Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to a little cafe in the East Village that you shouldn't just pass by.
There's obviously no shortage of places in the East Village where you can grab an egg-based sandwich on your way to wherever, or sit and linger for a bit with a cup of coffee. But when you find the BEST such cafe cooking up the BEST such sandwiches (plus: excellent coffee), you... well, you keep it to yourself so it doesn't get overrun with Instagrammers. Me though, I'm all about blowing up spots, so here's the complete story on my new go-to around Tompkins Square Park, C&B Cafe.
C&B—it stands for "coffee and breakfast," not the Avenues; it's actually between A and B—looks like any number of other similar restaurants around these parts. There's a somewhat chaotic ordering counter/coffee station/open kitchen situation up front, with a tight but perfectly comfortable eat-in area in the back. Homey touches include a book shelf near the barista, where you'll also find a lone stool that's become a preferred perch among regulars.
Helming the operation is Ali Sahin, an affable presence who jumps between firing pig's belly bowls and housemade sausages and chatting up the fairly steady stream of customers. Sahin boasts upscale cooking credentials (he worked at Rouge Tomate), and promotes an appealing "breakfast-all-day attitude." C&B has been open for just about a year now, so it's not a secret, exactly, more like under-hyped, given how good much of this food is.
The stars of the show here, whether billed as breakfast or lunch (both menus are available all day every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.), are the sandwiches. The Chorizo & Egg pairs a pile of soft, fluffy scramble with a dense, spicy disc of Sahin's homemade sausage on a brioche bun. It's a simple, three-ingredient creation, and at first glance you might think you need some hot sauce or something, but you don't. This puppy is plenty moist, plenty rich, the complete package as is.
If you really want a flavor bomb, however, the Sausage, Egg & Cheese is the way to go. Here you'll find more of Sahin's perfect scrambled, this time with lots of melted cheddar and slabs of beef merguez sausage (pretty similar to the chorizo) all on a croissant, which brings a hefty measure of buttery goodness to the party. Were I a drinking man, this is what I would want to eat every morning after. Not in the mood for eggs? The Chicken Sandwich features a remarkably good grilled breast (how does he do that, make a thick piece of white meat so tender and juicy, and why don't more people do the same?) with avocado slices, melted cheddar, on a mellow sourdough.
There are also bowls at C&B, though these are not necessarily lighter options. The best I tried was the Roasted Mushroom Salad, a sprightly mix, dressed in vinaigrette, of bitter watercress, chewy croutons, and a whole colony's worth of robust oyster 'shrooms. Sahin's Pork Belly and Beans dish—which for now is combined, seasonally, with roasted Brussels sprout—eats like a stew, though there's enough broth at the bottom of your bowl to put your accompanying sourdough slices to good use. The somewhat lifeless Chicken & Egg soup/stew was the most ordinary thing I ate in three recent visits to C&B, and would likely not order again.
The beverages here are generally hot and caffeinated, including a first-rate pour over.
Wander into C&B at any time, for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or supper, and you can find something you'll really enjoy eating on Sahin's all-day menu. In other words: the ideal neighborhood cafe.
C&B Cafe is located at 178 East 7th Street between Avenues A and B, and is open daily from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. (212-674-2985; candbnyc.com)