There’s something to be said for waking up in the morning and deciding to brunch last minute. I openly admit that I enjoy the labor I put into planning reservations and offering quality recommendations to friends. That being said, I equally appreciate an unplanned brunch that materializes from Yelp or a spontaneous walk.
This particular weekend was a Summer Saturday, which meant that Park Avenue, from Central Park down to lower Manhattan, was entirely shut down for pedestrians. As I’m in full swing marathon training, any variance to my normal route, especially a long run uninterrupted by taxis, sounded fabulous. Me and half of Manhattan had the same idea, and it was unfortunately chaotic. Regardless, after the run we were famished and I welcomed the last minute brunch at North River.
It seemed most of the city was running on Park and I was immediately struck by how empty North River was when we walked in. I tend to judge a restaurant’s success by the bustle, and North River was barren. We decided to tough it out despite the lack of energy, mainly because we were starving and North River had a simple but inviting atmosphere.
After a summer of hectic travel, this was a reunion of sorts for my boyfriend Paul and our friend Kyle, and festive times call for brunch cocktails! Kyle toasted with a Pimm’s Cup, Paul toasted with a Dusk ’til Dawn, and I toasted on both. The cocktails were delicious and they both ordered seconds, which were cheap by New York standards ($9..how jaded am I?!).
A house plate of bread was served for the table, which I realized halfway through scarfing down was actually warm miniature croissant puffs. This was the ultimate carb surprise and delight.
Despite my “spontaneity” I of course had to look up a few reviews online as we sat down so I knew I wouldn’t leave with any FOMO about a star dish I’d missed. The pork belly doughnut was confirmed by our waiter as the must-try, which sounded beyond bizarre to me. It was another great surprise, and Paul likened it to the breakfast version of an Ippudo pork bun, which is a big deal. I would not have put pork belly anywhere close to a bite with a doughnut, but it worked and that’s all there is to it.
Paul ordered the brisket burger with cheddar, caramelized red onion mayo and thrice cooked fries, after an emphatic recommendation from our waiter. It was juicy and succulent, as one would expect from a brisket burger. We appreciated the flavor, but it was little messy for my taste.
Kyle ordered the lamb hash with fried eggs, cumin, and herb yogurt, which was a great blend of Mediterranean flavors. I thought this was the standout of the brunch fare.
I ordered the sausage, egg, and cheese on an English muffin. This was straightforward and good; the special element here was the beer mustard it was served with to add a little spice.
The Bitches say B+. There was a lot of great and a lot of good at North River’s brunch, but only one dish I could pull from memory (hello, pork belly doughnut). Despite the outstanding meal, the sub-vibrant vibe made it less of a standout. Go here for a reliable reservation and a solid brunch.
166 First Avenue
North River serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.