Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NY Restaurant Review: Clinton Street Bakery is (almost) dead to me!

My NY blogging is being hindered at the moment by the fact that the computer with all of my photos on it is having a day-long freak out and the boyfriend (AKA tech support) is out of town. So more reviews with photos are to come!

In the meantime...

Clinton Street Bakery on NY's Lower East Side is famous for it's pancakes. So famous, in fact, that you have to wait hours for a table. I just don't have it in me to wait that long for brunch, so I've only eaten there once. We were fortunate on that occasion to have a friend in the neighborhood who put our name in and went home, and we met up just in time to sit down and enjoy the most incredibly divine pancakes that have ever graced the earth.

Clinton Street's banana walnut pancakes look ordinary enough, but the very first bite reveals the impossible fluffiness gives way to the sweet gooey joy of the the banana and walnut mixture. I rarely order pancakes because I find them boring after the first couple bites, but these were so damn good that I cleared my plate.

All of that said, the boyfriend and I were eager to eat there this weekend since we were staying in the area. On Sunday the boyfriend jumped out of bed and went straight over to put our name in. At 11 am he was told it was a minimum hour and a half wait. Clinton Street is small and doesn't take reservations and the crowds line up early.

What we find always particularly bizarre is the sheer volume of Japanese tourists. I have to believe that somewhere in Japan there is a popular guide book that says that Clinton Street is an essential NY stop. It's bad enough competing for pancakes with every NY hipster in a 20 block radius, but throngs of tourists make for a brunch nightmare. We don't live there anymore, and although I wouldn't have called myself a tourist, I guess I don't have much room to complain.

At 12:30 we found that it was still going to be another 20 minutes making it a nearly 2 hour wait, which put us too close to our 2pm theater tickets. Oh well first day's hopes for bliss in pancake form were dashed.

The following day was Monday, so we figured that there would be far fewer people there. We got up early specifically to get there before the tourist hordes. It looked pretty empty - good sign! At 10:30 we were told that they weren't going to serve food that day until 11, even though their opening hours say 8 am. Thwarted again! Our lunch plans were at noon, so once again this timing didn't work.

We had to settle for muffins that we ate in the nearby park. I've never been a big muffin fan since they tend to be pretty dry and don't seem worth the calorie whollop they pack. I was already saying Clinton Street was dead to me after two unsuccessful attempts, so I kind of wanted to hate their muffins.

Of course, though, the masters of pancakes also turned out to be magicians with muffins. The boyfriend and I split a bacon and cheese muffin and a banana and chocolate muffin. Great googly moogly, these muffins were good! The former was so flavorful with a great salty, crunchy, bacony goodness. And the latter somehow managed to still have melting chocolate inside just like a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie.

So I still wouldn't hold my breath on eating at Clinton Street again. It is truly the best breakfast you can imagine, but even with that in mind I refuse to wait for 2 hours. Guess I'll have to settle for to-go muffins. If you go, get there early and be prepared to say konichiwa to your many, many waiting friends.

I'm going to try to make my own soon. This is the closest recipe I've found so far:

From Mr. Breakfast
Banana Walnut Pancakes

(4 servings)

  • 1 medium banana (the more ripe the better) - mashed
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1 large egg - beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a seperate medium bowl, mix together buttermilk, egg, cooking oil and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well.

Stir in banana until just mixed. Fold in walnuts.

Pour in 1/2 cup portions onto a heated (medium-high), greased griddle or large fry pan.

Turn the pancake when the visible side starts to show a lot of bubbles. Turn and cook other side until golden brown.

Serve with butter and syrup, or any other favorite topping.



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