Hipster Brunch Grows Up: Q&A With George Weld, Owner of Egg

This year has been a busy time for proprietor George Weld, who has run the superbly good (but insanely packed) Egg in Williamsburg for over five years. Now, just a few blocks away, he has what he refers to as his “grown up” restaurant Parish Hall. Aside from churning out successful eateries, Weld is known for focusing on seasonal and local ingredients and some, in fact, come from his six-acre Goatfell Farm upstate. Despite the following Egg has for brunch—lines at peak times on the weekend can take over an hour—don’t call Weld the “brunch king,” even if he deserves it.

I noticed on Facebook that you aren’t fond of the new title you’ve been crowned with.
It’s fine. I knew it was coming and I was trying to get a heads up on people trying to make fun of me.

You have to admit, you do brunch well. How did you get started?
Egg started as a breakfast only restaurant. Some friends of mine had a hot dog stand and they weren’t using it in the mornings. They asked if I was interested in opening a breakfast place and I had wanted to open a restaurant. Plus I love breakfast so it seemed like a good arrangement. I didn’t expect, I didn’t even think there would enough people up in the morning in Williamsburg to make it work. It was a bit of an experiment. We had to close at noon before the hot dog place opened. And we were there for like two years before we took over the whole place.

What is it about brunch?
I feel like brunch, of all meals, is the one you want to ease people into, and it’s a nice role to play in people’s lives. I love it. We have a broad range of customers from those bringing their parents in, those hungover, those who haven’t gone to bed yet—it’s a fun way to see different people.

What inspired you to open your new joint Parish Hall?
Parish hall has been in the works for two years. There are a lot o f reasons behind us doing that. One of them was we wanted to have a place for our cooks and servers to grow into. Give them another place to express their creativity. Also, it seemed like the kind of place the neighborhood was ready for, like it had grown up a bit. A lot of my friends don’t come to Egg anymore because it’s too crowded and rambunctious. It’s nice to have a place that’s a little more relaxing.

How much does your farm play into the restaurants and what you serve?
It varies from month to month. Last year we had a full time manager, but this year we are so busy with Parish Hall it’s a little less ambitious. We are focused on getting a structure in place so it will be more productive next year. But, we already get great produce and eggs from great farms that do it exclusively, and I want to keep doing it with them. It was never really my goal to provide everything, but more to give people who work here a chance to grow food and to maybe get some varieties of produce others don’t have.

You also opened up Hash Bar at Smorgasburg this year. What sparked that idea?
We joked about doing it for a long time. We had one spastic cook for a while who loved working the flattop and had too much energy to really work around. So we joked about setting him up with his own place and flattop to make hash. Last year we committed to serving hamburgers and stuff to concertgoers [on the Williamsburg waterfront during shows]. Smorgasburg started at the same time and we kept looking at it and wanted to be there and around people excited about food. So, this year, we decided to try out the Hash Bar idea. It’s the dream audience for food, people are willing to try anything and are excited about it.

Where do you like to eat brunch?
I haven’t been out to brunch in a long time, thought I have had great brunches at Prune. But, aside from Egg and Parish Hall, I don’t go to brunch save for a place I go to upstate called Jake Moon, about a half an hour outside of Albany.

Any other restaurant ideas going on in your head?
We will see how Parish Hall and Hash Bar goes. Besides, it’s fun to see them find their way.

New York Openings: The Guthrie Inn, The Flat, Donna

The Guthrie Inn (Upper East Side) – Smart cocktail menu shaking up upper Park Ave.

The Flat (Williamsburg) – Punk rockers drop secret gentlemen’s club off the Hewes Street station.

Donna (Williamsburg) – Central America meets Billyburg in “an elegant space for dirty kids.”

Refinery 29’s Connie Wang Gives Us Her Nightlife Ins & Outs

Connie Wang is a global editor at online fashion hub  Refinery 29, and disproves the Devil Wears Prada axiom; that in order to get ahead in fashion journalism, you have to be cutthroat and Wintour-ian. In fact, in her two-plus years at the site, Ms. Wang’s good-natured sense of fun and whip-smart writing helped catapult Refinery 29 out of the realm of "fashion blog" and into a nation media empire. Just read her posts, from a "Trend We’ve Made Up" to odes to cats that look like Park and Recreation‘s Ron Swanson, and you’ll see a fashion editor who has serious chops, but isn’t afraid to have a bit of fun, too. Here, she answers some of life’s most pressing questions.

Best bar when money is tight:  "Lucy’s in the East Village. The musty smell might drive you bananas at first, but a couple bottom-shelf whiskey gingers will clear that right up (also meet Lucy, who’s the sweetest bartender, ever)."

Place or bar whose name immediately induces hangovers: "I used to spend a lot of time at the bar directly underneath my old apartment, Fish Bar. The bartender there is as free with the liquor as she is with her stories about hooking up with ’90s indie musicians. That place will forever be synonymous with a four-Advil morning."

Best place for a covert makeout session: "In one of the rooftop lounge chairs at Le Bain. It’s a strange sensation to have both the city and astroturf below your feet."

My favorite guilty pleasure place:  "As much as I’ll pretend I hate this spot, I have to say that La Caverna in the Lower East Side has a special place in my heart. Where else can you dance in a space with glittery pink foam stalactite ceilings, watch people fall into the fountain placed haphazardly in the middle of the room, and always know the DJ will play "Remix to Ignition" before last call?

My favorite jukebox/DJ/bartender who plays great music: "My roommate, who mans the iPod at our apartment, before we go out. It’s a very exclusive party, ends by 11, and always involves a cross-genre mashup of K-Pop, Top 40 hip-hop, and Celine Dion."

Alcohol you won’t see me drinking: "Spiced rum. Who wants to relive junior high, really?"

Where you might find me a night off (or on?): "On my nights off, you can find me wearing spectacularly unattractive pajamas watching Netflix in bed. When I’m feeling extra-fancy, I like to pour myself a mug a Champagne for a touch ofclass.

Hands down, best drink in NYC, and you can quote me on it: "Though I’ve never had it during the nighttime, Prune‘s clam-infused Bloody Mary is my favorite thing to drink.

Industry Insiders: Vinegar Hill House’s Jean Adamson, Sam Buffa, & Brian Leth

Jean Adamson and Sam Buffa met while both were working at Freemans. Their relationship gave way to sharing a love of the food and aesthetic that formed Vinegar Hill House. Sam is also partners with Taavo Somer in the FSC Barbershop. Six months into their Brooklyn venture, the Vinegar Hill House team found Brian Leth, the chef de cuisine since April, formerly of Prune and Allen & Delancey. Leth excites patron with his locally sourced menu with ethnic flairs.

How did you start in the business? Jean Adamson: I started cooking in Salt Lake City, Utah. I had a fascination with cooking and went to the French Culinary Institute. Then I worked for Keith McNally for nine years at Balthazar and Pastis, but it was too easy there for me. I was just expediting the process, so I said, “I have to get out.” I started consulting for Frank Prisinzano of Frank, Supper and Lil’ Frankie’s. I helped him standardize things. I was getting their recipes in order so that in each restaurant everyone was doing the same thing. A friend then called me to say this guy Taavo Somer was looking for a chef at Freeman’s. Their consistency was really poor, and I’m good at producing large amounts of food at once. They were transferring into the first expansion so they needed a day-to-day chef to run everything. So I worked there for three years, and that’s where I met Sam. Sam Buffa: I was helping Taavo with the basic construction of their expansion. At the same time, the space at the front of the alley became available and I proposed the barbershop idea to Taavo. It’s still sort of my day job. Jean and I, from day one, have had similar interests. I always wanted to open a restaurant but had never worked in the field. I always liked the idea of building a restaurant.

How did you come across the space for Vinegar Hill House? JA: When Sam and I met, we were showing off the cool neighborhoods we knew in Brooklyn. I was living in Park Slope at the time, and the next day my landlord came to me and said the carriage house was becoming available in Vinegar Hill. It’s the house behind where the restaurant is now. I told him that I wanted it and I waited a year for it. SB: I told her to ask him about commercial spaces. Once we got the space it was like, “Oh shit now we have to open a restaurant.”

So you did. JA: When we told people about the location they were like, “No way.” When you’re milling around on a bicycle you just end up here. We opened last November after Sam designed the restaurant. We call the downstairs space “the den” and people rent it out for private events. I was the chef but was looking for a way to segue out. Then this gem, Brian, walked in the door. He’s changed the landscape of the restaurant. I always intended on being a local farms and local produce restaurant and he made that happen. He also wanted Brian wanted a Vita-Prep. It’s amazing watching the stuff he makes with it. Brian Leth: I’m a puree guy.

Where have you worked before? BL: I started cooking in New Mexico. A friend of a friend helped steer me towards a job at Prune and I learned a lot there. Then, I worked at Blue Hill and Café des Artistes. I was at Allen & Delancey for about a year. JA: Brian has a broad spectrum of food knowledge from having worked at so many places.

Are you already thinking about the next project? SB: I think its always on our mind. JA: We want to be solid here before the next place.

Something people don’t know about you? JA: That I’m nice. SB: I used to race motorcycles BL: I’m a serious Scrabble player

What are your favorite places? JA, SB, BL: Hotel Delmonico and Rusty Knot.

How about restaurants? BL: Ippudo, Prime Meats, and wd-50. JA, SB: Sripraphai for Hawaiian pizzas, Roberta’s, The Smile, Joe’s Shanghai for soup dumplings.

What’s on your favorite playlist right now? JA, SB: Lady Gaga and talk radio. BL: The Replacements and Steely Dan.

Industry Insiders: Joe Dobias, ‘Agressive American’ Chef

In the summer of 2008, Joe Dobias and Jill Schulster opened JoeDoe, the 27-seat restaurant Joe dreamed of starting since he graduated from Cornell University’s Hotel School in ’01. Joe, who helped open New York restaurants like VietCafe, Sullivan Diner and SavorNY is known for his creative and challenging approach to food. Almost every night you can see him in the kitchen, cooking and plating dishes from his “Aggressive American” menu. Earlier this week, he spoke with us about the challenges of owning a small restaurant when everyone with a Twitter account and a camera is a critic.

How did you start cooking? The easiest explanation is that my mom went back to work. I started cooking with my sister. Over the years, when I was probably eight or nine, I started taking it a little more seriously by procuring recipes and things of that nature to cook for the family. Also, I figured out early that if you did the cooking you didn’t have to do the dishes.

You recently won first place in the TV show, Chopped. What was that experience like? Chopped was the craziest cooking challenge I’ve ever done. It was sort of like an SAT for chefs. You don’t really know what you’re getting into. You need to use all the skills you’ve gained over the years.

Was it good for the restaurant and your career overall? Those types of shows are looked at in two different lights. One, you’re a sell-out, trying to make yourself famous off of nothing. The flip side of it is people these days are going out to display talent they have on a much more national level as opposed to waiting and waiting and waiting to get discovered. It’s just another tool to promote the business. Do I hang my hat on Chopped? No. It was so long ago that I’ve had many many months to think about before that went on TV. It’s irrelevant to what’s happening with the business at this moment.

JoeDoe is practically neighbors with LES legend, Prune. How does this affect your business? First and foremost, I don’t think that we serve the exact same clientele. I’m a lot younger; Jill’s a lot younger. We have a different demographic. Secondly, we have a different product. Yes, there is crossover, but no, I don’t think that there’s ever been a time where people can’t get into Prune and then they come here. Either they come here or go there.

You describe your food as “Aggressive American.” What do you mean by that? Jill and I came up with Aggressive American, again, to separate ourselves from the pack. We opened the place, really, for the shepherds if you will, not the sheep. I’m looking for people who don’t mind being challenged when they go out to eat and don’t see it as threatening. Also, I’m looking for people who come for what we do and not for any other reason. How do we differentiate ourselves while using the farm-fresh ingredients and all these other things? I would have thrown up if we called ourselves “Haute Barnyard” or “Farm to Table” or anything like that.

What are your go-to restaurants? Our go-to restaurants are anything Blue Ribbon. The model that the Bromberg brothers put together for Blue Ribbon is unbelievable because it’s built on really satisfied employees. That’s something that I’ve modeled my business after. I also like Zucco, Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar, Oro Bakery, Fatty Crab, Nicky’s.

What chefs do you admire? It’s kind of a difficult question because I didn’t train under anyone for a long period of time. As far as having a mentor, I don’t really think I do. I admire Thomas Keller, but I don’t think I’m ever going to cook the kind of food that he does. I think that Wylie Dufresne is pretty outstanding. Again, he makes food that I’d never be able to conceptualize myself or enjoy cooking.

The most difficult part about your job? The hardest part about the restaurant industry is the ancillary things that come up these days outside the restaurant itself. The restaurant part is tough by nature, but if you work in the business day-to-day it’s not the stuff that kills you. It’s all the things you can’t control.

Biggest perk of the industry? Having chef friends and restaurant friends. It’s always been very alluring, and a cool industry where you get to stay up late, go out late, eat late, drink late. It’s adrenaline fueled.

You’ve had some recent cracks at your Twitter habits. Do you think Twitter is helping or hurting the industry overall? I think Twitter is good and bad. Good in that you’re learning things ‘from the horses mouth’. People can instantly connect their ideas and thoughts with other people. It’s bad because of the likelihood that some blog will misrepresent your tweet or use it out of context. Today’s world is removing the squeaky clean images a lot of folks were able to put out prior to the Internet. Simply put: taking out the BS. It just adds a new kind of BS.

If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be? Pizza from Colosseo, a place from Long Island, near where I grew up. I think it’s still the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. Pizza, by nature, is a simple food and I think it’s absolutely fucking stupid that burgers and pizza and fried chicken and all this other bullshit are so popular and all these high flying restaurants that probably would have laughed people out of the place if they ever said you should cook fried chicken here or burgers are now cooking it. I think that speaks to who I am. I’m a blue collar guy. Even when I make it I’m still gonna be a blue collar guy. If I’m gonna eat fancy food I like to do it in jeans.

Where do you see yourself and the restaurant in ten years? In ten years I see us not just in this restaurant actually. I don’t want multiple JoeDoes everywhere because I want to cook the food for people in the restaurants. I don’t see how franchising out my name would do any justice in the end. I want to have a diverse portfolio to make money as opposed to having multiple restaurants of the same quality and same nature, like Union Square Hospitality Group. We’ve been talking about doing a sandwich shop recently.

New York: Top 10 Meals for Nursing a Hangover

Nice Green Bo (Chinatown) – Bright, clanging interior may not be the most sympathetic thing for your aching head, but salty Shanghainese specialties are what your body craves. Yellow fish with dry seaweed infinitely better than it sounds. Crispy, golden-skin scallion pancakes for a warm up. Much more fun than two Alka-Seltzers in a tumbler of warm water. ● Stone Park Café (Park Slope) Make up for that overlong night of Commonwealth, Great Lakes, and Gate-hopping with a standout brunch here. The Gold Rush-era Hangtown Fry sounds like the ideal hangover antidote that it is. Eggs, oysters, bacon, cheddar. Get back to blogging about the baby later. ● The Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien Hotel (Midtown West) – Classic, super-satisfying burger with a side of fries will get all your comfort-food-craving synapses firing at once. Stomach in need of further soppage? There’s milkshakes after 1:30pm. Stumble in past the lunch rush and you might even be able to enjoy it at a table.

Ramen Setagaya (East Village) – What’s a better hangover helper than a bowlful of salt and pork? The ramen here is homier than Ippudo’s and more authentic than Momofuku’s. Broth is made fresh daily with clams, scallops, lemon peel, other random shit. Hearty, flavorful, and addictive. ● Molly’s Pub and Shebeen (Gramercy) – Approximates a cozy, firelit night spent in county Meath or Monaghan (where the owners hail from), which will soothe your saturated brain. Pub classic fish and chips with top-grade cod dipped in ale butter will have you back up on that Guinness horse in no time. ● The Redhead (East Village) – A low-maintenance redhead? Really? We kid, we kid. Laidback bar starts you off with bacon-tinged peanuts, helps clear your head with super-crispy fried chicken. Seasoned with peppercorns, thyme, and brown sugar, it’ll displace those DTs in a jiffy. ● Shorty’s (Midtown West) – Grease and fat, that’s all that hangover wants. Take a lesson from the Sixth Borough and enjoy a classic cheesesteak in Hell’s Kitchen. Hoagie rolls shipped in daily, twenty beers on tap to get you going on your next hangover. ● Cho Dang Gol (Garment District) Seoul food satisfaction in zenned out space. Amazing tofu porridges guaranteed to rejuvenate. Mainline shredded beef with salted shrimp sauce in the Jun-Ju “Hangover” Soup. Trust them — they’ve been fixing hangovers this way for millennia. ● Permanent Brunch (East Village) – Sometimes it’s best to rely on a specialist. Just like the name says, all brunch all the time. Sophisticated fare like wine-braised mushrooms, baked eggs with short rib ragu, and duck fat spuds will put the kibosh on your crapulence, ASAP. ● Prune (East Village) – Sometimes there’s nothing else for it but the hair of the dog. When you finally snag that brunch table, luxuriate over your choice of a dozen Bloody Marys, served with a Red Stripe chaser. A Bullshot with beef bouillon should fix things right up. Deep-fried, triple-decker Monte Cristo sandwich if it doesn’t.

New York: Top 10 Entrees Under $25

imageBecause the choice shouldn’t be between restaurants where Chipotle and Per Se, here are a few spots that have embraced the middle ground.

10. Moules-frites @ Schiller’s Liquor Bar (Lower East Side), $18 – Same Parisian-bistro vibe as at Keith McNally’s Balthazar and Pastis, but you’ll save yourself some cash, a two-hour wait, and any shame involved in being stingy with your wine selection (the list is divided into “cheap,” “decent,” and “good”). 9. Hamburger @ J.G. Melon (Upper East Side), $8.50 – Nothing can pack in hoards of NYC prepsters like this UES landmark’s juicy burger. 8. Romanian skirt steak @ Delicatessen (Soho), $17 – Forget that foodies critically panned it and that a neighbor urinated on the glass roof; with nothing on the menu over $20, a lively atmosphere, and plenty of swank space, it’s little surprise that Delicatessen is almost always packed.

7. Open filet mignon grilled taco with roasted poblanos, onion confit, rice and beans @ Manana (Upper East Side), $23 – Good eats and eurotrash eye candy come together at this Mexican spot from the folks behind Serafina and Geisha. 6. Steak frites @ L’Express (Flatiron), $19.50 – Nothing like hearty protein and carbs at 4 a.m. 5. Dutch-style pancake with pears and Canadian bacon @ Prune (East Village), $14 – A must for brunch, the baked pancake is so good it’s not only worth the wait, but worth dealing with the diminutive spot’s stern no-substitution policy. 4. Chicken dolsot bibimbop @ Bonjoo (East Village), $12.95 – Cheap enough to order as take-out, the traditional Korean chicken bibimbop is served sizzling hot in a heavy stone bowl. 3. Zucchini and heirloom tomato lasagna @ Pure Food and Wine (Flatiron), $24 – Not for nothing does outspoken meat lover Giselle Bundchen have a house account at this surprisingly satisfying raw and vegan spot. 2. Grilled mushrooms, mozzarella, pesto & spinach panino @ ‘inoteca (Lower East Side), $11 – Carbs, vino, a bustling corner LES location, and communal seating make this a perfect before-the-bars meal. 1. Sweet & crispy jumbo shrimp at Buddakan (Chelsea), $24 – A sceney spot with eats, cocktails, and décor likely to impress even the most jaded New Yorker.

New York: Top 5 Ways to Celebrate Bloody Mary’s Birthday

Blood flows in the in the streets of New York City today — Mary’s blood. It’s the 75th anniversary of the sanguine spirit, and to celebrate, TGIF’s Times Square location is selling Bloody Marys at 1933 prices — a recession-friendly 99 cents. But if you’re not game on pushing through crowds to get there, here are some other NYC spots guaranteed to satisfy your thirst for blood.

1. Prune (East Village) – Popular brunch spot with eleven kinds of Bloody Marys, including the “Green Lake” garnished with wasabi and a beef jerky swizzler. 2. Great Jones Café (Greenwich Village) – The Cajun Mary, a spicy ode to the blessed Virgin, will kick your brunch up a notch, Emeril-syle. 3. Madiba (Fort Greene) – With all that ‘Yes We Can” hoopla, you may be tempted to order the Obama Mamma at this South African Brooklyn spot, but he already got your vote, and that’s enough. Opt for Kiki’s Bloody Mary, a mix of vodka, horseradish, hot pepper sauce, lime juice, and the rest.

4. Tabla (Union Square) – I don’t know about you, a drink called the Masala Mary is a must-try. Secret ingredient is not so secret anymore: pickled onions. Sorry guys. 5. Hotel Delmano (Williamsburg) – There is nothing out of the ordinary about this Billyburg cocktail joint’s Bloody Marys, but the bar itself is so unbelievably chill that every drink has something flawless about it.