Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Brooklyn Label -- A Coffee Fix on Java Street

When Brooklyn Label first opened about a year and a half ago, Rob and I were immediately hooked. Only two blocks away from us on the corner of Franklin and Java Streets, we would go just about every Saturday or Sunday and grab a coffee, some brunch, and take in the bustling hipster scene.

The place has been up and down ever since. Management has changed hands a few times, the menu prices have gone up, the service has gone down (seems all the friendly waitresses transferred to Enid's!). For awhile, we refused to even go anymore. But our relationship with BK Label is back on the mend.

The regular coffee here is pretty decent -- flavorful, not too strong, not too light. Much more memorable, though, is the Mayan cocoa: spicy pasilla chili, two shots of espresso, lots of chocolately flavor. It's just as good frozen as it is hot, and if you're craving a little kick in your drink, this is the one for you. The cardamom honey cappuccino is another great signature drink, but you really have to be in the mood for something sweet and cardomommy -- it's not a flavor you come across often. For those avoiding the weekend caffeine buzz, try a lavendar lemon fizzy: bubbly and refreshing on a hot summer's morning.

Now for the food. At this point I've tried just about everything, except for the organic tofu and potatoes. Last time we went I got one of my go-to Sunday brunch options: eggs benedict. During BK Label's bad days, this would come out looking kind of sloppy, but not today. The egg whites were almost blindingly white; a new crisscross of chives lay on top. I love BK's Canadian bacon. The pork is locally smoked, not too thick, perfectly seasoned. While the poached eggs were cooked perfectly (semi-soft yolks), they were a little too vinegary this time around. Lots of delicious hollandaise sauce and plenty of paprika on top. The eggs benedict comes with a serving of hash browns, one of the reasons I keep going back to the dish. Fried crispy and salted, you'd swear it came straight from the county fair.

My weakness for the eggs benedict is not unlike Rob's obsession with the homemade biscuits and sausage gravy. Even on a hot day, Rob can't resist the southern style biscuits, meaty bits of sausage and fried eggs on top. This dish isn't always consistent, but on its good days its very tasty and satisfying.

For awhile I couldn't get the Chili Colorado out of my head. A deep bowl of stewed spicy pork (salsa verde) is mixed with roasted peppers, served atop a base of soft, cheesy polenta and topped with poached eggs. It comes with a choice of toast, which I always wind up eating too fast because the dish is so spicy. Great for a late wintertime brunch, not so much when its too hot out to begin with.

Green Eggs No Ham is another signature dish, but I never order it because I'm not a big fan of challah bread. Eggs are cooked soft and mixed with spinach and parmesan to make that nice green base, walnut-arugula pesto add another shade of green. All is served atop a large slice of grilled challah. While it's not my favorite, I've gone with people who have ordered it and liked it.

Nothing else stands out as worthy of too much individual attention. The huevos rancheros, gruyere omelet, salmon lox, waffles and granola are all very good, depending on what your taste is like that day.

Dishes I'd stay away from: grilled chicken sandwich (too boring for breakfast), steak and eggs (steak is thin and could taste fresher). Also, dinner has failed to impress. Come for the weekend brunch madness; you might have to wait awhile, but then again you might get lucky.

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