A couple weeks ago my friend J and I made plans to do the in-vogue thing for New York: brunch! She made a short-list of her favorite brunch spots in the city and lo and behold, the Clinton Street Baking Company was at the top. I’d seen Clinton St. on Yelp, with its 4 stars after more than 1500 reviews and everyone raving as passionately about the pancakes as the 2-hour (!) wait for brunch on the weekends. I guess it’s because word’s gotten out: TimeOut New York named it “Best Breakfast/Brunch” in 2007, and New York Magazine declared it had the “Best Pancakes” in the city 2008. More research unearthed the fact co-owner and chef Neil Kleinberg worked under Rick Moonen, so I was expecting some pretty fantastic cooking. J and I, ever the smart cookies, opted to take advantage of our flexible schedules and brunch on a weekday.
We arrived on Thursday morning around 10:30 and even then I was told a table for 2 would require a 30-minute wait. However, as we entered I realized why: the place is small, especially for US standards! It’s basically a narrow diner with roughly five tables and a few counter seats, holding a total of 32 occupants. You’d be wise to bring just one of your (myriad) friends. Alternatively, follow an insider tip I heard: Come for dinner, where you can still enjoy their pancakes from the “Breakfast for Dinner” section of the menu. Alternatively, get them for takeaway!
J, a savory brunch fan, ordered the Spanish Scramble, a three-egg scramble with goodies like chorizo and melted monterey jack cheese mixed in, served with a side of hashbrowns and sourdough toast. I, like most people in the diner, ordered the famous pancakes with blueberries and warm maple butter.
I had a bite of the scramble and enjoyed the saltiness of the chorizo, but to be very honest, the pancakes stole the show. Each bite was so fluffy and the just right balance of buttery-creamy goodness. The blueberries added great tartness while the warm maple butter lent a lot moisture to the dish. My only complaint was I found the maple butter to have a slightly cloying, saccharine aftertaste. I’ve read mixed accounts of whether Clinton St. uses Grade A or Grade B maple syrup for their butter (does anyone out there know the truth?); my only guess is on the day I dined, the maple butter was made with Grade B. From what I know, it’s traditionally a bit darker (compared to its Grade A counterpart), with a sweeter, thicker taste and not used for the table as much as Grade A. The richness of the Grade B was a bit much for me.
In any case, it was a great plate of pancakes and I. Ate. Them. All. Dare you not to do the same!
Clinton St. Baking Company
4 Clinton St. (between Houston and Stanton)
New York, New York 10002
Cost: $20/person with tax and tip
PS: In case you’re inspired to have your own pancake party, check out food blog The Pancake Princess and the Protein Prince! This cute blog features two authors sharing recipes for the baking fiend in you AND the side craving something more substantial. Recent posts include recipes for French-inspired tarte tartin pancakes and pumpkin pancakes – perfect as the weather starts to turn. MMMMMMM.