[All photos by Robert Sietsema]
Breakfast is the new frontier for restaurants, and in the future more will be serving it — and not just in the morning. Why? Because a customer's expectations are lower for breakfast, the cost of the ingredients is cheaper, and restaurants that were once closed at that hour can exploit their expensive real estate more fully by being open in the morning. Until now, it was a meal few of us ate out. But that may be changing.
Eggs are the bedrock of any breakfast program, whether fried, cooked into omelets and souffles, or incorporated into batters and sauces. Egg Shop is a new café on the Lower East Side that obsesses on eggs. Like its spiritual Williamsburg predecessor, Egg, it extends the temporal boundaries of the ovum-based meal, not only to lunch, but throughout the day, into the evening, and all the way into the wee hours (open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).
Located in a small storefront on Elizabeth just south of Kenmare, Egg Shop presents a sunny demeanor with an open-front façade, blond-wood furniture, seafoam-green trim, and mirrors. A shoulder-height window looking into the kitchen presents the spectacle of two cooks assembling breakfasts (the kitchen can run a little slow) as the clientele chats and relaxes. The place seats perhaps 30 and the menu divides into four sections, including egg sandwiches; open-bowl presentations; custom assemblages entailing a choice of cooking method, cheese, bread, and sauce; and sides.
Priced from $9 to $15, the breakfast sandwiches appear on a variety of rolls and toasts. My guest and I tried the Eggshop B.E.C. ($9), which included one egg, cheddar cheese, bacon, tomato jam (not like ketchup, but close), and pickled jalapenos on a small round roll. The thing was delicious, but messy, with the yolk spilling out onto the plate. It established several principles common to all the offerings at Egg Shop: cage-free organic eggs are the premium ingredient here, so you rarely get more than one; the dishes feature a multiplicity of ingredients; and the flavor schemes tend toward the wild rather than the mellow.
Assertively mayo-free, the egg salad sandwich ($10) comes on multi-grain toast with a thick slice of low-acid yellow tomato. It tastes good, but the scant quantity of egg filling makes the bread stand out more than it might have otherwise. Other breakfast sandwiches feature a broad-ranging international catalog of ingredients such as serrano ham, feta cheese, steak tenderloin, Argentine chimichurri sauce, caramelized onion aioli, greens, and gruyere. These same ingredients also figure in Egg Shop's most novel invention: the egg-bearing breakfast bowls dubbed "cruisers." At $8 apiece, they tend to be a bigger bargain than the sandwiches.
Take the one comically called "spandex" ($8). With a runny poached egg crowning the top, salad greens, avocado, ribbons of carrot, and miso-flavored quinoa jump around in its depths. Though it seems to scream "health food" — like the acai bowls at Dimes — it's really quite delicious anyway. Another bowl we tried mimicked eggs benedict with gluten-free English muffin croutons (they tasted more like brioche), crisped serrano ham in thin slivers, and a meyer lemon citronette that was about 1000 times lighter than the usual heavy hollandaise. (But, hey, where's my mimosa?) Ask for a spoon, because it's hard to plumb the depths of the bowls with the fork that you're given.
The list of sides is small, but figures prominently in the restaurant's profit-making plans. The other morning, a side of fried chicken was on nearly every table, atoning for the lightness and healthfulness of the other offerings. Priced at $7 (or $4 with the egg salad sandwich) the chicken is boneless and on the sweet side. I thought it was fine but my dining companion hated it. There's also a side of deep-fried hash browns ($2) that are great and a great deal, and a sweet-glazed, outsize biscuit ($4) that, on one occasion at least, was inedible due to excess baking powder.
I enjoyed my two breakfasts — one in the afternoon — at Egg Shop, and the place is a giant hit, judging by the crowds thronging the place in its first weeks. The only drawback, as far as it goes, is an excess of creativity: sometimes you just want a plain egg-and-bacon sandwich on a Kaiser roll. And you'll still have to go to the deli for that. 151 Elizabeth St, 646-666-0810
· All posts by Robert Sietsema [~ENY~]