In New York, I was clearly a pop culture tourist. Pointing out landmarks I’d seen in movies, television, documentaries, or mentioned in books. As I was in New York with two of my close gal pals, we of course wanted to capture the ‘Sex in the City’ memories. Sort of. More of the city than the sex, but one of those included visiting Sarabeth’s. A New York restaurant staple, which I’m not even sure is mentioned on Sex in the City. But our friend assumed it was. Yet I know for a fact was mentioned several times on Gossip Girl, apparently it was a reason Serena couldn’t live anywhere else than the Upper East Side.
After 3 hours of karaoke and lots of frosty mugs of beer Saturday night, Sunday brunch was not only necessary for nourishment but recovery purposes as well. But like all trendy, popular, Manhattan restaurants there was a wait. We waited for a solid 30 minutes, before being seated. A mixture of locals and tourist, the waiting area poured outside. By the time we were seated, we had all reviewed the menu and knew exactly what we were going to order. Sarabeth’s has a mint blue interior and on the wall hangs portraits of old Hollywood movie stars like Audrey Hepburn and James Dean. Its décor very afternoon tea. As it was very busy the service was ok, nothing special. Considering half the table had a hangover, the fact we needed to get the waiters attention for our water and coffee to be refilled docked some points.
We ordered a pastry basket, since Sarabeth’s it known for their scones and preserves, and the basket was ok. I order tomato soup as a starter. The creamy tomato soup was the highlight of my meal, not too acidic and flavored well with simple spices. We also started off with a crab guacamole that was ok, but lacked that little something extra. For my main breakfast course I got the crab cake sandwich as I really wanted French fries, and it came out covered in a lemon dill tartar sauce. I scraped most of it off. The side salad that came with the meal was dripping in a lemon vinaigrette, I had one bite and ignored the rest. French fries, good.
Looks can be deceiving
The thing about places like Sarabeth’s, where the wait is forever, and the reputation precedes it. They don’t have to do anything special to be considered special anymore. Sure, at one point they probably did have the best brunch menu in New York but now the food is mediocre and overpriced. It’s not bad food. It’s not disgusting. It’s just ok. And in my personal opinion nothing is worse than being average, and mediocre. Except for their English muffin, its dense dry and the size of a hockey puck. It gets no love from me.
My advice for good eats while traveling is to go to places the locals eat. This is not surprising advice. But most locals will not tell you where they go, they mention places they think you should go to eat. Places that are staples of the city. Those staples, in my experience loose a luster because everyone goes to them. They don’t need to try hard, because the rent is being paid by tourist. Ask the locals the last place they went to dinner or brunch. Have they recently found a new café next to their favorite vintage shop? Look for restaurants that have been recently opened by new hungry chefs, not restaurants where the kitchen is being operated from afar. I really believe half of flavor comes from passion, and Sarabeth’s lacked any heart.
Though I guess when I came home and watched the episode where Blair uses the restaurant as a bargaining tool in Gossip Girl, I did smirk at the fact I had gone there. Can’t deny there exist a small part of fanny pack tourism in me.
I know Blair, and that is how I feel about food.
I just want to find the best places, where the flavor is equal to the price.