A Rustic Breakfast in the City

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.

the egg white scrambled, with fresh fruit and French-roasted coffee

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.

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