Breakfast in America: Barney Greengrass, New York
541 Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street
New York, NY 10024
+1 212 724 4707
by Pam O'Raisin
I wasn’t going for the lox, nor the sturgeon for which Barney Greengrass is famous: even though this is the self-proclaimed “Sturgeon King”. And whitefish salad I prefer to keep for after noon, thanks. No, this breakfast was all about the blintz. I’ve had them at Katz’s, the vast portion enough to feed a small family for about a week. I’ve had them at Veselka, in the East Village, radically folded around the sweet cheese filling in a delicate triangle.
But I was still in search of the best: so the Upper West Side, and Barney Greengrass it had to be. On one side, a deli and takeaway, counters piled with bagels and rugelach and black and white cookies, huge trays of smoked fish.
On the other side, a crush of Formica tables, all packed with noisy families and kvetching Jewish men, even at ten thirty on a weekday morning. I didn’t need the laminated menu.
“I’ll take the cheese blintzes, no sour cream, but maple syrup on the side.” The waiter’s eyes narrowed. I was tampering with the proper order of things. Would it be allowed?
The blintzes arrived, three plump parcels of pancake, briefly fried in butter, the sweet cheese filling oozing out as I cut into them, drizzled in maple sweetness. This was my perfect Manhattan breakfast – almost.
More heresy was to come as I accessorised the blintzes with my own pack of raisins. The waiter caught sight of my plate.
I held my nerve. “Yes, actually. They’re delicious.”
As he took my empty plate, later, scraped clean of telltale syrup and dried fruit, I caught sight of a wink.
He was still smiling when I left.