Upper West Brunch: Cotta vs. Jacob's Pickles

At some point during senior year of college, my friend Megan and I decided that we were changing career paths. Instead of going into Law and Business, we planned on starting what we dubbed “Brunch Bloggers,” which, as you may have already guessed, included a “job” where we went to brunch and blogged about it. And somehow got paid. While we knew it would be hard work, we figured that if anyone was cut out for it, it was us. We then told our parents about it, to which they responded: No. And even though we’re #IndependentWomen, we were like, okay fine, maybe I see your point. Needless to say, Brunch Bloggers was put on hold.

Temporarily.

Fast forward four years to the present. While we still haven’t figured out a way to get people to pay us to eat, it hasn’t stopped us from doing some serious brunching – serious enough, in fact, that I am now launching a brand new brunch series on Tangent Pursuit! It had to be a series because, let’s get real, it’d be silly to try to fit all of NYC’s amazing brunch options into one post.  To start, I’ll be spotlighting my two favorite jams on the Upper Best – I’m sorry, Upper West Side:

Jacob’s Pickles vs. Osteria Cotta

Jacob's Overview

JP doles out southern food with a Jewish twist in a craftsmen-style restaurant with high-ceilings and an even higher energy. Admittedly, his best dishes aren’t always the healthiest, but the food somehow still remains startlingly refreshing despite this. And there’s a range of options. The fried chicken is, naturally, bomb diggity. My personal favorite go-to item for brunch, though, is The Coop Platter which includes 3 fresh eggs, sterling bacon, sausage patties, heavenly grits, hash browns and a biscuit… for $15. Yes, I dream about it. Pair breakfast with an Apple Pie moonshine, Rosemary Vodka Lemonade or a Bloody with thick-cut bacon and you’re golden.

What else? 

This place is sort of trending right now, so the biggest drawback there is the wait. You can make a reservation only for 6 or more people. Otherwise, be prepared to wait 1-2 hours. As long as you plan for this, it’s not a big deal. They send a text when your table is ready and there’s a number of bars in the area to grab a drink at and kick back (my top suggestions: Café Lalo, E’s Bar and Fred’s)

Osteria Cotta Overview

Cotta specializes in fresh, flavorful Italian in an equally as fresh and airy-yet-homey/wooden atmosphere. They also have a really neat upstairs area with a semi-hidden backroom, which makes it especially romantic in the winter. But, of course, they have an abundance of outdoor seating which makes the place especially coveted in the warmer months, too. Also, IMHO, their pizza is some of the absolute best in the entire city. The brunch menu includes your standard omelets and eggs benedict, but with an Italian flair (think: prosciutto instead of ham, etc.). Their baked eggs in creamy polenta and mushroom or spicy tomato sauce provide a deliciously unique angle to the menu. The Buon Giorno Pizza (which includes eggs, sausage and bacon) also didn’t look too shabby. I’ll be trying that next time.

What else? 

The real kicker? For $24, you can get any brunch entrée and 2 hours of endless cocktails. While it’s not the same craft-cocktail experience you receive over at JP’s, this definitely isn’t your typical midtown boozy brunch. The ingredients are still well thought-out and the presentation matches the taste. Plus, you can change from Bloody > Mimosa > Cotta’s Sangria.

Overall, both have phenomenal food, great prices and awesome wait staff with a young, appealing atmosphere. Jacob’s Pickles is, again, a bit more on trend, but that scene also comes with an added hectic nature as well. If you’re going with a group and can make a reservation, hit up Jacob’s Pickles. If you’re looking for a spur-of-the-moment brunch date with your significant other or a small group of ladies, then Cotta it is!

The Perfect Brunch: West Village

Brunch in New York. I'll admit: it's not something I've ever been totally smitten by. In theory, brunch is a glamorous hiatus from the otherwise-dulling schedules of our everyday life. It is embodied by an ensemble of craft champagne cocktails, clear skies and perfect hair. In theory, it's magnificent. But in reality? Not always the case. If done improperly, brunch can be overpriced and inconvenient. I may sound dramatic, here, but it really can steal away your entire day.

Personally, I enjoy getting the most out of my weekends. Sure, there are times when my Saturday is one long, boozy-brunch filled afternoon, but that's more of a rarity these days. My free time is precious! I prefer a nice blend of socializing, exploring, relaxing and yes, noshing and throwing back a few good drinks - it just has to be worth it. That's why I decided to write this post. 

My Saturday two weekends ago was spent recovering from the awesome-yet-exhausting week prior (you know, the Good Morning America week). For breakfast, we rolled out of bed and into the trusty diner next door. I managed to eek out a blog post and do some reading (from bed), but then spent the rest of the day and evening in and out of napping, save for a small venture 10 blocks up for a ramen dinner. After dinner, it was back to bed. I barely even stayed up for SNL.

So, when I woke up Sunday morning fully rested with the sun shining through the curtains, I was ready to cruise about the city a bit and maybe even have a cocktail.  We chose to go to brunch at The Little Owl in the West Village. Why? I'll give you three immediate reasons.

  1. The Little Owl is one of those places that you always hear about. It isn't as if it's particularly famous or even considered the newest hot spot, it's just one of those things. Always trust word-of-mouth.
  2. Food Network's Alton Brown dubbed the multigrain pancakes at TLO the "best thing he ever ate" in the show's "cake" edition (c'mon, who doesn't love that show? best food porn ever.)
  3. It's in the West Village. 'nuff said.

First and foremost, the food was superb and the coffee? Delicious. Matt opted for the aforementioned multigrain pancakes with fresh berries and Vermont maple syrup. I went for the perfectly poached eggs served with Fontina biscuits, sausage patties and broccoli rabe. It was marvelous. To be truthful, I’m salivating as I type this. I know, TMI, but whatever. Besides the scrumptious brunch items were also a few seasonal cocktails…

Like I’ve hinted at, I enjoy a hearty side of culture with my cocktails whenever I can get it. The Little Owl delivers in this aspect. Situated in The Village at the corner of Bedford and Grove Street, TLO sits amongst obscure landmarks disguised as typical charming blocks. First, just up the street is an old writer’s house that sits right next to Isaac-Hendricks house, aka the oldest-known house in the West Village (built in 1836.) Across the street lies remnants of a time gone by, with actual horse stable doors still in place.

And if the exterior of the building above TLO looks familiar, it’s because you probably remember it as the façade for Friends. When the producers gave crew instructions for finding the perfect façade for the opening, they told them “find a place that represents a time in your life when anything is possible.”

Also, for some more Friends trivia, another working title of the show was Once Upon A Time In The West Village. Can you imagine!?

Around the bend is also Cherry Lane Theatre – the city’s oldest off Broadway theatre.

Needless to say, West Village has a bit of history to it.

Overall, TLO is a must. I would recommend it for 2-4 people max, though, as it is a small place and reservations any larger could be significantly more difficult to nail down. (I called 24 hours ahead for two and was fine.) It's not a "boozy brunch" per se, but the cocktails are far more delicious than your average drink, not to mention seasonal - I suggest The Big Apple or Autumn Shandy.

So next time you want to indulge in some culture-brunching, you know where to go! Have you been to TLO or have another favorite you'd like to see featured? Comment below!