On my never-ending list of restaurants I must visit, Char No.4 on Smith Street was at the top. Touting a barbecue-centric menu, I was holding out for brunch, which seemed like a more interesting variety than a typical meat-heavy dinner. Apparently the pedestal I placed it upon, married with the anticipation of which weekend would finally be the one, was the wrong recipe. Allow me to set the tone by saying that I'm glad I did not have to wait for a table on this Saturday afternoon, or that would have been the stinging salt in the wound.
My selective memory led me astray, apparently morphing the remembered menu into an idea it was not, like a wicked game of Telephone. As soon as it was placed in front of me, the interest meter plummeted. Suddenly nothing appeared as creative or tantalizing as I had recalled; the script did not speak to me, which is never a good sign.
When the difficulty in deciding what to order stems from a lack of interest, as opposed to too many eye-catching options, the fun is drained and you have good reason to fear the looming bad omen. Such was my case, as the uninteresting and the bland permeated my plates. The chili-marinated shrimp atop sweet corn-hominy grits, assured to be a staple by our server, lacked any flavor one might have expected from the sound of it. It even visually deceived me: pretty on the plate, but not in my mouth. If this is their staple, then there doesn't seem to be much hope for the other dish.
|Shrimp 'n' Grits|
Delivered verbally as a special, something must have gotten lost in translation: a lamb pastrami hash with two soft eggs, mounted with an arugula salad and goat cheese horseradish dressing. Sounded delicious. Tasted like nothing. How is that possible with lamb?! And the odd raw-meat consistency didn't help much. They also didn't score any points by serving an overcooked egg. Come on people, throw me a frickin' bone here. I resorted to slathering on as much dressing as possible with every bite to keep my taste buds awake. And the kicker: it didn't even have goat cheese! It was definitely a mustard-based sauce without a hint of that unmistakably discernible cheese, which I was looking forward to palate-pairing with the lamb. A let down in every possible way.
|Lamb Hash with Eggs|
There is silver lining in this tale: their bourbon-based bloody mary was excellent. In my opinion, the only way a bloody mary should be made and the only reason for a return visit. Spiked with chipotle and garnished with a sour pickle, I would opt for this fulfilling refreshment as my meal. The liquid diet is the way to go in this joint. The other cocktail ordered, "Hound Dog," was also beautifully bourbon but on the lighter, sweeter side with ginger, grapefruit, mint, lime, and honey.
Conclusion: Skip the bites and head straight for the bar. Make it a bourbon-only brunch at Char No.4.
*THE FOLLOWING POSTS ARE EXCERPTS FROM Brunchaholics.com*
If you are a brunch-obsessed New Yorker as I am (the term is practically redundant), you may enjoy this blog I found as a resource for just that. (And they are just as critical as I am!) As they put it, the website
I have inserted below excerpts from four of their posts. You can visit their website for the full reviews and