THE SHTICK: Casually cool BYOB brunch.
THE VIBE: Possibly the last thing one expects to be attached to one of the city’s best music joints (in this case, The Empty Bottle) is a clean and cozy café. But that’s exactly what you’ll encounter at this nearly 20-year-old storefront. There are few better ways to greet the day than pulling up a stool at the bar and poring over a newspaper while the sun splashes the exposed brick walls. 8 out of 10.
THE FOOD: A chalkboard listing a half-dozen specials called out to us with cinnamon-apple bread—a call we’re glad we answered. The warm, thick slabs were reminiscent of pound cake and had just the right around of spice. Eating them left our fingers gleaming with butter.
Whatever you do, make sure a mashbrown (or three) lands on your table. This genius side dish is simply mashed potatoes shaped like a hamburger and fried to lowbrow perfection. We chose pimento cheese eggs Benedict topped with marinated tomatoes and arugula as our mashbrown accompaniment. The eggs were poached just right but the pimento (spread in a thick layer on top of toasted English muffin) lacked zing. Hot sauce to the rescue.
Since carbs and butter don’t count before noon, we ordered the Challah French toast. Slicked with hazelnut-tinged butter and drizzled with banana anglaise and syrup, it had all the makings of food porn. What arrived was soft-core at best: The challah lacked its typical rich eggy-ness and was overcooked, while the anglaise was haphazardly squiggled on and didn’t add much.
That mashbrown though… 7 out of 10.
THE DRINKS: Coffee is a proprietary blend that’s roasted a stone’s throw away by Dark Matter, making it a no-brainer. If you’re looking to booze, you may do so corkage fee-free. For mixers, you’re looking at fresh squeezed OJ and grapefruit juice. 8 out of 10.
THE SERVICE: Mimicking the overall vibe, staff is easy-going; maybe to a fault. Our server was pleasant but monotone, and though the place was only about half-full, we waited with empty coffee mugs more than once. 6 out of 10.
OVERALL: Some hits and some misses, but we left full and happy. For an easy-like-Sunday-morning experience any day of the week, Bite is a solid bet. 7 out of 10.
Bite Cafe, 1039 N. Western Ave., Ukrainian Village