Where To Bite Breakfast [East Village, NY]

Brunch is to the New Yorker what High Tea is to the British aristocrat, or what snack time is to the well-trained Kindergartener. It’s just what you do. 

It’s not the first time I’ve written about Brunch, but I finally made my way to the East Village classic, Cafe Orlin, and couldn’t wait to share this fantastic find with all my healthy-eaters, breakfast-lovers, and allergen-abiders.

When my best friend Heather comes to visit me from her new North Carolina home, it’s a big deal. We want to eat well, without overeating. We want to balance our contrasting diets (my vegetarianism, her paleo-centric lifestyle) and our slender wallets. Finding Cafe Orlin was a happy accident – we hadn’t quite settled on where or when we should eat when we encountered the enormous line fanning out in both directions around the restaurant’s substantial outdoor patio.

A few glowing Yelp reviews later, and our name was on the wait list.

http://cafeorlin.com

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Nicoise olives, fresh-chopped tomatoes, parsley, onion, and a drizzle of olive oil made this creamy babaganush the perfect accent to our light brunch salads.

Recommended Dishes: Whether you’re airing on the side of breakfast or lunch, make sure at least one dish that lands on the table is one of their “Mideastern” specialties. Heather and I split the Babaganush Plate, from their section of Vegetarian Plates. Make this the Cafe Orlin-alternative to home fries and toast. Wheter you opt for the Taboulis Hummus, or Babaganush, you’ll be supplementing your main dish with a far healthier side (and one full of heart-friendly fats and oils). Plus, the pita is by far one of the most superb breads I’ve ever eaten. Split it with a friend or two; this thick, doughy bread is more than enough to share.

The Not-So-Good Bite: Yes, there will be a wait. But Heather and I were told to sit tight for about 15 or 20 minutes, and were called over in less than five. Willing to wait a bit longer for a table inside (just slightly too windy for a leisurely breakfast) we were told it would be another 10 or 15 minutes. We had hardly returned to our spot in line before our names were called again. Even if you do need to wait, it’s worth it. The service is quick, accurate, and everyone needs to learn the virtue of waiting more than a New York minute.

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Topped with a healthy serving of endive, tomatoes, and a few thin slices of Parmesan, this salad was the perfect, low-calorie choice for brunch. A perfectly poached egg made for a healthy, protein-rich dressing, as opposed to the oily shallot vinaigrette (delicious, but better kept on the side).

The Good Bite: Upon first glance, it’s another not-so-good bite: a menu plastered with the phrase “No Substitutions.” As a vegetarian, I’m automatically evaluating every dish that could potentially be ordered, if only I could hold the ham, swap the cheese with greens, add a second side salad instead of toast. Fortunately, the good bite is that the vegetarian options are so vast and diverse to begin with, it never came down to me asking the question for which I feared the answer would be no. I ordered the Arugula Salad, and received no huffs or puffs when I asked for a poached egg on the side.

The Best Bite: The prices at Cafe Orlin are downright suburban. Heather and I both drank our weight in coffee, split a Bloody Mary ($10, and arguably the healthiest way to start a morning, right?) indulged in the Babaganush platter ($9), and had brunch salads (Mine, only $11, plus $2 for the egg). The portions were near perfect. We both cleaned are plates – were satisfied without feeling stuffed – and felt we had underpaid for the quality and quantity of the food.

But best of all, I’ve found a brunch gem I’m eager to go back to – not only because of the vibrant atmosphere and appealing patio (for whenever springtime decides to rear it’s elusive head this year) – but because there are so many other dishes I’d like to try. From the Hijiki Salad with tofu, sprouts, avocado, cucumbers, and watercress, to the herbed omelet (if they’d humor my substitution and make it with egg whites, and swap the toast for more of that too-good-to-handle pita), to the more classic Mideastern meal of Tunisian eggs with spicy peppers and tomatoes).

When you’re entertaining a guest, you never want them to feel constrained. A weekend away should conjure the illusion of easy-living. You don’t want your friend to remember their visit as a series of overpriced meals punctuated by disappointment, and constant trips to the ATM to check their account status.

Overdrawn = failed vacation.

You also never want someone to feel restricted by your own restrictions, or so full they want to spend the remainder of the weekend at the gym and/or lying flat on their stomach on your sofa.

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Heather, contemplating our first-ever Bloody Mary. Shockingly, neither of us had ordered one before. But we were tremendous fans. The best sip? Bloody Marys are one of the healthiest drinks you can order. Tomato juice has a third of the calories and less than half the sugar of orange juice, and is loaded with Vitamin C. Plus, who doesn’t love dipping their healthy celery garnish into the leftover babaganush?…)

Breakfast at Cafe Orlin is a must if you have friends or family dropping by from out of town. The selection will satisfy every need and craving, and the prices will let you order that second side of pita – or that second Bloody Mary – depending on which way you decide to indulge.

Until next time,

Melanie

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