The Spotted Pig was a fitting choice for our first organized Babes Who Brunch event, given that rumors about this gastropub's brunch was what sparked the idea of combining our mutual adoration of brunch into something more concrete. So the venue wasn't a hard pick, but would it live up to our high expectations?
The trick to getting into any popular NYC brunch place is to be part of the early crowd, which in this city means the type that gets up before noon. Ten (yes, ten!) of us gathered up all rosy-cheeked from the wind (or maybe it's Maybeline) in front of The Spotted Pig, waiting for the doors to open at 11A.M. prompt. Busy waiters carried trays of Brussels sprouts and other mystery ingredients wafted past us, teasing us with smells of food to come. The restaurant itself is tucked behind layers of dried and fresh plants and knicknacks.
Once inside the restaurant, the homey, darker pub-meets-vintage look continued with more plants, upholstered banquet benches and lots of small stools for seats. The space downstairs is mostly taken up by the bar, with small tables for two and four taking up the space. We were told as soon as we arrived that The Spotted Pig doesn't quite work the best with groups over six. We were seated upstairs, in an awkward location by the actively used staff door. Also, the restaurant itself does not lend itself well to food photography. Our table was in a darker area of the restaurant and thus, pictures are not all from our actual brunch but still the same dishes we ate.
Having done a bit of research about Spotted Pig before arriving, the two appetizers highly recommended by friends and reviewers alike were Chicken Liver Toast and, of course, Deviled Eggs.
Chicken Liver Toast, $5.50
Picture thanks to eatdrinkman on Flickr.
Exactly what it sounds like, this is a hearty piece of well toasted bread and a thick slather of chicken liver pate. The bread had a great crunch to it and the flavor of the liver was pretty darn good. But, it is what it is. If you don't care for chicken liver or the texture of pate, it is NOT the appetizer for you. For those of us who do enjoy a hearty helping of liver as a morning perk, this generous serving was enough to satisfy that craving for awhile. Or at least the rest of the day.
Deviled Eggs, $3
As ladies from the South, good deviled eggs are always of interest. This egg (one egg for $3) had an interesting, vinegary bite to the filling. They came sitting in a pool of olive oil, which in this case, really boosted the flavor of the egg whites. We noticed that the filling wasn't quite as mayonnaise creamy as it could be, and leaned more towards a heavy-handed vinegar side. Personal preference is the determining factor in this case.
One brunching babe, Christina, also got the Beef Carpaccio appetizer, a special for that day, and she seemed to heartily enjoy it. Anna also ordered a dish of assorted Marinated Olives, which is hard to mess up. As for the entrees, there were quite a few repeat orders, but we seemed to cover the bases between specials and menu staples.
Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese & Shoestrings, $17
Picture thanks to eatdrinkman on Flickr.
This was a highly recommended dish, and three babes went in for the red meat kill with this burger. The Roquefort cheese is strong, but it works with a nice, medium to medium-rare beefy burger. One babe ordered hers medium rare, another medium, and another medium-well. And whaddya know, they all came out right! Our waiter even gave prior warning that the burgers would be cooked exactly as ordered, which is surprising only in the fact that nowadays, shaky burger execution is pretty unsurprising.
There was some dissonance regarding the use of Roquefort cheese. One babe declared it too salty and scraped it off the burger, while another loved the rich sharp taste of the cheese. Be warned - The Spotted Pig isn't into substituting, so don't expect to change up the cheese. This quirk certainly something to be aware of before ordering, but the burger is a worthy choice on both the brunch and dinner menu. The crispy rosemary shoestring fries add onto an awesome meal. It's like a highly addictive birds nest of flavor, so quickly devoured that they leave not a trace behind but the smell of rosemary on your fingertips.
Dutch Baby with House Smoked Bacon & Maple Syrup, $15
Picture courtesy of Lara.
Bacon... Topped... Carbohydrates. Need we say more? Lara ordered this dish and did a wonderful little write up about not only the dish but the brunch at Spotted Pig on her blog, City Grits. Definitely give it a read, she's another great food blogger, friend and babe who brunches! It was a deceptively light yet filling savory-sweet dish. Dutch babies are not a common addition on a NYC menu, though these cute, simple, semi apple-pie-pancakes should be. Look, they even come with bacon, our favorite friend!
Speaking of bacon, Carolann was taken aback she tried to order it as a side dish, but the waiter wouldn't accomodate her request even though it was on the menu in other entrees. At least a side of the previously mentioned rosemary fries did the trick this time.
Frittata with Broccoli Rabe & Ricotta $15
Picture courtesy of Lara.
The frittata was ordered by two lovely babes, but it did receive the best recommendation. One of the biggest complaints I've heard and read about Spotted Pig is saltiness, and that indeed was a problem with this frittata. It seems to be a common but unfortunate trick that gentle ingredients, in fear of being too bland, are oversalted instead. Even for sodium-lovers, there has to be a certain line between bringing out the inherent flavors in the dish, and pickling.
Winter Vegetable Fry Up, $17
This was one of the entree specials offered last Sunday. Two fried eggs rest upon a bed of potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and Serrano ham. Reports differed on what other ingredients went into the fry-up. Artichokes? Truffle Oil? Cupcakes? That's the mystery of a Fry-up!
No matter what, the dish was interesting enough to keep taking more bites of, and portioned well enough to be filling. Emily thought that personally, the Brussels sprouts were overdone, like they were blanched or parboiled before being fried. And we both couldn't differentiate between the different pale colored ingredients on a visual level, but thought the taste was fine, if not a tad salty.
Whole Yogurt with Macerated Fruit & Almonds, $12
This simple dish got a hearty thumbs up from brunching babe T.J. It looked like a rich and creamy, deceptively simple but delicious breakfast option. Also, one of the few gluten free options on the menu.
The whole crew, full and happy!
The general consensus is that The Spotted Pig's prices are a bit inflated for the servings. The Deviled Egg is $3 for one whole egg. While this could be shared by four people, it is a bit of a stretch. The Liver Toast is also simply two small pieces of crust for $5.50. The burger is quite substantial for the cost, where as the frittata seemed a bit small for the rate. Here's the honest truth: It's a hip, popular place in the West Village. The prices they're doing for the food is acceptable for the city but not acceptable for what some of the food tasted like.
The Bottom Line [Why Should You Brunch Here?]
Emily says: A bit more hit or miss than I would prefer, a bit salty at times, but a restaurant I plan on returning to. I'm particularly interested in the dinner menu and exploring further into the brunch menu as well. The appetizers, burger and fries and the bacon-topped Dutch Baby (that I somehow MISSED when it came to the table!) will have me back. As long as I have a friend or two to wait with, I'm here.
Melissa says: If you're in the area, it's a pretty enjoyable brunch spot, albeit slightly salty and skewed value-wise. Nothing really blew me away, except I could keep having that Chicken Liver Toast at every single meal. However, I'm also curious about that Dutch Baby. Unless someone knows another place that offers it, that single dish might be what makes me want to return.