By Erica Chang
I’ve often eyed The Smith, while meandering past its popular Third Avenue location. On weekends, the casual American Brasserie typically boasts a packed dining room and a line of 20-something-year-olds waiting to join the bustling crowd inside. So naturally, I made a mental note to drop in, assuming that a loyal crowd would equate to excellent food.
It was a stark change when I walked in on a Monday morning for breakfast. The restaurant was completely empty aside from a couple of other people, and that’s when I realized how large the actual space was. The black and white miniature floor tiles were off set by light wood-paneled ceilings, and a series of vintage photos lined the walls, adding to the monochromatic color scheme. Camp light chandeliers flooded a soft, yellow light to warm up the retro-chic interior, and the restaurant felt pleasantly airy and relaxed.
I picked up the black and white menu, only to be disappointed by how limited the selection was. The Sunday Brunch menu hosts a much wider array of dishes to choose from, but for double the prices. And for some reason, the same breakfast items at their Midtown location are significantly pricier than their East Village counterpart’s. But since it was a Monday, I mulled over the rather uncreative breakfast menu and settled on my favorite morning dish- the classic eggs benedict ($9).
While we waited for our food, the restaurant generously brought out complimentary sides including their apple smoked bacon, home fries and cheddar biscuits. The bacon was overcooked, for my taste, and the home fries were mushy. Eaten together, I had easily consumed ten times my daily salt intake, which had me reaching for the water.
But the cheddar biscuits were, on the other hand, incredible. Each bite was accompanied by a perfect balance between crumbly bits of biscuit flakes, creamy white cheddar cheese and the fluffy, mouth-watering center that only a home-made biscuit can yield. And as if by magic, the biscuits managed to stay hot throughout the entire meal. I couldn’t get enough.
Unfortunately, the eggs benedict was not as exciting as the cheddar biscuits. The Hollandaise sauce was creamy but had solidified slightly- probably because it had been left out too long. The eggs were poorly poached, the canadian bacon was rubbery and the english muffin was store bought. And although the portions were heaping, I felt no desire to finish my plate.
I left disappointed, but still had a major question unanswered: Why was The Smith so popular if the food was so sub-par? For some people, the chic atmosphere, the promise of a fashionable crowd and a photo booth downstairs is enough to keep them coming back. Or perhaps it’s the cheddar biscuits. But I couldn’t help but realize that The Smith essentially offered diner quality food masked behind high prices, a stylish decor and the facade of a loyal crowd that had me longing to go in the first place.