What is eggs Benedict?
KNICKERBOCKER BAR AND GRILL
A Knickerbocker brunch is very traditional American fare for very traditional Americans: mostly WASPy families, plus a impeccably attired and coiffed ladies who lunch. With their homey presence, the restaurant is a quiet comfort; without them, Knickerbocker would seem like a stuffy men's club. Its dim, large room is finished in dark wood and burgundy, with brass rails. The walls bear spotlighted, mint-condition, quaintly cryptic vintage posters about old shows, gun maintenance, and "gay" New York.
The $10.50 eggs Benedict brunch came with coffee (hot and excellent) or tea, plus a bread plate of muffins, buttermilk "Bisquits," and cinnamon coffee cake. The breads were small but delectable, praised by our group as alone worth the price of the brunch even before free seconds were provided on request. We were a little hyperbolic, but a good brunch bread plate is hard to find. The mimosa I ordered was superb, so pale with good champagne that I couldn't tell if its few drops of juice were fresh. By the time I'd drained my glass, I didn't care.
The eggs Benedict's hollandaise was generous but so buttery it any trace of lemon. The poached eggs were overcooked, one completely solid and the other partly so. The ham (not Canadian bacon) was grilled but scanty, hard to taste under the buttery sauce. English muffins were well toasted. Home fries, comprising chunks of potato with green and red peppers and onion, were only fair, surprisingly oily despite the potatoes' finely chopped appearance.
The eggs Benedict was also one of the smaller entrées compared to the other brunch dishes ordered by our group, all of which were large and most well liked. The under-lemoned, over-buttered hollandaise worked better on eggs Sardou, which was made with (also too-firm) poached eggs over artichoke hearts and spinach on English muffins, the artichokes providing the tang missing from the sauce. The frittata with bacon, potatoes, peppers, and caramelized onions, all well embedded in its omelet, was delicious. A very meaty burger with fries had extraordinarily good bacon and was cooked to order. Pancakes were disappointingly bland, though real maple syrup was served and the pancakes also came with that great bacon.
Once we got past the boyish but stuffy maitre d', service was attentive, accurate, friendly, and overall quite excellent. The diner who was annoyed by her coffee being refilled without permission (making it hard to "maintain perfect sugar levels") was later delighted when her flooded saucer was replaced by a clean one, again without permission. We were surprised to be charged for a refill of soda, as it had been served on request with lots of extra ice, but free seconds on the bread made up for that.
Knickerbocker eggs Benedict is not worth ordering, the fine bread and mimosa and service aside. But most other dishes, served smoothly in the restaurant's quiet quarters, are worth the splurge.
Rest rooms: The women's room's campy vintage posters ("Oh, I wish could be a
man!") are not what many women, especially the well-comported elders who frequent
Knickerbocker's, might want to find there. The men's room is cramped, harshly lit, and has
hospital-green painted walls, a rude shock after the discreet comfort of the dining room.
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