Anyone who knows me will know I tend to get up early in the morning. Therefore, breakfasts for meeting people is something I’m happy to do. New York does the breakfast meal much better than London. Perhaps it’s the intense pace of the city. Or maybe the gyms on every corner of Manhattan work because of calorific-guilt based workouts. Either way, I’m much happier that many more options for eating breakfast meals exist. I’m less happy about how crazy busy some of them get.
I’d read about the Clinton Street Baking Company having one of the best Manhattan brunches so I went ahead and organised for a breakfast there. Informed by Alex, the New York local, it’s best to get there 45 minutes to avoid waiting for a table.
We got there at 8:15am and I guess it’s a winter thing but we were first in line. In fact, they didn’t start taking names down until about twenty minutes before opening. Nevertheless, I had good company waiting in line catching up with Alex and his wife wondering how the breakfast would go. Despite needing to wait, they’ve got a pretty good system in place with a person taking names with alloted times and options to walk around and come back or stand in the very tiny premises.
If there’s anything that strikes you about this place is just how small it is. You walk in and a takeaway counter full to the brim of American-sized cakes, pastries and goodies abound for those not willing to wait for a table. The tables, placed along the walls and the booths between the door and the counter probably do not seat more than twenty people. No wonder a good place like this will have a queue.
On to the breakfast. Coffee of the morning was a latte because flat whites still haven’t taken to American stores, only found in those few Antipodean run coffee stores. It was very milky, large and I probably should have ordered it with an extra shot. Nevertheless, it did the job of waking me up to peruse the menu.
We took our time eating, both perusing the menu and eating our food, probably to the chagrin of the line-taking waitress and the people waiting. We outsat two or three other groups of people behind us and, to their credit, I never felt rushed or put out of place. Being the first table, we were placed at the booth by the door and immediately visible to people waiting in queue who almost stood over our table but I didn’t really mind.
Although their pancakes are apparently their signature dish, my breakfast at Norma’s still left me feeling “full” of pancakes so opted for something a little bit more different – the Southern Breakfast made up of three eggs done any style, country ham, hash (mashed potato grilled on a skillet) and then a very large biscuit (think scone). It came accompanied with butter at the table (meh – clotted cream works much better) and their home made raspberry jam. The jam, closer to a compote was great – not too sweet, and you could still see chunks of raspberries as you spread them on the biscuit.
Someone else got something really different, the fried chicken with waffles and maple butter syrup. A southern dish, the syrup apparently was really great and went well with rich dish. Definitely a hearty way to start the day.
Looking around, I wish I had enough of an appetite or more time to try their pancake stack. Not only did they look huge, but they looked like the perfect American-style fluffy light pancakes. I saw plenty of them cooking on the griddle as we exited, no doubt to be consumed very quickly by everyone. They’ve even published their own cookbook, something that I think I’ll try to get a hold of in order to test out some of their highly raved about recipes.
Name: Clinton Street Baking Company
Found at: 4 Clinton Street (btw. East Houston & Stanton), New York, NY 10002