What is eggs Benedict?
200 Fifth, restaurateur Paul Gerbush's now venerable entry in the gentrification of Park Slope's Fifth Avenue, has an odd décor mixing its original hardware-store fittings with TGIF-like details. It's a sports bar that wants to be a restaurant. Half the room is dominated by a bar surmounted by four monitors showing games, plus two with lottery numbers. During brunch hours, a nearby popcorn stand is lit but unused. In the restaurant's nonsmoking half, which is separated from the smoking half by a raised floor, are tables and a banquette against a wall fitted with 598 small shelved boxes. 200 Fifth draws sports-watchers in football jerseys and baseball caps, though not in great numbers. The space is mostly empty at the same time that Beso, just across Union Street, is mobbed.
My 1998 review of 200 Fifth reported that the undercooked eggs Benedict was blander than its apple-slice garnish, and that service was negligently slow thanks to waiters and buspeople hiding from patrons. I've tried it again in 2000, and I can report that service has improved from absent to idiotic, and that the garnish is gone.
It should not be hard to order a drink in a restaurant that has a full bar, especially when few dine there for brunch and there are two people behind the bar at the time. I'm not talking about getting a good drink; I'm talking about getting any drink. So when it takes two requests to get a coffee and mimosa, and when both arrive after the eggs Benedict, which is then followed by the bread basket that could have distracted me while I waited for the eggs Benedict, and not a drop of water is offered throughout, I can only assume that the crayons on the table are not for little kids, whom parents don't take there anyway, but for the teenaged kids masqerading as waiters -- whom I suspect were originally just buspeople, since they wiped tables with far greater fervor than they waited them.
The food did anything but make up for the silly service. The eggs Benedict's generous yet scarily thick globs of hollandaise had a lemon tang, but its Velveeta-like flavor betrayed its instant origin. The eggs were as underpoached as they were in 1998, and the Canadian bacon was flavorless. The English muffins, admittedly, were perfectly toasted. Home fries were cold and greasy chunks of fried potato with onion. The entrée was cheap at $8.95 since it included two drinks (screwdriver, bloody Mary, gin and tonic, kir royale, mimosa, greyhound tap beer, house wine, or unlimited champagne), plus "unlimited" coffee or tea. Stick to the beer. The mimosa was icy and large, but its juice and champagne were only fair. The bloody Mary had plenty of vodka but was small, simply spiced, and included what I can describe only as something tasting like sand. No coffeepot left the kitchen for refills while I was there. A side order of four or five strips of bacon is a bargain at fifty cents, but it was as cold and greasy as the home fries.
See you in 2002, 200 Fifth.
Rest rooms: Clean but cramped.
Cupping Room Café
Knickerbocker Bar and Grill
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Park Slope Brewing Co.
12th Street Bar and Grill