The Upper East Side is consistently lacking when it comes to stylish spots for dinner, cocktails, or brunch—but there comes more than a few times when you’ll need to meet someone uptown. And, so you do your best to select a passable—or perhaps even good—spot for brunch uptown. The key is to begin with low expectations, and to go from there.
As you might expect, Toloache provides a reliable, above average meal in a space that lacks style or excitement—but, hey, the location was convenient. When we entered the restaurant at 11:30, the space was all but empty, and my gut fell into my stomach. “Oh god, what if it’s awful?” But within the hour it was filled with families with toddlers and retired brunchers—this is the UES, after all.
The back patio is cute for outdoor brunches and the restaurant has plenty of rooms, should you need to host a brunch birthday party—like the group celebrating a 65th birthday in the back room on the day of our visit.
The service was attentive and competent, and the cocktails good. We were skeptical of sugary, drinks with bad booze as we looked over a drink menu filled with frozen margaritas and flavored mimosas, which equal a serious hangover if you’re over the age of 25. If you’re under 25, well, enjoy it while you can, kittens.
Bravely, Annie, who scrapes under 25, ordered a frozen strawberry margarita, which was smooth, boozy, and pretty solid. Shruti sampled two frothy, bubbly mimosas, opting first for the passionfruit and later for the hibiscus. Both were bright, fruity, and bubbly—but not too saccharine. I ordered a classic grapefruit Paloma, and the smooth, citric cocktail went down smoothly.
For picky diners, Toloache offers extensive gluten-free options, demarcated on the menu, and there’s also a separate menu for vegetarians. There are three types of guacamole—and a sampler. At the waiter’s recommendation, we chose the frutas guacamole, which is made with habanero, Vidalia opinions, apples, Thai basil, and topped with pomegranate seeds. This guac is super fresh and packed with flavor—we’d go back just for the guac. The chips were the perfect—crispy, salty, and of the thicker consistency, rather than oily, thin chips that break and crumble with each bite.
There’s a solid selection of ceviches and tacos, plus quite a lot of brunch options. We ordered the Huevos Montuleños, with two poached farm eggs served with fried sweet plantains, bacon, peas, and a tomato-habanero salsa. The dishes were all beautifully presented, but then rapidly devolved into a mess of salsa, eggs, and mush, as Mexican food is wont to do.
We were curious about the corn cakes, so we also ordered the Huarache, corn cakes piled high with black beans and ricotta, then topped with eggs any style (poached for us, obviously) with a crema and salsa ranchera. This dish quickly became a messy mush, but in an enjoyable way, packed with flavor. The ingredients are fresh, the presentation good, and the menu choices interesting.
The veggie enchiladas were a solid choice if you’re feeling green. The enchiladas were tasty and filled with spinach and asparagus for a healthy vegetarian twist. The chilaquiles are a classic order as well, and we were happy with this iteration, but not blown away.
The home run dish was the dulce de leche French toast, which is easily shareable around the table as dessert. The fluffy, eggy French toast was moist, dense, and delicious. The toast was plated with cooked bananas, fresh strawberries, and dulce de leche. Our only complaint was that there should have been more dulce de leche, because while the French toast had a solid eggy, buttery flavor, it couldn’t stand on its own.
If you brunch at Toloache, you must order cocktails, guacamole, and French toast—but chances are if you’re a Bitch, you’d do that anyway.
The Bitches say: A-. While the UES location means the aesthetic needs an update and you must love children alongside your poached eggs, Toloache UES is a solid staple for brunch uptown. The service is friendly, the patio is cute, the cocktails are fun, and the Mexican is authentic. There’s plenty of space—so this would be great for a group brunch, or a family brunch with children should you be in that life stage.
Toloache serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays.