On an early Sunday afternoon the wait for brunch at The Bluebell Cafe in Gramercy is literally spilling onto the sidewalk. Of course a busy restaurant is always a good sign, but on a weekend with afternoon plans already in place, the Best Friend and I decided to reschedule. Since Bluebell serves breakfast (the meal with our most favorite food choices!) until 11 a.m. during the week, we returned to enjoy the French cuisine fused with traditional American home-style cooking the following day, Monday morning.
Bluebell can be best described as a place that’s reminiscent of a relative’s house where you might go for Thanksgiving. It’s warm and cozy and has the feel of being a favorite local small town drop-in. For breakfast we ordered to share: over-easy eggs, buttermilk biscuits, wheat toast, buttermilk pancakes and blueberry pancakes served with maple syrup and dusted with powdered sugar, and Brioche French toast served with berry compote and lemon curd.
I can be a bit indecisive at times so I almost always ask to mix up the offerings on restaurant menus because I want a little bit of everything. At Bluebell, this started as soon as I saw the pancake menu. Like that pack of butterfly-and-hearts covered cotton undies that your mom left on your bed after a Kmart run back in the ’90s, the pancakes at Bluebell come in a set of three. Problem was, I had to choose between buttermilk and the day’s special: blueberry.
The Libra in me couldn’t decide so I asked the waitress for two blueberry pancakes and one buttermilk pancake, which would still make a serving of three pancakes offered on the menu. She stepped away for a moment and came back with good news. Wonderful news, actually because they were willing to make the adjustment.
Everything we ordered was cooked to perfection. Our eggs were the perfect combination of over (whites cooked just right) and easy (the exact amount of runny yolk I like) and the pancakes were sprinkled with just enough powdered sugar for a hint of sweetness that didn’t turn into rock candy when mixed with saliva. The biscuits tasted like they’d been made with simple ingredients and love, and the syrup had a little bite to it without being too strong.
The most interesting component of our breakfast for me was the French toast with lemon curd and the berry compote. The French toast was a giant square of goodness with a delicious outer crust and spongy middle and the lemon curd wasn’t too creamy or too tart. I’m generally not a fan of compote as it’s overly sweet but the berry compote at Bluebell was obviously freshly made and reminded me of the homemade jam that my mom’s friend from Norway makes every year around the holidays.
The Bluebell Cafe
293 Third Avenue
(btwn 22nd and 23rd Sts.)
New York, NY 10010
All photos by Sabrina Enayatulla