Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 24 January 2012
Almond: A Restaurant Review

12 East 22nd Street, near Broadway, Flatiron District
Getting There: N,R,W to 23rd Street

Cozy and unbelievably casual, Almond sits on a quiet Flatiron block with an exterior and small outdoor seating area that are equally unassuming. Although the signage is minimal, the space inside is much more vast than you’d expect. The rustic interior is a warm throwback to a country style bed and breakfast, if not for the populated tables full of energetic patrons making noise on a Sunday morning. There’s distressed wood paneling all around, from the floors to the tables and chairs, old fashioned mirrors, and enough illumination to keep you awake but not to strain your eyes as a result of any mischief from your prior evening.

Interestingly enough, Almond is one of the few eateries in Manhattan that serve a notable brunch and also take reservations, which are ultimately recommended wherever possible. That said, a wait for a table here is not a death sentence, and tables are quickly turned over and re-set to accommodate their clientele. The tremendous service should be commended as we weren’t forced to wait for anything- the waitstaff delivered by every measure from the incredible complimentary biscuits, served deliciously warm and buttery with their house made jams to the final check, and every coffee refill in between.

The brunch menu at Almond is both interesting and inventive and candidly, you’ll have a difficult decision to make at some point because of how special everything sounds. Broken down between sweet and savory, with some lighter fare and actual lunch type items thrown in the mix, the menu is amenable to however you’re feeling. Any server will tell you that the “Almond hash” ($15) is the restaurant’s signature brunch item, mixing duck confit, roasted onions, potatoes, and a poached egg on a plate topped with crunchy duck cracklins. With our brunch on the earlier side, we opted for more traditional fare, but for a first visit, the ‘hash’ does appear to be the must try. However, we did manage to drool over the “house made chicken sausage & eggs” ($15). Albeit a bit on the pricier side, the scrambled dish was plated with sides of potatoes and crostinis, and two of the largest, most savory links of salty chicken sausage you’ll ever slice into. The juice from each sausage squirted out from our initial cut, and the flavors of each bite were marvelous, when paired with the light side of egg whites (by choice).

Equally as tasty was the plate of “huevos rancheros” ($14). On a bed of three freshly prepared corn tortillas and a side of roasted potatoes sits a mixture of red and green chili, black bean refritos, and two lightly poached, perfectly cooked eggs. One touch of the fork to each egg and the yellow yolk oozes out onto the dish making for an incredible pallet of colors for the eye and delectable tastes for the tongue. A small squeeze of lime atop the entire plate only adds a zest to the already excellent flavors. And who could make it through an entire breakfast without ordering a sweet staple? The “home made brioche French toast” ($13) was light and airy, topped with a combination of bananas, crunchy walnuts, and dried cranberries and lightly doused with some powdered sugar. Some light syrupy glaze proved a perfect alternate from savory to sweet as our generous portion of the toast was quickly lapped up and devoured.

From the friendly hosts to the engaging servers, our experience at Almond was a warm and welcoming one, with an ambiance that exudes comfort and slow dining. At no point were we pushed or prodded or given anything less than the staff’s never wavering attention, and because of that we could actually take our time and enjoy our company and our meal. Serving a mouthwatering brunch on par with any other in the neighborhood, certainly didn’t detract from our meal either. But in its own informal and relaxed way, Almond’s atmosphere sets the vibe for what’s to come, and serves up as well rounded a dining experience as you’re likely to find in Manhattan.

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