Brunch for the Socially Awkward

Like many (if not most) people, I look so forward to the weekend that I'm practically clinically depressed by Sunday afternoon --since I know the next weekend is another 5 long days away.

But there are three things that I look forward to as our normal Saturday and Sunday routine: spending time with my family, going to Union Square's Green Market and getting brunch.

Yes, brunch makes that top three list. Why? Because you can relax and eat in a highly social environment. It's not like grabbing lunch with co-workers or getting dinner on date night. Brunch has a special meaning because you're in the midst of the weekend. You're not rushing to make it to appointments and you can eat breakfast and lunch all-in-one at a leisurely pace, because the kitchen is still making breakfast food well past the 10am mark.

Good times.

I was "cordially invited" to dine with my family at Social Eatz. The name was off-putting, to be honest. I couldn't help but wonder "What's with the name?" On the restaurant's "About" page, it explains it a little, so I'm not going to get into it here. Personally, I would change the name -but hey! It's not my place and no one asked me. So who cares, right?

Among a street lined with awnings and sandwich boards, Social Eatz was not an easy find. It was kind of nice that it wasn't some glaring, colorful entrance that would compete with the other establishments. Instead, the signage blends with the neighborhood. I liked that.

Walking into the place, the first impression was favorable. It wasn't over-crowded, although the atmosphere already had a noticeably loud noise level. We were a little early, but not by much.

Greeted with a smile and a friendly face was great. We thought we had a reservation and when giving the name and time, she seemed confused. She checked and re-checked. I had to confirm that we had a 12:30 for 2 and a toddler. She played it off, but I could tell, she didn't know we were coming.

In fact, that set the tone from the very moment we walked in the door.

Getting settled in took a little bit, too -as a few people asked us if we wanted a high chair (we did), but it took some coordination between several people before it actually happened.

Again - coordination is not this place's strong set. At. All.

We quickly ordered a plain waffle for the little one. Our baby sets our schedule -and since he just got up from a nap, we don't play around with waiting for food. We always bring snacks to keep him occupied in the interim. We have a system that works very well for us when it comes to dining out. The waitress seemed to understand that it was important to get the baby something first, and parents would follow with their order once we knew he was taken care of. That was a very positive note, and very welcomed.

While the server seemed nice, it also seemed like it was her first day -or at least her first week. She asked about water and looked at us blankly when we asked for tap water. It was the first choice that she mentioned -but I think she also had a hard time hearing us over the music, and it was increasingly getting louder, as more people came into the door.

After the water arrived, we finally placed a food order and I told her that my husband has Celiac's disease. This is always something that is said before we order a meal, just so the kitchen understands that he MUST eat gluten-free. Nothing with wheat flour can be used for his dishes. Ever. (He can get really sick and pass out.) She clearly had no clue what Celiac's was -or what gluten-free meant. That is an indicator of having an uninformed waitstaff. They HAVE to know these things. She pointed out items that had eggs in them - I think she thought we said he was vegan or maybe she thought eggs had gluten in them. Again, it was so loud, who knows what she heard versus what she understood.

In spite of the noise-level and abundance of confusion, we ordered a few things off the menu: Korean Breakfast Taco, Korean Fried Chicken, Kimchi Fried Rice, Bimibap Omelet and a side of Togarashi Fries.

Bimibap Omelet
I was the only one who could sample the fried chicken -and it was quite good. It was sweet and very crispy. The chicken was also not overcooked like so many places just cook the hell out of it because of health scares and people wanting to have very, very cooked chicken. It was very nice to have tender chicken that had some flavor and a crunchy texture. The portion was a bit larger than I anticipated, so one of the drumsticks came home with me! I don't think it will hold up due to the amount of hoisin sauce used, but it's worth a try. And just FYI: It is NOT first date food, and they really should serve this dish with a wet nap or finger bowl. It's incredibly messy -and since only ONE bathroom was available (the other had an "Out of Order" sign), it took awhile to get to the wash room to get the stickiness off my hands. (My fault for not bringing extra baby wipes, but it shouldn't BE that way to begin with - providing a simple finger bowl with water, lemon and a small napkin would have been an easy fix.)

The kimchi fried rice was overwhelming in size -and we didn't know that it was already a side that came with my husband's omelet. The rice was very bland - it had some Korean-like spice, but it was certainly geared for the American taste buds. However, the kimchi used in the bimibap omelet was very approachable for the American palate. (I've lived in Korea and can tell you that not all kimchi is alike and most of it will make your eyes water upon the first whiff! While I do LIKE kimchi, I know it can be pungent and scary for some to venture to even sample.)

After fifteen minutes or so, the waitress returned and asked if we needed anything else -again, not the best coordination, because we were still awaiting fries and the Korean taco. It was obvious she was ready to give us the check. Not yet! Geez! So, she turned to go back to the kitchen and it was just moments before the order came.

2 bites of this "taco" were all I could tolerate!
I thought the fries were overly salted and had a strange cheesy sauce as a condiment. Not sure if I somewhat liked the taste or not. On second thought, no. They were just too sodium-heavy. My husband ate a few of them, but he wasn't overly impressed, either.

The Korean taco wasn't what I expected at all. Not in a good way, either. I didn't expect ground beef. I had previewed a menu that said it had "charred beef" - although my husband told me that it was supposed to be chili. I didn't see that, so he's probably right. So there were different versions of the menu. One that was online and one that was in the restaurant. Either way, the "taco" was more like a burrito. The texture of the ground beef gave it a canine-like appeal. I could only have a couple of bites, as the flavor was atrocious and mealy composition was very unappealing.

We also tried both desserts on the menu. They arrived to the table, but without silverware. We waited at least five minutes before we could start eating. The waitress was really not available or attentive - and it was another server who made the connection between silverware and necessity to eat. (The only thing our waitress appeared to be concerned about was getting us the check before we were ready!)
Brunch desserts: "meh"

The pannacotta had some flavor, but I don't know why under-cooked tapioca pearls were mixed in with the blueberries on top? Weird. And for the life of me, I don't understand why they invented "lemon cake black pepper whipped cream" for the strawberry shortcake? Oh -and no coffee, cappuccino or espresso. My husband got something that was sweet, iced, and wanted to be like a Thai iced coffee...

Again, it was just confusing to hear and understand the server tell me what we could have for after the main courses.... we thought we ordered 2 cappuccinos. Guess not. Oh -and I wasn't offered a refill or asked at any point in time during my meal (nor was my husband) about drinks. Another sign of poorly trained staff.

The place had exploded with customers by 1:15 - to include celebrity chef Eddie Huang at a nearby table. In fact, Top Chef Angelo Sosa (owner of Social Eatz) was out there working the crowd. I mean, it was swamped. And up went the decibel level...

Oh - and there was a guy on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 53rd pawning off postcards to "come see a Top Chef celebrity"at the restaurant -so he might have been to blame for the barrage of gawkers, too!!

Since the lines forming at both the bathroom and the front door were growing increasingly longer, we just wanted to get the check (finally the waitress was attentive and understood what we needed) - and we were practically rushed out of the restaurant. Our check was time stamped for 1:32pm - remember the reservation was at 12:30. That has to be one of the fastest brunches of all time -not just for me, but for a lot of New Yorkers. I felt like we were kicked out of the door!

I mean, appreciate that I was given a reservation at Social Eatz, but was very disappointed in the end. Maybe I had my expectations set too high as a "cordially invited" guest. Especially with $100+ bill that we paid and the unconventional push out of our table in the end. (Note to ANY restauranteur: no matter how busy it gets, don't obviously coax patrons out of their seats - that is just very amateurish and your customers don't feel valued.) I wish now that I made my own reservation on OpenTable.com so I could have at least gotten 100 points for dining there.

Overall, the meal was so-so. The kitchen was on top of its game in terms of getting things ready. The front of the house was uncoordinated. Waitstaff was horrifically green. Music started off loud (with spa-like tunes) that went to pop-tunes and even louder after one hour. With the big crowd and the uber-loud music, we paid for a brunch that wasn't relaxing, nor was it "social" in any way because you would have to send a text message to your co-diners in order to have a conversation. That, or start using American Sign Language to discuss the awkwardness of it all.





2 comments:

  1. Yuck! An Alpo burrito sounds pretty bad to me, too. Did you ever hear from Social Eatz about your experience? Seems like they have some apologies and make ups coming your way!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not a PEEP from Social Eatz. Disappointing. :(((((

    ReplyDelete

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