What an absolutely simple and brilliant concept – all brunch, all the time. Permanent Brunch is the dream child of Lesly Bernard who has cleverly filled a void in the New York dining scene (more on this incredible upstart of the restaurant world later!). How often after a hard day do you think how wonderful and comforting breakfast for dinner would be – well, here it is – with huge portions, fabulous food, and attentive service.
Fork had the pleasure of sharing this culinary adventure with Piccalilli Fork, a piece of cutlery with whom many laughs and adventures were shared back in time while tines were still being forged and there wasn’t so much tarnish around the edges.
We met at Permanent Brunch on what turned out to be an unusually quiet Sunday afternoon. While the restaurant is not huge (it seats only 40), it did not feel cramped, we were not rushed at all during our nearly three hour brunch, and it is not overwhelmingly noisy. The music is great! There is a play list of about 20,000 sings. If you bring your iPhone of iPod Touch you can hook into their system and be the DJ for the day and pick all the music to be played. Truthfully, Fork was a little worried, the tables are very small and they are high tables that you have to sit on high chairs to reach. Fortunately the high chairs have backs and the banquets are comfortable. Under the banquets are railings and a shelf so there is a place for your things and feet. It is surprisingly comfortable.
Lesly Bernard did most of the work in the restaurant himself, including the handmade glass photo-tiles lining the walls. The photos are of New York City subway cars and subway stations where PB and Permanent Brunch were Photo Shopped in wherever MTA signage would be – very clever.
Our waiter – Ian – was so knowledgeable about the menu we were surprised to learn that he had only been working there for only a few weeks at the time of our visit. No matter what question we posed to him, he had the answer and suggestions that were spot on. Sadly, Permanent Brunch does NOT have iced tea, but their sodas are bottomless, as is the coffee and tea. Water glasses are huge and are constantly filled by a very attentive staff. For those wishing an alcoholic beverage, there are five different Bloody Marys,as well as mimosas and royaltons. We think there was wine, but it wasn’t on the menu nor were we offered a wine or cocktail list.
To start we ordered the basket of Baked Goods. This arrived with two chocolate chip muffins, two banana nut muffins and a biscuit. The baked goods change daily and depend on what has been baked for the day. Along with the baked goods was butter and a fruit jam. All selections are baked on the premises. The biscuits are seriously dry. Jam and butter saved them a little, but not enough for them to be considered good. The chocolate chip muffin had too many chips and made the chocolate overpowering. Sadly, both the chocolate chip and banana muffins were dry as well. It seemed a little odd to bring a table for two, two muffins of one type and two muffins of another type and only one biscuit, but that’s just one Fork’s opinion. I must say, though, as an aside, there is a mac ‘n’ cheese starter that looks amazing – HUGE portion and two or three pieces of bacon on top and mixed throughout – a definite must try next visit!
Fork ordered the Fried Chicken and Waffles. Sadly, the waffle machine was on the fritz so the Fried Chicken and Waffles turned into being fried chicken and biscuits with gravy. Not too much of a disappointment – except the biscuits were dry, even with the gravy. If there had been more gravy, the biscuits might have been better. Everything else was so good, we decided to give them a pass on the terrible biscuits. Perhaps it was an off baking day. The two pieces of chicken were huge, very moist inside and the seasoning on the outside was amazing and crisp. A very nice amount of spice and crunch. The gravy very savory and perfect with the biscuits, would have been better with the waffles, and there should have been more of it. The gravy was so good, Fork was tempted to pick up the plate and lick it clean, fortunately the biscuits were there to stop Fork from being embarrassed! Fork can only imagine how much better this would have been with waffles. This supposedly came with caramelized fruit, but there was none to be found. Truthfully, not really missed as this serving was enough for two pieces of cutlery much less one fork.
Piccalilli Fork ordered Ham & Cheese Stuffed French Toast. Hatfield smoked ham, white cheddar cheese, dijon maple jus and onion rings. The description almost seems as though these things would not go together. But they do go together and they go together perfectly. The sharpness of the cheddar cheese is softened by the sweetness of the French toast. The sweetness of the maple syrup is cut by the savoriness of the dijon mustard. A gigantic mountain of French Toast that you don’t want to stop eating until you reach the very bottom. For some reason someone felt the necessity to add two gigantic onion rings to this dish. As good as they were, they are really not necessary.
The portions are so big! It’s almost a struggle to finish everything in front of you. Brunch is not necessarily good to take home to reheat later, so use caution when ordering! Especially if you order the mac ‘n’ cheese first!
One of the main attractions and draws at Permanent Brunch is the Bacon Bar. We have heard through the foodie mill that there are FIVE different types of bacon on the menu. This is one of the main reasons this place was on the adventure wish list. The day we were there the cutlery had a choice between three different bacons. Really, a bacon bar, can that possibly be bad!? We asked Ian if he had to pick only two of today’s bacon selections, which would he choose. We went with his choices and they were very good. We sampled the Meacham Hams traditional country bacon, hand rubbed and smoked (left) and the New Braunfel’s Smokehouse, Comal County, peppered bacon, hand rubbed with black peppercorns and hickory smoked. These were fantastic. Ian described the Meacham as the filet mignon of bacon. He was right. Very meaty, very savory and smokey. Crisp. The Braunfel’s was peppery, but not overwhelmingly so. Fork’s only regret here was not trying the third which was a sweeter bacon. Definitely an excuse to go back again!
Now back to Lesly Bernard. He is the co-founder of Pravda and Clementine. Tillman’s cool jazz, fantastic grilled cheese and drinks is a gem in the middle of Chelsea. You are transported to another time and place while sitting there. There has recently been added Cantina Latina, latin inspired and hot, with a fabulous menu and drink selection. And, as if this weren’t enough, there is now Village Tart in Nolita – totally amazing. Each venue has it’s own style and voice. Each so special in its own way. The cutlery are really looking forward to eating our way through Mr. Bernard’s restaurants. Danny Meyer, watch out, Lesly Bernard is vying to be the king of the New York restaurant scene!
Permanent Brunch is open for Brunch on Saturday and Sunday and open for dinner and late night 7 days a week.