by Grace Handy
It’s hard not to be charmed by Irving Place. Stretching between always-bustling East 14th street and swanky, private, historic Gramercy Park, the street oozes with charm and refreshing quaintness. Restaurants (Mario Batali’s Mexican standby Casa Mono), bars (old-school drinking hole Pete’s Tavern), and coffee shops (fresh, organic 71 Irving), seem to sink into the tree-lined, quiet street, which lacks any buildings taller than a few stories high. One establishment, with its nondescript green awning stretching above the entryway, always seems to draw a steady crowd—Friend of a Farmer.
I visited the restaurant on a recent weekday morning a little after 9 a.m. Tables were set up outside, with a mix of businessy power-breakfasters, locals, and tourists choosing to dine outdoors in the pleasant weather.
Once inside, the charming, quaint feel of Irving Place seems even more heightened, with pots and pans dotting the walls, wooden décor, and a fireplace lit the corner. It’s the kind of place the attempt-at-looking-rustic New York restaurants dream of being (sorry, Pastis and Gemma).
I was seated by the window on the restaurant’s tree-level second floor. After perusing the extensive breakfast menu, I chose the egg white scrambled with onion, spinach, and mushroom, from the “Farmer’s Breakfast” section of the menu. The dish, served in a piping-hot skillet, was quite good. The vegetables and egg whites were served mashed together with American cheese melted over the top. As a side dish, I chose the fruit salad, a solid serving of berries, melons, and pineapple. At $12.95, the price for the dish is what you would expect for a sit-down breakfast in Manhattan. The delicious coffee came French-roasted in a good-sized pot, allowing a couple of cups per order.
As I chowed down on breakfast (which left me satisfied for several hours afterwards), I couldn’t help but look around at the New Englandy décor, with grandma’s-house/hipster floral wallpaper and fruit-filled woven baskets placed on decorative tables. However, although my well-presented meal did taste good, it wasn’t extraordinary. Perhaps the atmosphere amped up the dish and taste a bit, and provided a sort of charming distraction. The service was spot-on, efficient but not too in-your-face.
I don’t know if I’ll remember this meal as one of the all-time best I’ve had in Manhattan, but for a relaxing, yummy breakfast, Friend of a Farmer is your best bet.