I may be slightly biased, but I can pretty confidently proclaim that birthday brunches have replaced birthday dinners. With a birthday brunch, you have the advantages of (usually) more table availability, bottomless drink options, and a full day of bar hopping, which is arguably more fun than in the nighttime hours.
This time last year, I attended my friend Molly’s raging birthday brunch at Il Bastardo, which I captured for my first review for Bitches Who Brunch…how sentimental! It’s hard to top a live DJ, half-naked dancers, and mimosa carafes, but Molly is fun loving with impeccable taste in restaurants so I was sure this year’s birthday brunch iteration would be on the same level.
About twenty of us gathered at Yerba Buena’s East Village outpost at 2nd Street and Avenue A, conveniently only a block away from my apartment. From the outside, Yerba Buena looks tiny, but it opens up to a decent-sized main dining level with additional private seating downstairs. The sunny interior and bright décor enhanced the Latin theme and we were seated in a long table conveniently near the bar.
The typical bottomless deal is $14 for one hour of unlimited cocktails (on top of the price of an entrée), but Molly had prearranged for us to receive the deal for two hours. It was nice to know that they had some flexibility for large parties. Unlike the standard Bloody Mary or mimosa selection, we could also choose between margaritas, sangria, and the YB cocktail, which was a mojito on this particular Saturday.
Once our full party arrived, we were officially “on the clock,” and yes, the staff kept track of our hours spent imbibing down to the minute. Most of us stuck to rapidly refilled peach mimosas, although a few partygoers mistakenly ordered the Bloody Marys at first. The Bloodys were way too peppery and virtually undrinkable. The peach mimosas got a little too sweet after awhile so we switched to straight bubbles.
Most of us arrived to brunch with an appetite so once our drink orders were in (priorities!), we promptly requested a few servings of guacamole for the table. The guacamole was fresh and tasty; I particularly enjoyed the hint of bold chipotle flavor and fresh queso fresco on top. Yerba Buena was a little skimpy on the tortilla chips, but we were cheerfully provided refills.
The brunch menu has a nice assortment of ten items with a Latin flair such as huevos rancheros, a ham and suckling pig Benedict, pan dulce, and fish tacos. With such a large party, we had the opportunity to sample much of the menu.
Meghan and I went the classic route with huevos rancheros, but the unique presentation was anything but ordinary. Our fried eggs and fillings were served on a crispy tortilla shell, tostada style. We loved that a heaping side of rice and beans didn’t weigh down the dish and it was the perfect amount of fuel for a day spent frolicking through the Village.
Mark was dead set on the Cuban sandwich as soon as he surveyed the menu and ordered the dish assuredly. In true Sandwich Cubano fashion, his entrée consisted of berkshire ham, BBQ suckling pig, swiss cheese, chipotle mustard, pickles, along with a side of papas provenzal, or crispy, thin fries. His intuition was spot on; Mark proclaimed that this was the best Cuban sandwich that he’s had in New York City. That declaration speaks for itself.
Andrew went with the burger and was similarly pleased. I snuck a few bites and, although I’m not nearly as well versed in burgers as Andrew, I appreciated the juicy beef and suckling pig patty and creative toppings like pickled jalapeños and red onion slaw. This was a deliciously messy burger and perfect for a sloppy bottomless brunch.
Val was craving variety and ordered a trio of arepas filled with BBQ short ribs, pork belly, and chicken tinga, topped with scrambled eggs. The mini sandwiches were adorable and surprisingly filling. She found the arepas well flavored and savory, and gave them a thumbs up.
Birthdays are meant to be indulgent so we obviously ordered a few servings of cinnamon dusted churros. The churros were hot out of the oven and accompanied by gooey Mexican chocolate. They were perfect for sharing and a nice bite of something sweet to round out our meal.
All in, brunch was approximately $50 per person, which isn’t too shabby for two hours of unlimited, varied cocktails, appetizers, entrees, and desserts. There certainly are less pricey boozy brunch options in the area, but these dirt-cheap specials are accompanied by sub-par food. Reversely, Yerba Buena’s brunch fare was flavorful, inventive, and enjoyable.
The Bitches say: B+. Come for bottomless cocktails and enticing Latin cuisine in a lively neighborhood.
23 Avenue A
New York, NY
Yerba Buena serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.