The Orchard House’s Snappy New Chef

Two months ago, Queens-native Steve Cruz didn’t have dreams of becoming the executive chef at a restaurant; he was happy creating whimsical cocktails for The Orchard House in the Lower East Side and running his own catering company. But when they needed a new chef, the owners asked Cruz to take the position. So, he did. “I loved this place when I first started here,” he said. “I knew food was lacking both in taste and presentation, and I am glad they gave me the opportunity to shine.”

The menu Cruz took over has kept some American comfort food staples (with his own little twists) like the juicy lamb sliders with tomato jam; but now they serve dishes including mac-n-cheese pancakes, challah French toast, and Cruz’s signature plate, the eggplant Napoleon with basil ricotta. Cruz, who is an alumnus of Art Institute of New York, has also brought his artistic touch to the table. This goes perfectly with the modern-meets-rustic décor of The Orchard House, which sports snazzy wallpaper made by graffiti artist Shepard Fairey.On a recent night, my friend and I were wowed with the creative and snappy display of multi-colored beet salad, spoons of yellow fin tuna tartar, and the bright way the braised short ribs were plated.

Cruz has been cooking with since he was 14 years old under the tutelage of his Argentinean grandmother. Before Cruz got this position, he worked at Rayuela in the front of house, and then went on to Cavo in Astoria. He started as a bartender at The Orchard House about eight months ago, and really wowed the crowed with innovative mixtures, that, while they taste fantastic, sound dubious. For example, were apprehensive to try the Figherfighter 12, a mixture of Stoli Hot, fresh strawberries and basil, lemonade, and aloe vera juice—but, it was a fantastic sweet, spicy, and savory drink that managed to still be light. Through the creative flavor combinations in his cocktails and dishes, you can see that Cruz has a lot of great ideas. Still, the chef is green and needs to cut his chops more at the stove, something he said he is eager to do. Right now, the best time to go is for happy hour drink and a nibble or their prix fixe brunch, which includes an entrée and three, yes three, cocktails for $18.95. And soon, Cruz said, they hope to add a drag queen DJ for the ultimate brunch party.

Brunch: Three New Ways to Get Sloshed Sunday Morning

Everyone loves brunch, but no matter the food spread there are always ways to make it better. For one, how about brunch and movie?

Join the Breakfast Club at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn! The team behind the hipster movie house is dishing out a $14 prix fixe brunch on Saturdays and Sundays that features a Bloody Mary or mimosa and your choice of entrees like breakfast tacos or chicken with waffles. The best part, for those of you too hungover to deal with conversation, you can just sit back and watch a movie. Upcoming films include the documentary All Ages: Boston Hardcore on June 30 and July 1, and Forbidden Planet on July 14 and 15, and Woody Allen’s Love and Death on August 4 and 5. But if you can’t wait, hit up Nitehawk this weekend for Raiders of the Lost Ark at noon.

Didn’t get enough party in Saturday night? Well you’re in luck, after a three-month hiatus, Bagatelle’s South of France-themed Le Brunch extravaganza is back as of this weekend. What does this entail, you might ask? Well, first on the menu is booze. Then some bubbles, then more booze, some bites of food, and finally, booze. Just remember, Bagatelle isn’t responsible for “broken heels, loss of memory, loss of girlfriend or boyfriend, shirts or any other belongings.” That’s right, they have a disclaimer.

Finally, for the more respectable bruncher who wishes to talk to their companion and perhaps not drink a bucket of champagne, Midtown’s Molyvos launches their Greek brunch this weekend. Chef Jim Botsacos said the menu offers familiar brunch dishes but with twists reminiscent from his family and travels in Greece. For example, Botsacos serves Greek Toast with orange scented Easter bread and the Avga Me Feta Kai Domata, or basically, baked eggs with tomato and feta. “We’re looking to put an exciting new spin on what New Yorkers are used to for brunch,” says the chef. And with all these new options, brunch got three times more exhilarating.