The Butterfly made its brunch debut on Saturday, and given its location in a neighborhood famous for a near-lethal combination of stroller-pushing brunchers and mediocre daytime options, our first inclination was that we might need to steel ourselves for an insane crowd.
We didn’t. At 2:30 p.m.–mid-shift in the restaurant’s inaugural weekend brunch session–Michael White and Eben Freeman’s retro-inspired cocktail bar and supper club, which opened in late June and immediately garnered affection for serving comfort food and old-timey cocktails in a friendly setting, was at a quiet din, the pint-sized dining room about half-full. Late summer sun streaming in through the windows was tempered by the dark floors, cars buzzed down a sleepy section of West Broadway, and U.S. Open contenders volleyed in silence from a TV above the counter. A small ladies’-brunch-birthday party provided the only hint of raucousness–there was singing and a few joyful shrieks as cocktails took hold–the crowd otherwise a mix of young professionals and the odd elder fashion-type with a model in tow.
We snagged bar seats, embracing the idea of The Butterfly as a cocktail spot first and foremost. That also afforded us a chance to enjoy a nerdy cocktail conversation with Freeman, whose easy charm should be a model all barkeeps aspire to.
We ordered drinks, and when I said I was thinking of a bloody mary, the bartender, Rafael, suggested an Agua Verde, a nightshade drink that glows green–somewhere between olive and emerald–and looks like liquid superfood you’d pick up at a juice bar. Rafael explained that it’s a mix of green tomato, tomatillo, and habanero, and it’s garnished with an aromatic sprig of cilantro and a dainty red radish. There is no dedicated brunch cocktail list, but Freeman’s usual options–classics like the Tom Collins, Mai Tai, Whiskey Sour, and Grasshopper–could help undo a night of bad decisions, as could a classic bloody mary, which I ordered after I finished my first drink. After all, the menu instructs: “Don’t see what you’re craving – just ask.”
The menu showcases proper brunch fare, offering a selection of breakfast and lunch dishes including three benedicts (classic, crab-cake, and smoked salmon) and a couple of standard dinette options like corned beef hash and biscuits and gravy. There are two dishes of the fried chicken that has earned approving clucks, and for people who prefer a less caloric brunch, the menu’s “Healthy Start” section highlights a couple salads, an egg-white frittata, and house made granola.
We enjoyed in particular the corned beef hash and eggs, the rich magenta meat stringy and tender rather than globby like so many iterations of the dish. We ordered the accompanying eggs soft-boiled and deep fried, the kind of technical, fun flourish we expect from Chef Bianco. One small gripe, though: We only received one egg, not the two the menu promised, but four hours into its first brunch service ever, we’ll forgive it.
We’d also recommend the patty melt–the menu described it as dry-aged–which came with fat, square-cut, super-crisp fries and was a break from the usual brunch burger and a welcome throwback to grandma’s kitchen.
When you’ve finished your meal, you might be tempted to do as we did and linger over beers to chat cocktail history with Freeman as he prepared the bar for dinner, mentoring the barbacks and other bartenders.
Not a bad start as the restaurant takes flight into new territory.
The Butterfly is now open for brunch, Saturday and Sunday, 10:30-4:00.
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