As regular readers of this blog know, I am not a big fan of going out to brunch. It costs too much; the lines are too long; and most of the food available could be made at home without much effort. But when you have to go to brunch, you have to go to brunch. When those times arise, I like to find places that defy my list of brunch negatives. One such place is CafÃ© Cortadito, a Cuban restaurant on the Lower East Side. I did a search for good downtown brunches, and the name came up. At $11.95 per person the price was right, at least relative to the rest of the overpriced New York brunches. So Empanada Boy and I arranged to meet our friends Baconhater and Halo-Halo there before they left the city to return to Cambridge.
Baconhater and Halo-Halo arrived before we did, and just to be sneaky, they sent me a text saying the lines were out the door. When we arrived at the pleasant, airy little cafe, they were seated at one of two populated tables drinking cafe con leche. We ordered some coffee, sangria and tropical fruit juice mimosas and got down to the business of ordering. While we waited for our food, the server brought excellent buttered toast triangles, which would later serve as the perfect egg-yolk mops.
CafÃ© Cortadito has about ten items on its brunch menu, all of which looked appealing in some way. EB ended up ordering Holguin: poached eggs over seared ham atop a croissant, finished with Creole sauce. This was the Cuban take on the breakfast sandwich, and it was a tasty take indeed. When punctured, the eggs ran over the whole thing and made it necessary to eat with a fork and knife. Halo-Halo ordered a delicious Cuban omelet made with potatoes and embedded with smoky, salty bits of chorizo. A piece of seared ham and two sausages balanced out the meat to potatoes ratio.
Baconhater got an exquisite dish called Camaguey. Made with fresh mango and papaya (both a little too green), plantain chips and grilled shrimp, the dish was colorful and light as a breath of tropical spring air. The shrimp was nicely cooked, but the downsides were the under-ripe fruit and the lack of sauce or cohesive seasoning over the dish. If even one of the fruits had been riper and more succulent, this dish would have been more successful. Camaguey had all the pieces, but didn’t live up to its potential.
My dish was Mazorca de Maiz Dulce Estilo Cortadito. A mouthful, both in name and in essence, it consisted of two fried eggs alongside sweet corn on the cob and a small green salad. The dish was simple and tasty, with corn that was actually sweet and perfectly fried eggs, but I would have appreciated a stronger sauce or some spices to jazz it up. The ingredients in my dish may have been a little too simple to justify the $11.95, no matter how cheap the restaurant was relative to its brunch neighbors. All in all, though, CafÃ© Cortadito fit my criteria for a worthy brunch place: The food was mostly flavorful and different from anything I would typically make at home. Which is not to say I couldn’t replicate these dishesâ€” I’ll be working on my potato-chorizo omelet the next time I want something new to make for brunch at home.
210 E. 3rd St.
New York, NY 10009