When I entered my freshman year at Indiana University, I was surprised by the strong East Coast contingency within my class. There’s even a Wall Street Journal article about it, aptly titled “From Bloomingdale’s to Bloomington.” Over the years I learned terms like “bodega” and about the difference the water source can make in a bagel (seriously a girl on my floor got a weekly bagel shipment from Long Island), and am now thrilled about the strong alumni network here in New York City.
I was first introduced to Durden in the East Village as the go-to IU watch bar this past basketball season. I had walked past its prime Second Avenue location plenty of times back when I lived in the neighborhood, but found myself returning consistently this year to watch Indiana embarrassingly falter on the court.
Durden is a big step up from your average sports bar. I appreciate some Chuck Palahniuk so I immediately caught on to the quirky Fight Club theme in the venue. I’ll take buried literary references over dilapidated sports memorabilia any day. Inside there are plenty of screens, booth seating, and an expansive bar area, all requisites for a proper sports bar.
We were invited in to preview Durden’s brand new brunch offering and lunch menu, appropriately titled NAWLINZ, as it invokes the spirit of New Orleans. The chef hails from the Big Easy and meticulously sources his ingredients from quality purveyors–the bread is from Leidenheimer bakery in NOLA, the addicting garlic mayo is from Duke’s, and the meat is from Pat La Frieda.
The menu is rather extensive and features regional staples such as red beans and rice, gumbo, and a wide variety of po’boys.
As my fellow Hoosier Andrea and I skimmed over the menu, we sipped on steaming hot coffee and mimosas. The mimosas had fresh-squeezed juice and were heavy on the bubbles, just how we like them. Best of all, they’re only $5 during a brunch, a steal for the neighborhood.
We started off with a Spanish potato tortilla dish, reminiscent of New Orleans’ Spanish influence. It was basically a well-seasoned frittata and we loved the inclusion of fresh veggie garnishes. The star of the show was the generous drizzle of Duke’s garlic mayo, it was seriously addicting.
Next came rounds of various po’boys. We sampled an embarrassing amount of sandwiches including a bacon, sausage, and fried chicken po’boys. All were served with fresh tomatoes, pickles, and shredded lettuce, doused with a generous amount of that crack mayo. I loved that the po’boys had a brunch spin with the inclusion of fluffy scrambled eggs.
Between the three varieties, the fried chicken po’boy stole the show. The chicken was brined in a secret spice mix and flash fried in a potato chip crust. Enough said.
As if the first half of our meal wasn’t gluttonous enough, the chef brought out two more dishes. We nibbled on the Nawlinz fries which are slathered in a sausage gravy poutine. This would make a great hangover recovery snack, but it was a little too rich for my liking. However, that could also be blamed on the multiple po’boys we had already inhaled.
To end our meal on a sweet note, we were presented with a bourbon chocolate bread pudding. The extremely strong bourbon taste hit me in the face initially, but it grew on me bite by bite. Before we knew it, we were staring down an empty pie tin.
The Bitches say: Four Champagne flutes. Elevated bar food with plenty of flavor and a genuine taste of New Orleans. The perfect place to sop up a hangover while watching sports with a group in this prime East Village location.
Durden serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.