I rarely make it to the Upper West Side any more. Having gone to college in Morningside Heights (aka White Harlem) and having worked at my alma mater, I’ve had my share of westside snobbery and exorbitant lunch prices to last me a lifetime. But this morning, My Dining Partner and I decided to go to the marvelous Jacob’s Pickles, on Amsterdam near West 85th Street. With the 7 train only partially running, we trekked all the way up there, taking nearly an hour to arrive, but brunch was well worth the trip.
Boasting a clean aesthetic on the interior, Jacob’s Pickles is across the street from The Mathnasium, an academically struggling child’s ultimate nightmare. MDP and I sat outside, gazing across the street at The Mathnasium, and wondering who would actually take their child there. I wanted to know what child would ever consent to going to such a place. “Maybe it’s for kids who really like math,” I said. “I think it’s for the opposite,” said MDP. I guess he’s right.
Anyway, back to Jacob’s Pickles (JP). The delightful waitress seemed surprised to see us so early. JP opens at 9 am, and we were there five minutes after. I didn’t know if there’d be a crowd, so I thought it best to brunch on the early side. Our waitress informed us that JP makes its own pickles and bakes its own homemade biscuits. As an aside, I never understand why restaurants claim to make “homemade” anything. It’s not homemade. It’s made in a restaurant. But I digress.
Ample, delicious coffee flowed our way for the fifteen minutes that we spent waiting for our food. The waitress was good about that and even gave us our own bottle of water to pour at the table. Overall, I was impressed by the service.
I knew I had to get a biscuit, so I inquired as to whether the western-cheese omelette was accompanied by one. The waitress said no, but could put one on the side for me. This reply pleased me.
My omelette came out looking rather well done for my taste, but it was scrumptious. Packed with ham, green peppers, onions and scallions, the western omelette also featured a handful of aged Vermont cheddar cheese. Though the homefries’ texture was right (crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, as MDP observed), they were overseasoned and lacked any real bite. I generally prefer diner homefries. And, as for the biscuit, well, it seems that JP bakes a sheet of biscuits and cuts them into giant squares (as you can see in the above photo). They are fluffy and require consumption by fork, rather than by hand.
MDP ordered the sausage gravy smothered chicken biscuit, which generously came with two pieces of chicken and a side of cheddar grits. I tried the chicken, and it was fantastic. I highly recommend this dish. Plus, the grits were so smooth and creamy, I couldn’t believe they cooked them up in just 15 minutes. They certainly weren’t instant grits, but a magical creation.
We didn’t try the pickles, but there’s always next time. And I’m fairly confident there will be a next time. MDP and I may try JP for dinner some night. MDP says he’d like to try some of the drink offerings at JP. I concur.
As for the prices, they were reasonable, especially for the UWS. We walked south along Amsterdam and noticed a long line outside Good Enough to Eat, a much-heralded brunch spot. I felt like telling the waiting schmucks to walk uptown a bit and try out JP for a hearty, delicious meal at a more palatable price point. Oh well, I’m sure, by now (two hours later), they’ve finally gotten a seat.
509 Amsterdam Avenue (between 84th and 84th streets)
Upper West Side, New York City
Take the 1 to 86th street. Walk east one block and south 1.5 blocks. JP is on the east side of Amsterdam.