I freely admit it: I’m a sucker for brunch. I love a good omelette, nice and fluffy, and I’m a bit more partial to a nice crispy hash brown than is probably good for me. It seems so casual yet civilized to get up and go have breakfast in a restaurant with friends.
I was lucky enough to have brunch twice this weekend, but sadly neither experience was particularly civilized.
The first brunch was at Orange, a trendy little place around the corner from my apartment. Orange seems to consciously differentiate itself from your average diner. I mean, a brunch place that won’t let you build your own omelette? The words “mousse” and “infused” appear often on the menu–too often, in the latter’s case. I usually have poached eggs there, probably as a subconscious act of rebellion to the omelette hegemony. The eggs are always tasty and perfectly cooked. The potatoes that come with them taste like they’re at least 50% butter–I usually try (and fail) not to eat the whole serving.
I’ve never been to Orange during the weekend before, and the experience is much more pleasant during the workweek, when things are slower. The kicker was when a busboy asked if he could clear my plate after I had literally taken one bite of my breakfast. Um, no!
But even that lapse in service looked great compared to my brunch at Sarks in the Park yesterday. Right across the street from Orange, this little storefront in the basement courtyard of a big apartment building bills its fare as the “world’s best breakfast.”
It was quite busy when my friend M and I arrive there a little after noon. So busy, in fact, that the only available outdoor table had no chairs. We asked if we could sit there, and were told that it was a bus station. Since gorgeous, warm, sunny days in late October are a rarity, we decided to wait for an outside table.
While we were waiting, a less polite couple put chairs at the bus table and were promptly served. Irksome, to say the least. The waitress looked quite uncomfortable about the situation.
Another group got up shortly thereafter, and we immediately moved in to occupy their table. After five minutes or so, we asked the waitstaff to clear the previous occupants’ food and other debris from the table. Then we were finally given menus.
Given the breakfast-centric motto, I was surprised to see that only a quarter of the single-page menu was devoted to, well, breakfast. (As a clear sign that a very strange symptom is sweeping Lincoln Park breakfast joints, Sarks does not offer a build-your-own omelette, though to its credit it doesn’t have a large note saying that custom omelettes are impossible, unlike its swanky across-the-street neighbor.) I decided on a bacon and cheese (only two choices: American and “white.” I didn’t specify and got the former) egg white omelette. I passed on the hash browns, since I assumed it would be an extra charge and I don’t need them. I was expecting to receive a plate with just an omelette on it, and I was fine with that.
I should pause here to say that my dining companion is a picky eater. M really does not like tomatoes, she’s vegetarian, and she’s generally conservative about what she’ll eat. So when she ordered the veggie quesadilla, M took care to ask for no tomatoes.
It felt like an eternity between the time we ordered and the arrival of our food. We spent almost two hours at the restaurant, and most of it was during this lull. The golden moment was somewhat tarnished, though. M’s plate had an inexplicable garnish of plain, chopped romaine lettuce, a thimble-sized cup of salsa, and three tacos…which contained tomatoes. She sent it back.
When her plate next appeared, the tacos were tomato-less. Bizarrely, though, the kitchen had decided to augment the strange romaine garnish with a giant scoop of…wait for it…chopped tomatoes. M was really hungry by this point, so she didn’t send it back again. I ask you, what must have been going through the mind of the person who added the chopped tomatoes to the dish that came back because it had tomatoes? The world may never know.
Unfortunately, after all that, M didn’t really like the quesadillas. Their veggie mix included broccoli, which wasn’t listed on the menu and is kind of a strange filling for a quesadilla.
That said, my omelette was really quite good, though the pieces of bacon were larger and fattier than I had anticipated. The dish was not empty, as I predicted, but instead had a very large helping of very good hash browns and toast, in the form of pressed Cuban bread. Any kind of grilled bread is usually delicious, but this could have done with some salt. (I was glad it was kind of flavorless, because I wasn’t tempted to eat it. I already had my fill of sin between the bacon and the scrumptious hash browns I didn’t order.)
It’s a shame the service was so slow, because the breakfast food actually was very good. Clearly, though, communication could do with some general improvements at Sarks in the Park.