Greg Baxtrom's Olmsted is raising the borough's brunch bar.
The perpetually buzzed-about Prospect Heights neighborhood restaurant continues to reinvent itself, this time with a spectacular new brunch menu.
Starting March 16, chef-owner Greg Baxtrom began serving brunch at Olmsted, his cozy, ingredient-driven restaurant that has garnered national attention for its creativity and charm since opening in 2016. (It's a 2017 Restaurants of the Year.) And when we say "cozy," we mean cozy, but also tiny. The open kitchen is the size of what you might find in a Brooklyn apartment ("with like one burner one and a flagtop and a fryer," as Baxtrom puts it), so service is somewhat of a miracle. On a recent visit to the 50-seat restaurant for brunch, the coordinated grace of the kitchen made the meal feel even more special. The carrot mimosas helped, too.
Why did it take so long for Baxtrom to get into the brunch game, what with Olmsted's being so buzzy and Brooklyn being so Brooklyn?
"We didn’t want to do it wrong. I just didn’t want it to be eggs benedict, even though that's what I would order," Baxtrom tells Food & Wine. "I wanted it to be as ambitious as the dinner menu is."
The chef pauses after saying "ambitious." Maybe it's not the correct word. He never wants diners to feel that the food is ambitious, though it is head-spinningly complex, from sourcing to execution. Baxtrom, who worked with Grant Achatz at Alinea, remembers something his former boss once told him.
"We were killing ourselves, and Grant didn’t want that to be part of the dialogue, or for that to be what the guests interpreted," Baxtrom says. "He didn’t want it to be, 'Here’s this precious thing,' with the guests thinking about how it took 20 cooks to put together."
Take Olmsted's new seemingly simple Egg Rolls, stuffed with pillowy scrambled eggs, housemade bacon and lush cheddar, served alongside Olmsted's green tomato ketchup. The dish is comfort materialized—as delicious as it is fun to eat, out of a McDonald's fries-esque container. Eating the whole thing in a peaceful trance, you probably won't think too much about the long hours of sourcing and prep that made it so perfect.
"We make the bacon, but no one would necessarily know the difference," Baxtrom says. "We source this crazy cool cheddar cheese. We put it all together, and it just gets chucked in a little box. What we’re hoping is the guests think it's cute and crispy and delicious and fried. But for us, we get to flex a little bit in the kitchen, and no one really needs to know about that."
The crazy cool cheddar, by the way, comes from Jasper Hill Farms. Baxtrom uses a shredded blend, which is basically the end pieces of a couple of different kinds of cheddar they make; this lowers the price for Olmsted, which can, in turn, offer reasonably priced menu items to guests. (That's why Baxtrom buys scallops that got torn in the shucking process. "It's the same ones that Per Se buy, so we can use the same amazing product but we don’t have to charge for it.")
Another standout dish on the new brunch menu is the Grilled Breakfast Burger, a dazzling take on an Egg McMuffin: fluffy housemade bread, a thin half-beef, half-sausage patty, raclette, kosher pickles, and even those little chopped onions you find on McDonald's burgers that will instantly transport you to your childhood. Then there's the carrot kathi roll, which is equally delicious but significantly higher brow: the wrap is stuffed with crunchy carrot pulp falafel and cilantro stem raita, a star example of Olmsted's creative fight against food waste.
"We tried to hit all the flavors people wanted – bagels and lox, bacon egg and cheese, butter and bread, pancake and sweet and salty," he says. "We tried to hit all of those marks in a way hopefully people haven’t seen before."
659 Vanderbilt Ave.; 718-552-2610; olmsted nyc.com