I've always loved going out for breakfast. As a kid, my family usually went out to diners, which suited me just fine. Here was my chance to make up for the plain oatmeal or wheat toast I had every morning at home.
But there's one image from those diner mornings that still haunts me: the mini boxes of sugary cereal, forgotten and collecting dust behind the coffee machine. Do people really ever order those? Cereal? At a restaurant? Well, deep in my young heart, I secretly wanted the cereal.
Sure, it might just be boring old Frosted Flakes, but, you see, I never got Frosted Flakes. While I never quite gathered the courage to say no to pancakes or waffles or bacon or breakfast pastries, the longing for that cereal has stayed with me to this day.
Dining out for breakfast and brunch is always a serious treat. Additionally, I'm a pretty serious cereal lover. But the worlds have never crossed. Until now.
Set on the 18th floor of the beautiful Gramercy Park Hotel (the hotel is also home to the SE-beloved Maialino), Gramercy Terrace opened its revamped doors for breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch back in May. Though it's not visible from outside, the place is fully open to the public Just head into the lobby and take the elevator up to the 18th floor marked "Terrace."
You only need to walk in to understand the magic of the place. The Terrace is full of lush greenery, elegant light fixtures and comfortable couches, giving a cabana-like vibe. There's a lot to love about this spot, including the accommodating service that is the norm at the establishments in Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group. But we're here to talk about the continental breakfast buffet; namely, the Cereal Bar.
First thing you need to do is put aside everything you thought you knew about eating cereal at a restaurant. It's not dusty, forgotten mini-boxes in a diner. It's not the bright, goofy Coldstone-esque and nearly defunct Cereality. And it's not housemade granola with local compote and greek yogurt. It's lowbrow cereal given the highbrow treatment. And the result is a awesomely perfect balance.
The mastermind behind this cereal wonderland is Director of Operations Terry Coughlin. He's everything that a cereal enthusiast should be: warm, friendly, and eager to share his beloved breakfast with others. Instantly I felt that we were kindred cereal-loving spirits, members of the same bowl-and-spoon tribe. Like myself, Terry is a fan of icy cold milk and even goes so far as to put the milk in the freezer for a few minutes before using. He hates soggy cereal and sometimes has to look away when his young daughter lets hers languish in milk for too long. Surely, she'll grow out of that.
"I'm obsessed with this station." Terry explained. He worked hard to achieve that perfect look, so that the station is neither too silly nor too fancy. Sure, it's very kid friendly, but it's very adult friendly as well. Most cereal lovers will agree the a huge part of the joy cereal is the nostalgia factor. Here, breakfast lovers of all ages can indulge in cereals, milks, and toppings of all kinds.
Terry's original idea was to have a table-side cereal cart, with a captain who would make recommendations on combinations, in true fine dining style. While I would be happy to quit my day job and become the first captain, they decided that perhaps the world wasn't quite ready for table-side cereal service.
I can't ignore the rest of the $19 all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet; every single element is carefully thought out, both in taste and appereance. Hard boiled eggs appear in a ceramic egg tray, within an rustic looking wire basket, with coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper waiting near by. There are ample croissants, scones, individual monkey breads and other terrific pastries, made in the Maialino kitchen. There are cheeses from Saxelby Cheesemongers, cured meats, bowls of fresh fruit and individual glass jars of yogurt with fruit compote. For a city that often serves similarly-sized bowls yogurt with granola and a few sad pieces of melon to the tune of $13 (I'm lookin' at you, West Village), this is a "New York" bargain for a breakfast fanatic.
But the jewel in the crown of this buffet truly is the Cereal Bar. You can find Terry and General Manager Tyler Vaughan tending the station with extra care. "Tyler wasn't much of a cereal fanatic before we started the station. But when I caught him talking about how people can differentiate Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios by their sheen, I knew he had been converted."
Cereal lovers, get there now! Take a tour in the slideshow >>