I Spy Savory Satisfaction

I Spy Savory Satisfaction

Spies are known for their secrecy and evasion, but at Northern Spy Food Co.—a neighborhood-y East Village, farm-to-table eatery—the flavors are forthcoming (the name actually has nothing to do with the James Bond definition of "spy"—rather the joint is named after a type of NY-state heirloom apple—but that doesn't mean I can't pretend). The décor carries a hip, modern whiff of the "mama's homey kitchen" vibe, and you feel it as soon as you step in and see the blue bench-banquettes, reclaimed wood (tables, chairs, paneling), white walls, rustic light fixtures and splashes of vintage patterned wallpaper.

Brunch is a must. While the wait can be long (a good sign), the reward for your time spend sitting outside is delicious. Let's talk about the food, though we wouldn't be the only ones doing so—Michelin Guide has rated them a 2012 and 2013 Bib Gourmand (for those restaurants who fall short of a star yet deliver excellence at reasonable price, which their board considers to be two courses and wine or dessert for $40-per-head). As a precursor to any brunch meal, the waiter will suggest a side of buttermilk biscuits with seasonal preserves (mine came with a delicate blueberry ditty). Don't refuse them. The biscuits—so good they'd send Paula Deen away sobbing (but she's already been crying enough lately, now that I think about it)—are heavenly, golden brown squares of crisp-and-flaky yet warm-and-buttery goodness. My table got two orders (four a plate) and quickly called over two more. When split down the middle and spread with the rustic country preserves, these baked blessings carry you to a high plane of pleasure. Biscuit pleasure.

The mains were complex yet homey. Corned beef hash—tender, fatty cubes of beef brisket tossed with confit potatoes and topped with two ready-to-burst poached eggs. Once you prod those yolk-y capsules, their yellow liquid unifies and softens the meat and potatoes exquisitely. The B.E.L.T. (just like a BLT, but with an E for egg) also satisfies, coming on large slices of toasted rye with a simple aioli, mesclum salad and home fries. Tucked away on a quiet Alphabet City street, you may have to use your spy sense to locate the place. Once you do, though, you'll be glad you took the time to look closely.

» Northern Spy Food Co., 511 E. 12th St., btw Ave. A & B, 212.228.5100

Photos: Hulya Kulabas, via facebook.com/northernspyfoodco