The Upper East Side is surprisingly dude friendly—with a bevy of bars serving up beers and late-night vibes. It’s almost old school: there are masculine hangouts, and then there are girly places for afternoon tea or pastries and mimosas. Given that it’s 2018, it would also be great to have both. That said, the solution for a dude-friendly, casual brunch lies at the Penrose.
Nestled under a charming, slightly dilapidated striped awning on 83rd and Second Avenue lies the Penrose, which is an Upper East Side staple as both a bar and brunch spot. It’s just the sort of spot where you’d take your brother, boyfriend, or Dad, which is exactly what I did on one particular Saturday afternoon after a walk through the park.
I’d brunched a few times at the Penrose before, and I knew it would be a reliable spot to take dear old Dad. It was a dreary fall day, so we were happy to cozy into a large wooden booth near the window at the low-ceiling, restaurant which has a classic pub vibe with wooden stools, retro-style signage and beer menus gracing the walls.
We began with Bloody Marys; a classic Penrose Bloody and a Bacon Bourbon Bloody. The Penrose Bloody Mary was packed with spice and flavor: it had a lot of tang, with lots of tomato, pepper, and vinegar coming through. It was garnished with pickles. The Bacon Bourbon Bloody was a whole lot of both. Garnished with pecan-crusted bacon, this Bloody was made with bacon-infused Bourbon and was filled with over-the-top flavor of both. It was a lot to imbibe—but if bourbon and bacon are your thing, this is your cocktail.
If you’re into inventive brunch cocktails, the Penrose is your spot. In addition to a roster of Bloodys that includes Micheladas and beet Bloody Marys, the brunch beverages offered include Horchata, cold brew Negronis, iced Irish coffees, and the Mr. Pink, a grapefruit, tequila, and hibiscus concoction. There are plenty of bubbly brunch options and a whole menu of beers from small batch breweries.
There are two shareable appetizers on the menu: mac n’ cheese bites and French toast sticks, so obviously you order both. The combo of fried carbs with delicious sauce made each a home run. The mac n’ cheese bites were fried with fluffy, cheddar noodles on the inside, served with a creamy, smoky chipotle-style dipping sauce. Meanwhile, the French toast sticks were served with a brown butter maple syrup that made the dish—it had that little extra, comforting flavor.
The brunch menu is filled with classic comfort foods like Eggs Benedict, chicken and waffles, and bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. My Dad always orders an Eggs Benny, selecting salmon over ham this go around. The dish is executed in the classic style: English muffins, smoked salmon, poached eggs, classic Hollandaise. Meanwhile, the ingredients were done properly: the fish is fresh, the eggs are pasture-raised, and the Hollandaise served proportionately. There’s nothing worse than receiving a plate with too much—or too little—Hollandaise. This dish was delicious and reliable, but nothing ground-breaking.
I ordered the Benedict burger, as if there was any other option. (To be clear: the chicken and waffles was close.) The burger, cooked medium rare, was topped with a poached egg, Hollandaise, and crispy fried onions for a nice touch. You can add cheese, avocado, and bacon, should you so desire. The burger was fresh and delicious, the Hollandaise sauce and crispy onions added a nice flavor. Again, this dish was really good, reliable, and hit the spot—but not that exceptional, mind-blowing sort of burger you can have in New York.
All in all, the Penrose remains a wonderful brunch spot that’s good for groups, friendly for dudes, children, families, and everyone else. It’s a great go-to if you’re looking for a reliable, upbeat brunch destination on the Upper East Side, or live in the neighborhood. In particular, we’d recommend it for cocktail lovers, large groups, and large groups looking to drink cocktails.
The Bitches say: A-. The Penrose is an Upper East Side brunch staple, and a great option for large groups, especially those looking for hearty food and an expansive cocktail list—the menu of brunch cocktails is substantial and exceptional.