Thursday, November 8, 2007

Restaurant Review ~ Community Food & Juice

On November 2nd I received an email forward (Thanks Becca!) touting the addition of yet another brunch stop in Morningside Heights, this time claiming quality baking and all organic ingredients with a focus on comfort food gone eco-gourmet. “Wow,” I said, “This place seems to have hit the hilt on the list of potential current trends.” I love businesses being socially conscious as much as the next former tree hugger, but lately it seems like the quick way to cash in without having much thought towards the actual finished product. So we decided to check it out, wisely choosing to go on a weekday rather than a weekend.

Overall look, feel…Is it worth the price? ~ First of all, decide on one name and stick to it. Either it is “Community Food & Juice” or it is “Community Restaurant.” At this point the two are not separate and it says one thing on the windows and another in the media, so.… The décor is nice and light and sunny with the entire front the restaurant utilizing the floor to ceiling windows/doors. The space boasts to be designed in accordance with the Green Restaurant Association Environmental Guidelines for sourcing and use, which is nice. There is a large dark wood bar which looks kind of out of place with the otherwise light color scheme and the open kitchen seems to not fit in the scheme as well being tucked in the back at an odd angle. The layout just seems ill proportioned and poorly aligned. But as I was sitting in the front next to a window, I just ignored all of that. I got to watch the restaurant get a citation for trash on the curb from two of New York’s finest, the unloading of organic fruits from Riverside, CA, which doesn’t scream “locally sourced” to me, and a number of other events.

Service ~ The service is not even a week in the making and is therefore going to be not as polished during training phases as one would expect in an established restaurant, but it was almost worse than it should have been even with the exceptions. There were just so many staff there wandering around looking awkwardly for things they should be doing not sure who should be doing what. The hostess was agreeable which was nice. The server was personable, but really dropped the ball on a few things that will make or break a breakfast/brunch location. When someone orders coffee, it should not take more than 5 minutes to get it on the table. When it his the 4 minute mark (Yes, I’m that finicky in the morning.), I asked the young man who kept refilling our water with unparalleled diligence if we could have our coffee. He wasn’t sure, so he went over to a small group of cheerfully bored looking servers in the back if we could have it. A few minutes later, we got some coffee. This is how the rest of the service experience would play out: plenty of water but asking multiple people multiple times for ketchup, butter, milk, etc. Luckily, we did not have to ask for the check, which was nicely delivered when our plates were cleared.

Food…the MOST important part of all! ~ I ordered the Veggie Scramble made with egg whites, market vegetables, and avocado slices served with 7-grain toast, a side order of double cut bacon, bruleed ruby red grapefruit, and coffee. The scramble was exceptionally boring; the only thing giving some taste was the cauliflower. The eggplant tasted very salty as if it had not been rinsed properly. The peppers and onions had little taste as if they had been cooked too long and avocado slices were crunchy. I am all about using ingredients in season, so don’t go the extra mile to include something if it is not ripe enough to serve. I had ordered the bacon soft and it came out crunchy which 9 times out of 10 means it’s getting sent right back. But the young Andrew traded me his Canadian bacon for it, so it was not an issue.

Both of our meals included breakfast potatoes which were very pretty, but completely without taste. There were three ramekins of gourmet ketchup delivered by there different people which would have solved the problem excepting that it was so sweet that it overwhelmed the potatoes entirely. The highlight was the bruleed ruby red grapefruit which was not really bruleed but was excellent all the same.

As for the inclusion of Clinton St.’s famed baked goods, I didn’t see what all the hype was about. The 7-grain bread made for a horrible toast as it was so dense that it was cold in the center and did not really accept the butter or jam offered to us in little ramekins lined up on the table. Andrew enjoyed his biscuit, but noted that he likes biscuits largely because “they really remind me of scones, and I like a good scone.” I think he was just slightly stoned on the raspberry jam.

All in all I would recommend that this place has another three to 6 months to iron out their growing pains. This was a soft opening and you shouldn’t really expect greatness but there were too many detractors. The restaurant offered 15% discount on the check for their opening week patrons. That was thoughtful, it almost covered the cost of my $6 half a grapefruit.

Community Food & Juice

2893 Broadway, between 112th and 113th Streets

212-665-2800 or