Nolita House: A Very Un-New York Brunch Juggernaut
I ask you, how could a cheap boozy brunch set to the crooning and twanging of a live bluegrass band ever go wrong? The answer is that it just can’t. Nolita House, a down-home 2nd floor find on Houston and Mulberry, has created quite a niche for itself in the competitive New York brunch scene with it’s Boozy Bluegrass Brunch. This wondrous innovation consists of exactly three things: 1) delicious and hearty American comfort food, 2) a talented true blue Bluegrass band, and 3) plentiful mimosas and bloody marys. It is fun, unique, casual, and a welcome break from the often monotonous (and beloved) Manhattan brunch tradition.
The restaurant itself walks the line between shabby and comfortable. On the 2nd floor of a building on Houston, Nolita House seems meant to evoke a middle America schoolhouse with everything from slightly askew class pictures to chalkboard walls; however, nothing about this cult favorite is kid-friendly. Worn-in leather boothes line the walls and rickety tables fill in the middle, yet it’s the rectangular (and slightly sticky) bar that sits pretty front and center. Loud speakers blare Southern rock at unhealthy decibels, and the vast majority of patrons seem more focused on the plethora of booze options instead of the grub. Not to mention, Nolita House stays open far past acceptable hours on a school night. Nothing about Nolita House is sleek or elegant; and that’s perfectly OK for a place content on eschewing the uppity fashionista set that Nolita is famous for in favor of a grungier and, perhaps, more fun-loving crowd.
The most surprising thing about Nolita House is that the food is actually very good. It is solid and satisfying American comfort food, served hot and heaping. Brunch is your best bet here, and not only because it comes with a kickass Bluegrass band. Through such decadent options as Eggs, Biscuits & Gravy, New Orleans Shrimp & Grits and Vanilla Brandy-Soaked French Toast, the flavors and aromas the of the great American South come through loud and proud. The biscuits are buttery and flaky masterpieces, paired perfectly with soft and salty eggs, however you like them done; blackened shrimp & cheesy grits come packing bold and intense flavors that leave you craving more; the french toast is cut about 4 inches thick yet is somehow not overcooked or dry – it’s sweet, moist, and buttery with an addictive brown sugar crust. With Green Eggs & Ham, the kitchen turns an American kid-friendly classic into something any adult can crave with boursin cheese scrambled into three eggs, all served atop thick-cut slices of ham. Even the Mediterranean Baked Eggs are good, though obviously just outside the kitchen’s comfort zone – too oily for most yet right on the money flavor-wise, this dish can cure any hangover (and that’s a promise).
Nolita House offers a welcome breath of fresh air in the often cloying and overdone New York brunch scene. It’s unpretentious, inexpensive, and indisputably fun. The food strikes a tasty balance between too greasy diner food and too pricey ‘haute comfort food’, and the drinks come free at first, then easy and cheap. New to New York and the aggressive brunchers in stilettos? Nolita House is a nice and stress-free way to participate in a beloved tradition without harming your self-esteem. A New Yorker needing a break from the insufferable lines and faux-casual vibes at downtown favorites Pastis, Balthazar, Jane and 10 Downing? Nolita House can give you much-needed relief without hopping a jet.
Perfect For: boozy brunch, non-New York vibe in a a prime New York neighborhood, country music and whiskey binges, live music, hangover cures, doing something a little different