It’s 100 degrees outside, and I’m hustling at a breakneck pace toward Virginia’s in the East Village for brunch. As usual, I’m late and flustered, and as I power walk down what seems like 100 blocks east from the L train at 1st Ave, I start to wonder why I even chose this restaurant to meet my two friends, Emma and Christine. But then I remember all of the good things I’d stalked on the restaurant’s Instagram and suddenly I don’t care so much about my voyage from Harlem to Alphabet City.
I fly through the front door of the intimate bistro, sweaty, ready with apologies, and weighed down by my backpack and the oppressive heat. I spot Christine seated alone in the front room’s only booth with a bottle of rosé at the ready. Thank goodness for smart friends, am I right? And thanks to the GM/resident wine expert, Austin, who helped with our wine choice: Más de Víctor Tempranillo 2015 (NB: Bottles of wine are half off during brunch on Saturdays, so you can drink twice as much.)
My anxiety melts away with my first sip of that perfectly chilled summer water, and I’m able to fully take in the scene as we wait for Emma’s arrival.
The two-room restaurant’s décor is pared-back, minimal, and classic; framed menus hanging on the walls serve as the only artwork. They were collected by the owner, Reed Adelson’s, father. In fact, the restaurant is an homage to Adelson’s family—it’s even named after his mother, Virginia.
Fittingly, this wouldn’t be a bad place to take family. The vibe is quiet, relaxed, and a bit reserved. There are very few customers in the restaurant with us, but that could be because we’re there at the tail end of brunch service. The bar in the back empty is and unattended, but it seems like a comfortable and quiet spot to grab a solo drink or bite after work.
When Emma arrives, we get her a glass for rosé and put in our order. The heat—have I mentioned it’s hot?—has us craving something crisp and refreshing besides our wine, so we opt for the little gem salad with puffed quinoa, green goddess dressing, and radish as a starter to share.
The lightly dressed salad comes beautifully plated with the surprise addition of flat-leaf parsley and dill, my two least favorite herbs, to be honest. When we divvy it up and dig in, a round of “Oh, my God” sounds from our table. I think we’re all surprised by how much we like this deceptively simple salad. Who knew the crunch of toasty quinoa and radish would pair so well with the herbal flavors of the dressing? The chef, that’s who. It’s delicious and the clear favorite of the day. I even eat the dill.
Emma goes for the avocado toast as her main. It comes topped with a perfectly fried egg garnished with a sprinkling of chopped chives—a “nice touch,” she says. The menu said something about pepitas, but they’re not missed. She enjoys the texture of the chewy bread and would definitely order this again.
Christine and I decide to split the burger—it’s a big deal here—and the corned beef hash. We add bacon to the burger, which might be our only misstep of the afternoon. The thick bacon is incredibly hard to bite through and makes the already messy, unruly burger even harder to eat. The flavors of the onion marmalade and Cabot cheddar are great, but I spend every other bite trying to wipe my hands on my napkin. Not ideal.
The corned beef hash, on the other hand, is ideal, and I wish I didn’t have to share it with Christine. It’s salty in the best way, and each bite piled high with crispy corned beef, bite-size potatoes, and yolk from the poached eggs is perfection. I kind of wish there was avocado to add to the mix, but I didn’t ask for any, so there we go.
At this point we’re well into our second bottle of rosé and completely stuffed. We try to pass on dessert, but Virginia’s has other plans. Our nice waitress brings out a gift from the kitchen, a new dessert of French toast, blueberries, peaches, and anise ice cream. The flavor of the ice cream is bold, unusual, and strangely alluring. We’re all happy it’s not too sweet, and we keep taking bites even though we’re beyond full. Save room for this one, folks.
After we finally stop eating, we pay and make our way to the day’s next watering hole. While walking a million blocks uphill both ways to get there, I reflect on the past 90 minutes spent at Virginia’s—the delightful staff, the delicious food, the comfort and happiness in the air— and I think I’d make the journey again. Actually, I know it.
The Bitches say: A. The brunch entrées were all delicious, and the knowledgeable and friendly staff made us feel at home in the best way. Virginia’s is definitely worth the visit, whether you’re in the neighborhood or not.
647 E. 11th Street
New York, NY
Virginia’s serves brunch on Saturday from noon until 3 p.m.