were in various states of caffeine deprivation and we could easily refill our teacups.
Esperanto offers ten brunch entrees served with home fries, salad, coffee, and one brunch cocktail for $15. Seeing as plenty of neighboring eateries price a brunch cocktail at $15 alone, this was a great deal. Group meals can often get expensive so it’s helpful to have some back-pocket cheap eats when needed.
My end of the table stuck with mimosas and upgraded to blood orange mimosas after Natalia spotted fresh-squeezed blood orange juice on the menu. The juice was pulpy and the bubbles were flowing.
The menu includes American classics such as French toast and a burger, but primarily features Latin favorites such as huevos rancheros, quesadillas, and eggs Benedict with Brazilian ham.
We ordered a few servings of chips and guacamole to appease our growing appetites. The guacamole was tasty, but nothing special. It did the trick to curb our hunger, but I would have liked to see an original twist on the everyday recipe.
The was an overall theme at Esperanto. The brunch items we sampled were generally flavorful and well-executed, but didn’t particularly stand out.
I ordered the veggie omelet with fresh avocado substituted for the goat cheese. I know, I know, the goat cheese is the best part, but I have finally come to terms that I most likely have adult-onset lactose intolerance. The omelet was chock-full of veggie fillings and complemented by the creamy avocado. However, the star of the show was the home fries; everyone at our table raved about this spicy, crispy side.
Jaime, Jen, and Jen all went with the quesadillas, filled with chicken and shrimp respectively. To Esperanto’s credit, the quesadillas were created with a heavy hand and contained an impressive amount of protein. None of the girls came close to cleaning their plates. It’s pretty hard to mess up quesadillas, but they all gave the entree two thumbs up. Jaime particularly liked the meat to cheese ratio and the crunchy grilled tortilla.
With such a large party, much of the Esperanto staff pitched in when delivering our dishes from the kitchen, unfortunately resulting in a lot of confusion. Daniel and Mark’s entrees got switched, which they noticed only after Mark had already taken a few bites. They took it with stride and amiably stuck with the wrong main dishes, although I was slightly annoyed for them.
Mark ended up with Daniel’s Huevos Loisada, poached eggs on top of a potato shrimp pie, topped with traditional hollandaise sauce. He enjoyed the dish and found that the rich hollandaise surprisingly didn’t drown out the seafood flavors. This was an inventive take on a traditional Benny.
On the flip side, Daniel received Mark’s eggs Benedict, served with Brazilian ham and spicy hollandaise sauce. The stand out element was that spicy sauce. Latin spices provided a zesty kick and it made for a great dipping sauce for our leftover home fries.
Natalia’s huevos rancheros had an interesting presentation since the entire dish was piled on a crispy tortilla. This rendered it quite messy to eat; a presentation that was great in theory, but not necessarily in execution.
As we polished off our mimosas and reached for our wallets, we realized that Jen’s boyfriend’s parents had secretly settled up our tab. After picking up our jaws from the floor from this kind gesture, we all exchanged hugs and one last cheers to cap off Jen’s birthday.
The Bitches say: Four Champagne flutes. Dependable Latin fare, a cheap drink deal, and a festive atmosphere in Alphabet City.
Esperanto serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 10 a.m.