Last month, Cafe Pedlar debuted a full breakfast and lunch menu. Already a fan of its buttermilk biscuits, we were optimistic about the prospect of egg and biscuit sandwiches, not to mention a few other items on the menu.
Food aside, what stands out most about Cafe Pedlar is the service: Any cynicism we harbored about hipsters wearing arm sleeves and suspenders was snuffed out by our gracious and uncommonly attentive waiter, possibly the friendliest we’ve ever had on the Lower East Side. In general, Cafe Pedlar is an ideal place to spend a weekday morning: it’s quiet save for the sound of freelancers pecking away at their keyboards, and everyone seems content to keep to themselves — it’s a stark contrast to the ceaseless bustle of the Clinton Street Baking Company across the street.
The Stumptown flows freely, and is perfectly brewed, sharp, floral, and bold. It’s ideal for chasing down the egg and cheese sandwich ($6), which we had adulterated with a $3 portion of Faicco’s thick-cut bacon.
As we noted previously, the biscuit was perfectly sized, which is to say enormous, but was irritatingly crumbly — it kept falling apart, so it was almost impossible to eat it with its fillings intact. The cheese was half-melted, which gave the scrambled egg a weird squish that would have been more or less irrelevant if it were masked by a layer of biscuit. But since the biscuit kept falling apart, it wasn’t, so the naked egg and quasi-melted cheese were slightly unpleasant on their own.
The bacon, however, was beyond superb, and almost made up for any of the sandwich’s other shortcomings: its crisp exterior had a nice bite, and its insides were plush and slightly gummy. Altogether, the sandwich could have come out slightly hotter on the plate, and was a bit of a letdown. Better temperature control and a moister, more pliant biscuit would make a world of difference.
We also tried the $10 house-smoked trout salad, which sat on a spelt crepe with lettuce, pickled purple onions, and horseradish-quark dressing. The salad itself was excellent, a salty, creamy clump studded with fat chunks of fish. The dressing lent some welcome heat, and the pickled onions a bit of sweetness. The crepe itself was kind of a disappointment — it was buried underneath the salad, folded like an old man’s handkerchief, and not nearly as substantial as we’d hoped. That said, the whole concoction was pretty satisfying, thanks mainly to the richness of the salad.
All in all, we wouldn’t cross rivers or even 14th Street to get to breakfast at Cafe Pedlar, but we’d certainly return if we were in the vicinity. There’s something to be said for a peerless cup of coffee and thick slabs of bacon early in the morning, or at any other time of the day, for that matter.
17 Clinton Street