The Essex… All You Can Brunch for $18

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Pants at a Glance
  • scene: Mixed groups of students, downtown wannabe hipsters, and out-of-towners
  • sip: There is a full service bar; brunch comes with 3 bloody mary's, mimosas, or screwdrivers
  • savor: Baked Eggs w/ crispy ham, mushrooms, roasted peppers, and jack cheese; The Aristocrat; Mexican Matzoh Brei
  • sit: With the your sunday funday crew, a girls brunch to discuss the night before, a big birthday group
  • spend: $
  • address: 120 Essex Street (at Rivington)
  • phone number: (212) 533-9616
  • website:

I have heard plenty about brunch at The Essex – mainly because brunch is its thing, as it is MY thing, and they have a deal where you can have 3 breakfast drinks (Bloody Marys, Mimosas, Screwdrivers) along with any brunch item for $18. I tried to plan my own boozy birthday brunch there a year ago, however the person I dealt with was rude and wouldn’t even think to take a big group before 4:30PM… Anyway, upon finally making it there , I understood why – people basically line up and pack themselves into the cold confines of the space just for this great deal of a brunch. Selling the balcony for a group would probably impact their biggest money-making day since they turn tables of big groups every hour/hour and a half.

The space itself occupies what looks like an old factory on the corner of Essex and Rivington, and in the winter, waiting for a table means an entrance opening and closing and blasting cold air onto its customers packed in like a can of sardines. We finally were seated for our 2PM reservation at 2:45PM, and was given free drinks for waiting. I have to imagine the pitchers of drinks the bartenders were pouring from were watered down, because they eagerly offer you free cocktails and keep them flowing throughout the brunch. Now after 3 drinks (or pours), you are supposed to pay, however our server really didn’t seem to be paying attention.

The food was pretty standard, but the atmosphere I was in just made me think that the food was all just mass produced. It was lukewarm and overcooked, but standard – and slightly inventive – brunch food. I had baked eggs with crispy ham (it wasn’t crispy, just piled on),  roasted peppers, and jack cheese. The potatoes and the side salad were barely edible, but the eggs were tasty. I also tried the “Mexican Matzoh Brei” which is sort of a new version of huevos rancheros, but the flavors from the pico de gallo and tortilla chips stood out and made this different dish enticing. The beans that accompany the brei left much to be desired in taste, but all in all, it was a satisfying dish. We all shared a side of mac & cheese, and although the cheese was crispy (my fave), it was not strong in flavor by any other means.

As the brunch neared its end, the music suddenly got louder, and some of the 3-drink-fueled tables were starting to get up and dance. The space is just cold, boring, and the flimsy chairs just sort of made me feel dirty… If I had a hangover, I probably would’ve been much more excited, but in the end, not a bad brunch option with a large group to waste away a lazy Sunday. And definitely worth my twenty bucks.

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