As much as I love New York City, I agree wholeheartedly with Emily’s sentiment about her recent trip to Lake George; sometimes you just need a break from the concrete jungle. When you don’t have the time or money for a weekend away or a luxurious staycation, an extraordinary meal with great friends can whisk you away from the daily grind, if only for a few hours.
Enter, Miss Lily’s. I have passed by the establishment many times, whether on the way home from a shopping trip in SoHo or en route to nearby beer hall Houston Hall, and have always been tempted by its bright colors and live DJ in the front window to step inside. I finally made a Saturday afternoon reservation and was looking forward to catching up with friends over the coconut pancakes I’ve heard much “brunch-lore” about.
After taking two steps inside the vibrant eatery, I felt like I was miles away from New York and transported to Jamaica. We navigated through an island-themed record store, reggae radio station, and bakeshop counter before reaching our hostess in the main dining area. We had our pick to brunch in an old-school diner or a dark disco lounge in the back. When given the choice, we Bitches always choose the disco ball.
Our relaxed and personable server immediately made us feel at ease in our Rastafarian-themed booth. The $30 prix fixe bottomless menu was a no brainer, and we had our choice between the One Love bellini, a mix of champagne and passion fruit, and the Hotstepper, Miss Lily’s take on a Bloody Mary with a blend of jerk spices. Although I’m normally averse to sweet cocktails, I enjoyed the fresh puree of juice in the bellini and stuck with this cocktail for the entire afternoon. After one potent Hopstepper, our server graciously let Daniel switch to traditional mimosas, despite the fact that mimosas were not a part of the prix fixe.
It took a while to receive our first round of drinks, but being that we were on island time I reminded myself to drop my hurried New York attitude and take it easy.
We were tempted by the variety of organic, fresh squeezed juice from Melvin’s Juice Box, which included interesting blends of produce and spice, but ultimately stuck with the food menu. With the brunch prix fixe, you have a choice between five entrees, which is slightly limiting. This wasn’t my friend Jaime’s first rodeo, so she quickly suggested that we go outside of prix fixe to order must try’s such as the jerk chicken and chicken and waffles. We ended up ordering four entrees and some sides; after all, we were on “vacation!”
We originally ventured to Miss Lily’s for the famous coconut pancake, which was included in the prix fixe menu. We weren’t disappointed by the high acclaim of this sweet treat. The pancakes were fluffy and topped with freshly shaved coconut and warm maple syrup. The coconut added a great pop of flavor and a bit of crunch to the dish.
I personally requested the Jamaican rancheros, an island twist on the classic Mexican option. The bowl was piled high with charred jerk chicken, runny eggs, sweet plantain chips, and a big, fresh avocado. This dish tasted rich and decadent, and I couldn’t get enough of the crispy plantain chips.
The star of the show was the jerk chicken entrée. The slow cooked poultry was grilled with a variety of Miss Lily’s island spices. The traditional cucumber salad, rice, and peas served on the side were a lovely complement to the jerk chicken.
After sampling other unique and flavorful menu items, the chicken and waffles were a bit of a let down. It was great to be given the option to choose between the thigh, breast or leg, and the fried chicken was simultaneously moist and crispy. Unfortunately, the waffle didn’t hold a candle to the coconut pancakes. It was generic and tasted like it could have come out of a box in the freezer.
We ended our meal on a high note with sides of the grilled jerk corn. The veggie was served on a stick and smothered with butter, spices, and shaved coconut. It was the perfect mix of sweet and savory, and left us licking our fingers while bopping our heads to Bob Marley.
After we polished off the last of the jerk corn, we were shocked to discover that we had spent more than three hours at the eatery. We never felt pressured to give up our tables as the drinks kept flowing and the reggae music kept playing. Time truly got away from us during our Caribbean escape at Miss Lily’s.
The Bitches say: A-. The ambiance, service, and most importantly, food at Miss Lily’s were authentically Jamaican and equally fun. Don’t worry, be happy, brunch on, Bitches!
132 W. Houston St.
New York, NY 10012
Miss Lily’s serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.