Review: Clinton St. Baking Co. Restaurant, New York City

What is it about breakfast that beckons locals and tourists to line up around the corner from the Clinton Street Bakery on the Lower East Side? In one word, it’s pancakes. Not just pancakes but some of the fluffiest, tastiest, stacks you have ever eaten. It doesn’t’ hurt that the cakes, topped with a wild Maine blueberry compote and a side of warm maple butter taste incredible, or that New York Magazine voted them the best in the city, twice.

The people keep coming for other items too. Clinton Street baking specializes in small-batch baked goods. and known for their excellent biscuits, egg dishes, and bottomless coffee. They also serve breakfast day and night.

Location: Clinton Street Baker is located at 4 Clinton Street, New York, New York (website here).

Menu: The daily menu offers quality ingredients, for example, cage-free eggs and poultry, farm-fresh dairy, prime meats and high-grade maple syrup from dedicated purveyors. The kitchen turns those ingredients into delectable dishes like the Farmer’s Plate with soft scrambled eggs, Bobolink cheddar, house rosemary sausage, herb-roasted tomatoes, and sourdough toast. Or a serving of brioche French Toast with caramelized bananas, roasted pecans, and warm maple butter that almost rivals their famous pancakes. Other than the blueberry version, the pancakes include toppings of bananas and walnuts or chocolate chunks.

Looking for lunch? Opt for fried chicken atop waffles or on a bun, a veggie sandwich served inside seven-grain toast, a cheeseburger, or a seafood Po’ Boy.

Clinton Street serves dinner as well, with burgers, salads, tacos, buttermilk fried chicken, and thankfully, the breakfast menu. The choice to go sweet or savory is probably the toughest decision you can make.

Thoughts: There is a wait on weekends because Clinton Street doesn’t take reservations. The restaurant is small. If your party is larger than seven people, look elsewhere or break into a smaller group. The host adds people to the waitlist with a mobile number and texts when the table is ready. Response time is ten minutes with your entire party or they move on.

Why are there so many rules? The food, it’s delicious and addictive.

My friends and I opted for an early weekday lunch to avoid the crowds and we still had a short wait for a table. The combination of tables and booths, white walls, ceiling fans, and open shelving behind the counter, reminded me of a small-town eatery. No wonder Conde Nast Traveler likened it to, “Mayberry in Manhattan.”

Decor aside, we were handed menus and coffees quickly, but it took our waitress a while to return to take our order. The place was buzzing with patrons, so I wasn’t surprised. The time was taken up by great conversation and plate gawking. It made me change my decision a few times.

Inspired by the decor, I settled on the Southern Breakfast. The plate included two eggs, sugar-cured bacon, cheese grits, and fried green tomatoes. It was everything my heart desired.

The star was definitely the bacon. It was sweet, smoky, and chewy. I am still thinking about how to replicate it at home. The grits were creamy and cheesy with a savory flavor. I chose to stop eating more of the two crispy fried tomatoes, but not because of the taste. They were battered in cornmeal and fried to a pleasant crisp and seasoned perfectly. In truth, I wanted to save room for pancakes.

My friends decided on two different versions of the Clinton Street omelet and chose to customize it from the 13 or so fillings offered. Their plates were served with hash browns and sourdough toast. The omelets were enormous and packed with their selections. They reported that the hashbrowns were crisp outside and soft inside. In other words, perfect.

We did opt for pancakes but we couldn’t eat more than a bite. Thank goodness for take-away containers because they came home with me. The pancakes were just as described, light. fluffy and topped with the most delicious, sweet blueberries. My bite included the warm maple butter and it was sublime.

I would definitely have to return to devour an entire plate another time and be sure to line up early on a weekend (before the 9 am seating) and only bring a few friends.

Price Range: Breakfast plates range from $12-17. Lunch choices like tacos, salads, and sandwiches range from $15-17. Sides including the sugar-cured bacon, hash browns, or cheese grits are $5-7.

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