By: Magdalena Petrova
Looking at the quaint, white overhangs and homey exterior of Peels restaurant, it was hard to imagine that the corner of Bowery street and East Second street had once belonged to a neighborhood that was considered grungy and dangerous. Even on a rainy morning, the large windows, old wooden floors, dangling chandeliers, and overall rustic feel of the place made for an inviting and safe atmosphere. Although having the menu items written on mirrors behind the bakery counter was a clever idea, the reflective surface made seeing the restaurant’s choices rather difficult.
Forgoing the menu, I ordered a buckwheat and oat bran rosemary lemon muffin from the display and a small cappuccino which I enhanced with two raw sugar cubes. Next, I proceeded to join my party of 17, which the restaurant had managed to accommodate on the second floor.
In line with the restaurant’s southern comfort character, the second floor featured green leather booth seats and and a fireplace, which gave the room a cozy feel despite the large area. Soft music emanated from the carefully camouflaged speakers in the ceiling and added to the restaurant’s serene air. At the same time, the fully stocked bar tucked away at the far side of the room hinted at the restaurant’s adaptability in tending to the breakfast and brunch crowd during the day, and to the bar scene later at night.
Our waitress, Christy, was equally as welcoming as she diligently went around refilling our coffee cups and answering questions.
“In here we are constantly walking around refilling customers cups with coffee until they become all jumpy and are like ‘I can’t!’”
Taking the authentic glass milk jug from the middle of our table, I added a little more milk to my cappuccino and bit into my muffin. The muffin tasted unusual in a very pleasing way. The top layer was crispy, crunchy, and lightly sprinkled with sugar which made for a nonintrusive sweetness. Cutting the muffin in half, I was surprised to see that on the inside was half of a lemon. The lemon seemed to have absorbed some of the muffin’s moisture and retained none of its sour taste, although it still added a hint of citrus flavor to the mix.
Next, I sampled Peels’ Spa Eggs which consisted of an egg white omelet, sauteed spinach, and goat cheese. Although the eggs themselves could have used a bit more salt, the biggest issue that I had with this dish was the strong smell given off by the goat cheese. A breath mint is a must after consuming this menu item.
So what’s the final verdict? Peels’ homey atmosphere, amiable staff, and flavorful dishes definitely justify making a morning trip to the East Village, even if you do have to remember to bring your own mints.