Cheap Latin Brunch Awaits at Esperanto in Alphabet City
James A. Foley
If you don't live nearby, getting to Esperanto in Alphabet City is a bit of a hike: There are 10 blocks between the restaurant and the closest subway stops. But the reward for the journey comes in the form of delicious plates of Brazilian-leaning Latin cuisine and a whole lot of booze.
Weekend brunch offers even more incentive to make the trek, even if you're a little (or a lot) hungover, since the majority of the menu is priced at $12, and dishes include coffee and a bloody mary, mimosa, or glass of juice. That should be enough to slot it into regular rotation, and it seems much of the neighborhood agrees--if you don't make a reservation, you're definitely going to wait for a table.
During that late morning (or early afternoon) meal, you'll find a list of brunch-time usuals with a bit of a Latin twist. Eggs benedict, for instance, is prepared with Brazilian ham and a liberally spiced hollandaise sauce; one omelet incorporates manchego cheese, chorizo, peppers, and onions. The Del Mar quesadilla--with grilled shrimp, avocado and Monterey Jack cheese--is an excellent hangover cure, while the inventive huevos loisada riffs on the traditional eggs benedict model, subbing a thick, fried patty of potatoes and shrimp in as the foundation and topping it with a poached egg and more hollandaise. Up-charges are modest: A steak is just $5 extra with a standard plate of eggs, golden breakfast potatoes, and English muffins. Three dollars adds a slice of Brazilian ham to the cheeseburger (which is kind of like adding bacon).
But the grandaddy of the list is feijoada, a stew of pork and beans that's Brazil's national dish. At $17, the dish doesn't quite make the cut for a cheap brunch (though coffee and a beverage are still included), but all the meat and beans plus the side of rice on the table is a solid bet if you need to stay full all day long.
If you do have cash to spare, it's also worth ordering a drink from Esperanto's well-executed cocktail menu. A couple of favorites from the list are the nicely done caipirinha ($10 or $45 for a pitcher) and the mezcalita, which replaces tequila from the classic margarita recipe with mezcal and rims the glass with an enticing blend of cayenne pepper and sugar.
And during these summer days, the restaurant's windows are flanked on the outside by tables for dining al fresco--a viable option during this brief respite from the fierce heat.
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