It’s slightly ironic that I ended up walking down the steps of Exchange Alley on a rainy, gloomy Sunday. The restaurant lacked a sign, but the warm, New Orleans-y decor and bright door reading “BRUNCH” in gold, drew me inside. As I asked for a menu, I smiled to myself, and asked for to be seated.
The irony: I have a dinner reservation here on Tuesday night.
I had been on a hunt for a funky place to take my sister for dinner, since she’s back from LA and in need of a very Manhattan restaurant to rid her of her Cali foodie ways. After much research, I had chosen Exchange Alley, a restaurant known for its wonderful wait-staff, great selection of jazz music, chronic drinks and unbelievable creole food.
I sat down, glancing over the menu and taking in the entire feel of the restaurant. The vibe was exactly what I had anticipated in my hunt for a restaurant, eclectic without trying hard, completely fitting into the East Village neighborhood. The walls are lined with unique, 3-dimensional pieces of art, as smooth jazz played in the background.
I overheard the cool, calm, long-haired waiter explain his favorite dish of poached eggs to the neighboring table, sparking my interest. I quickly decided that would be my brunch dish of choice. The cocktail menu was equally unique, with classical drinks turned up a notch, mainly in spice and flavor profiles. I ultimately decided on Exchange Alley’s twist on a Bloody Mary, made with creole spices and topped with pieces of okra.
With each sip, the spicy flavors of the bloody built upon each other. This is definitely not a drink for the faint of heart. My kind waiter offered to remix the drink and add more tomato juice when he asked what I thought of the drink. Once I had my remixed drink, I loved this bloody. It had a lot more body and flavor, steering away from that rough heat of the black pepper found in so many other bloody Mary’s. It was a great way to get my palate excited for the tomato dish to come.
I saw the large bowl of poached eggs placed on the table next to me, making me anxiously excited for mine to arrive. Moments later, I smelt the warm tomato sauce and smokey toast make its way towards my table.
Comfort food at its finest. The sweet, rich tomato broth, topped with the melted, salty cheese could have been devoured on its own. After digging through the tomato and Parmesan, I finally discovered one of the perfectly poached eggs. The yolks oozed into the tomato sauce, adding another element of rich flavor The bright parsley added an addition layer of freshness and bitterness to a decadent dish. But the bread really tied everything all together. The piece of French bread had a wonderful smokey, char flavor to it. This smokiness stood out to me almost more then any other element, giving a wonderful, unexpected flavor. I soaked up all of the flavors of the tomato and yolks with the light and crispy bread. Without even asking, the waiter brought an additional slice out, to continue devouring the dish.
As my bowl seemed virtually empty, I sat back perfectly satisfied. It was a wonderfully, flavorful dish, but lacked a heaviness to it. I felt completely content and full. The portioning was perfect, with two poached eggs. Paired with the spicy Bloody Mary, the entire meal was divine.
On a random brunch adventured, I stumbled on a new favorite East Village spot. I can’t wait to try their dinner on Tuesday.
Exchange Alley – 424 East 9th Street – New York, NY
Location: East Village, NY
Type: Cajun, New American
Perfect For: Big Groups, Neighborhood Hang, First Dates
Reservations: Available, Not Necessary via OpenTable
Favorite Dishes: Poached Eggs, Tomato, & Parm