Photographs by Thomas Mcgovern
Above: Brioche French toast with apples, calvados and dried fruit
What is it that people love about brunch? Of course, there’s the crowd-pleasing variety inherent in the meal: Breakfast fans dig into eggs Benedict and blueberry pancakes, while the lunch team takes on cheeseburgers and Cobb salads, and everyone’s happy. So maybe it’s the balance of sweet and savory? The abundance of bacon? The permission to indulge in champagne before noon? Or the endless coffee and bottomless bloody Marys (or both)? Or the vague timing of it all, with that leisurely feeling that the meal lends to a weekend—even after you’ve finished eating, there’s still a whole day ahead? In some cases, the social vibe mixes with a sophisticated locale and an opportunity to hear live music; but if a friend mentions plans to go to a jazz brunch, I assume she’s talking about a drive-into-Manhattan excursion. However, Z Hospitality Group and Executive Chef Albert DeAngelis are bringing a city staple closer to home with the addition of live jazz music at brunch at East End on the Avenue and at Mediterraneo in White Plains and Norwalk.
On a recent Sunday, a jazz duo was well into a set when we walked into Eastend and grabbed a high-top table next to the marble bar. This spot turned out to be ideal for people watching and checking out the musicians, who were stationed just beyond the hostess table, allowing the bar crowd and those seated in the main dining room to hear and see them equally well. Our table by the window overlooked the sidewalk, where the café tables were occupied by a trio of twentysomething ladies and a family of four along with their Malamute puppy. Because we went for brunch on a hot summer morning, I was expecting a light crowd, imagining that most people were either at Tod’s, out on the Sound or in Nantucket but all of the high-top tables were filled, as were most of the bar stools and a decent number of dining room tables, not to mention the outdoor seating.
After ordering mimosas, we chatted with our server about his favorite dishes and the most popular items on the menu. The well-edited menu of sixteen dishes splits into an even balance of eight breakfast-esque and eight lunch mains, plus Copp’s Island oysters for $1 each. Beyond the basic fresh squeezed juices, mimosas and bloody Marys (bottomless option available for both), the drinks menu features a Sunday Special with sparkling wine, orange juice and a Stoli O float.
Traditionalists can opt for the blueberry buttermilk pancakes or the spinach, mushroom and goat cheese omelet, but Chef DeAngelis also has some interesting spins on standard brunch fare, including ‘crispy’ egg with pork belly and a potato, apple, onion hash and a lighter smoked salmon version of eggs Benedict with roasted cauliflower, crostini and citrus hollandaise. We had to try the avocado toast, which was very messy to eat due to the thick, crusty bread but very tasty with the addition of shaved radish slices, sunflower seeds, a little pickled onion and ribbons of basil.
It wouldn’t be brunch without some bacon on the table, and we got ours in a pork belly BLT (with both pork belly and Nodine’s bacon) with herb mayo and terrific fries served in a metal cup, each one crispy and delicious. A basic grilled cheese was elevated with a mixture of parmesan, cheddar and mozzarella and paired with a green salad, while brioche French toast gets a boost from Calvados (apple brandy), accentuating the flavor of the apples and dried fruit on the plate.
Though we’re certainly not jazz buffs, we enjoyed the smooth sound and chill atmosphere. Even our ten-year-old daughter got into the music; she was moving around to the beat in her seat while slowly finishing her food, prompting my husband to joke with her, “less grooving, more eating.” Whether your tastes run to sweet or savory, classical or jazz, breakfast or lunch, the new brunch option on Sundays at Eastend is well worth a try. I know I’m looking forward to more grooving and more eating.
409 Greenwich Avenue, 203-862-9200; zhospitalitygroup.com
Artists featured will include up-and-coming New York City jazz musicians Margi Gianquinto and Albert Rivera .
As a mimosa alternative, try the Spring Spritz with Tito’s, Aperol, sparkling wine, grapefruit and lime juices.
Brunch is served Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.