A LocalBozo.com Restaurant Review
159 Lexington Avenue at 30th Street, Murray Hill
Getting There: 6 to 33rd Street
Restaurant Review: Penelope
In an area of town that’s fairly bar and diner heavy, Penelope brings the comforts of a quaint neighborhood eatery into an otherwise indistinguishable Murray Hill. Evidenced by the sometimes hour long wait times, the restaurant is perhaps best known for its highly acclaimed brunch, which eschews the bottomless heavy drinker style in favor of a warm, family style atmosphere, one that delivers a bed and breakfast style of fare inside of a perpetually busy cafe. A dining experience at Penelope is a charming transformation from city life to the countryside, one freshly brewed cup of coffee at a time.
The weekend brunch is Penelope’s proverbial bread and butter, with a collection of guests normally huddled around the cafe’s front doors from breakfast time through the early afternoon in anticipation of a table. Inside a small landing leads diners up a few steps into the main dining area, outlined by the place’s small bakery and bar setup. The wooden breakfast tables are in close proximity to one another, but that’s hardly a detriment as the food comes out fairly quickly. In the meantime, freshly squeezed orange juice and perfectly fine cups of Penelope’s coffee set the stage for an old-fashioned, home cooked meal, built on seasonal ingredients and generous portions.
The biggest obstacle that you’ll find inside of Penelope is settling on what to order- and even then, you’ll stare at your guest’s order and wish for a do over in selecting your own meal. On weekends, the brunch menu runs until 4pm, offering breakfast staples like French toast and homemade granola and vegetarian items for pickier eaters like the “FBLT,” which pairs fakin’ bacon with avocado, lettuce and tomato atop a toasted sourdough bun. Any repeat visitor to Penelope will recommend the “Penny Egg Sandwich” ($9), which we’ve enjoyed countless times. Adding a dollop of garlicky pesto onto a warm fluffy English muffin, the bulbous sandwich combines scrambled eggs beneath a slice of creamy American cheese, all of which deliciously compliments each other nicely. And for an extra $1, guests are welcomed to add a breakfast meat onto the sandwich, which candidly, it does just fine on its own.
The ‘Prix-fixe’ portion of the menu offers up a brunch entree with an alcoholic pick-me-up and juice or coffee for just $16.50. With an ‘Apple Cider Mimosa’ in hand, we scooped up the “Salmon Wrapped Poached Eggs.” Served with a bed of green salad, the dish revealed two swollen eggs wrapped in a delightfully smoked orange fish on rustic black bread. The white colored ‘green goddess’ drizzle draped the entirety of the plate, yielding a flavor similar to rich tartar sauce. And when combined with the runny egg, proved a delectable combination for the remaining toast crusts that sat in front of us.
After a few more refills of coffee, we settled up and were back out and on our way home, passing by the next group of guests waiting outside for their tables to be ready and to experience a touch of the modern countryside despite being in the thralls of the Manhattan hustle. Penelope is hardly just another sought after spot for breakfast. It’s inviting and warm inside of a uniquely comfortable setting. And as far away as you might live today from where you grew up, something about it just feels like home.
Rundown of the Meal
Salmon Wrapped Poached Eggs ($16.50)
Penny Egg Sandwich ($9)*