Penelope

It’s no secret that it’s easier to get a table at popular eateries if you have fewer people. Four people or less is recommended. Two is ideal. One is best. But, to me, brunch is a meal that isn’t as fun when eaten alone. Fortunately, a friend was available to visit Penelope with me. Despite the long brunch hours – from 8AM to 4PM – Penelope still can’t take all the hungry New Yorkers fight to get a table. And it’s pretty packed in there. Even more so than Good Enough to Eat.

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Arriving pretty late in the day, around 11:30AM, we ended up waiting almost two hours for a table at the back counter for two. Be warned as well: they’ll stop taking names if they know they’re going to have enough capacity until 4PM, so definitely get your name down for a table before 2PM or even 1PM. So was the wait worth it?

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Friend of a Farmer

To ensure that we all keep in touch and get out a little more often, my friends and I formed a brunch group. Well, we do a lot of things together regardless, but it just seemed logical to focus heavily on our shameless interest in eating. One of my friends has lovingly dubbed us The Brunch Bitches and jokes that we should start making our own key chains and other memorabilia. I’ll leave the name up in the air… But I do love the idea that we’ve sort of formed a club. The first place we visited was Friend of a Farmer, a brunch place one of my friends absolutely loves.

Friend of a Farmer is decorated as if it’s a cozy home in the countryside. The patterned wallpaper, wooden picture frames, and hanging copper pans help to take away from the fact that the restaurant is jam packed. It’s difficult to pull out your seat without bumping into a server or fellow guest. But I think that’s a bit of the charm of the place.

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Mr. Pancake House

Whenever you’re abroad, there will most certainly be times when you suddenly crave food from home.  Maybe it’s something that can’t be found where you live, is too expensive because it’s considered foreign, or doesn’t taste the same as the local variety.  Sometimes, it’ll be your mother’s cooking, a specific cereal brand, or a particular ethnic dish.  Either way, it’ll be a food craving that will only continue to grow until satisfied.  For me, I had a burning yearning for pancakes.

From my previous reviews and recipes, you can probably guess that pancakes rank pretty high on my breakfast food list.  But when people think of pancakes in China, they may first think of scallion pancakes or the thin egg pancakes from the early-morning food carts.  Shanghai’s strong penchant to adopt Western ideas and customs, though, means that American-style pancakes aren’t non-existent in China.

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If you ever have pancake cravings in Shanghai, Mr. Pancake House is the place to go if you are price conscious.  Its slogan – “Day or night – it’s always time for breakfast” – hits the nail right on the head.  Plus, their pancake man reminds me of the clock in Beauty and the Beast.

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Maharlika

Filipino food is a melting pot of different cuisines.  Having been colonized by multiple countries and having served as a former point of entry into the Far East, the Philippines has incorporated Spanish, Chinese, and American influence into its food.  My friend, who is Filipino, tells me that the combination of sweet and salty on one plate is characteristic of Filipino food. Knowing that everyone that day was a Filipino-food virgin, she took us to one of her favorite joints: Maharlika.

Maharlika has an interesting blend of old-style yet modern décor.  It also does a Filipino-inspired brunch.  One thing to note, though, is that everyone in your party has to be present in order for you to be seated.  So if you have a large group and made reservations like we did, be prepared to pester any late sleepers.  The waiter sounded extremely robotic and scripted, and he offered to clarify anything, as the menu has a lot of Tagalog.  We preferred to use our Filipino friend as a translator.

She ordered the Longsilong Breakfast ($12), which comes with garlic rice, a sunny side up egg, and sausages.  Apparently, in the Philippines you are supposed to use your spoon as a knife.  Only my Filipino friend managed to do this successfully.  The rest of us just created piles of mash on our plates.  I felt this dish was on the expensive side given its complexity.

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Good Enough to Eat

In New York, brunch is not just another meal; it’s a lifestyle.  And I’ve found that New Yorkers take their brunch seriously.  Most people are willing to wait at least an hour in line for a good brunch place, and getting a table usually requires some planning and strategy.  Have a friend that’s an early riser who’s willing to get there before the rest of the group to wait in line?  Lucky you.  Have only two people in your party?  Even better, but be ready to get some jealous glares from the parties of four or more that have been waiting in line for half an hour longer than you have.

I’ve yet to even make a dent on all the places that serve brunch in Manhattan, but I’m pretty excited to start having brunch again.  Sorry Shanghai, but sometimes your brunches were just too darn expensive.  I actually first went to Good Enough to Eat for my birthday during my freshman year in college.  Since then, the restaurant moved to a new location.  I took a friend visiting from Philadelphia because Good Enough to Eat’s new and larger location on the Upper West Side is close to one of Central Park’s entrances.

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