By Ron Rossi
I always liked West 48th. Lots of great little places to grab a slice, some Asian food, or hit a buffet. There already was a pub or two on the street. But The Elgin is different. This is a great find in a crowded neighborhood only steps away from Rockefeller Center. With many pubs, bars, and restaurants to choose from. The food is good and fresh. It is a twist on some American classics. And the price is wonderful. You do not have to spend a fortune for a good meal.
The Elgin has been around for some time. Yet it fits right in with the rest of the neighborhood. Once inside, you would have sworn it was there forever. Yet it hasn’t. In fact, The Elgin sits on land that was part of the original Elgin Botanical Gardens, founded by Dr. David Hosack – a leading physician at the time (he also attended to Alexander Hamilton after his duel with Arron Burr). Eventually, he sold the gardens, and it would become the foundation of Rockefeller Center eventually.
But back to today. The Elgin was always serving lunch and dinner for the midtown and theatre crowd. But recently it started serving brunch, and we decided it was a great day to go prior to the holiday season.
The Elgin was packed when we got there at 1 pm. Stepping inside you can see it is a combination of old and new. The history of the neighborhood sets the mood when you first enter and see a reproduction of The Elgin Botanical Gardens in 1810. To your left is a great bar area reaching right to the ceiling about 30 feet in the air. It is impressive and well attended by customers and bartenders. There are high-top tables perfect for grabbing a drink and snacks. Further back are tables and booths for more intimate dining.
Being Sunday, we started with a Bloody Mary that was truly spicy. No celery in this tall glass. Instead of a hot pepper and olives. It was seasoned well (even if I prefer a hearty tomato juice base) with a mix of tobacco and horseradish.
The menu gives you a good variety of appetizers, burgers, meals, pizzas, and salads. It is large but not as overwhelming as some establishments tend to offer. They all looked great on paper. The combinations of flavors and ingredients seemed wonderful. A unique approach to American fare.
We opted for the French Onion Soup Burger (a chef recommendation). A tasty burger covered with cheese and sautéed onions glazed with bone marrow. It comes with bistro fries that are crispy and perfect. They could have been a meal alone. As for the burger, it tasted as if I took a bite of a bowl of onion soup. Instead, it was a burger that tasted like onion soup. All on a toasted roll. Onion soup in your hands! I loved this. Definitely a good choice.
We also had the Pastrami Smoked Salmon which came on a toasted bagel with creme fraiche. It was fresh and tasty. We also made a special request (always ask) and the chef put on top perfect poached eggs. Round, soft and runny. So, even though the menu did not have Eggs Benedict on the menu, the chef did make a variation for us alone. And at no additional charge.
Seeing the other meals go by I would definitely try the Mac & Cheese (with a fried egg on top), the Pizza (maybe as an appetizer when with a group), and the salads. All looked great. Talking with fellow diners, they all said that they enjoyed their meals. They all said the same thing – the food tasted fresh and well-seasoned. The flavors were exciting. The chef and the kitchen know how to cook.
Being full, we finished off with a tea and coffee (the coffee is never as strong as I like either. It is the way restaurants are.) Definitely need to see the dessert menu. Although no one else seemed to be having dessert. The meals are that good.
It is a great find in the area. Wonderful for Brunch but also great before the theatre (it sits near the district) or even a drink after the theatre.
Compared to other similar restaurants in the area (between 38 to 48th Street and between 5th to 8th Avenue), that have a similar industrial style, The Elgin is the best. I need to go back soon and try the rest. You definitely need to take the time and enjoy it.
The Elgin is managed by the team of Peter Pernicone, Darwin Conner, and Paul Baum. And they run a tight ship here. The kitchen is under the direction of Head Chef Sean Olnowich. His take on what it means to create a great, affordable meal, is right on. My compliments to the Chef.
Note: Make a reservation if you are going to want a table. They also do bar service where you can order from the same menu and eat at the bar.
64 West 48th St
New York, NY 10036
(b/t Avenue Of The Americas & 5th Avenue)