Vandal: An Eclectic and Stylish New York Brunchtime Destination
Vandal, the flashy Bowery restaurant helmed by chef Chris Santos and run by the TAO Group (of TAO, LAVO, and Marquee fame) is a see-and-be-seen kind of place, a street art-inspired hotspot with a global-inspired menu and a party every night. But it’s a completely different restaurant on weekend afternoons, when it’s a fun and low-key brunch destination, and a newly introduced brunch menu (which we recently had the opportunity to sample at the invitation of the restaurant) is full of worthwhile creations.
The restaurant is massive, with multiple dining rooms, but the owners smartly limit brunch to just the front room, which faces the street and has lots of windows which let in plenty of natural light. It’s a funky space, with ancient arched brick walls and exposed wood-beam ceilings given a modern twist with the addition of large murals, including one by Shepard Fairey.
This menu is really all over the map, but in a good way. It touches both sides of the healthy spectrum, from insanely unhealthy (a “Big Sexy Burger” with secret sauce, American cheese, and bacon) to insanely healthy (an acai bowl with granola, coconut, strawberry, and banana) and everything in between; and as can be expected, everything is very Instagram-friendly. But that’s just the nature of the beast; the crowd here is primarily young and hip, so the menu is certainly on-brand. And it’s not just a gimmick; everything we tried was really tasty.
The menu is divided into Share Plates, Sweets, Breakfast, Not Breakfast, and Sides, and it runs the gamut from gravlax latkes and seafood towers to Captain Crunch-crusted French toast, a “Prince of Little Italy Sammy” (with Parmesan-crusted egg, Calabrian chile ketchup, crispy prosciutto, and Italian salumi), pizza, and a kale caesar salad. We did our best to sample a little bit of everything, and honestly there were no disappointments.
A plate of oysters were fresh and well-shucked, and served with lemon, lime, cocktail sauce, mignonette, and horseradish. A classic avocado toast had ample fresh smashed avocado along with spring peas, radish matchsticks, lemon, mint, and “everything” seeds.
The pizza of the day was topped with egg, Parmesan, pesto, tomato, and prosciutto, and had a nicely crisp crust and an even distribution of toppings (a little pile of red pepper flakes on the side was a nice touch as well). Chilaquiles were about as traditional as it gets — crispy tortilla chips tossed in a bright and tangy salsa verde and pulled chicken, topped with pickled onions, Mexican crema, and a sunny-side-up egg — and wasn’t soggy or bland.
The tuna in a salade nicoise was cooked perfectly — blackened on the outside but still raw in the middle — and the accompanying lettuces, fingerlings, olives, avocado, soft-boiled egg, and shallot vinaigrette were fresh and properly done. And for dessert, an order of pistachio orange doughnuts was so good we didn’t even realize our treats were vegan.
You’re presumably going to want something to drink, and Vandal offers a great selection of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Fruits and vegetables are juiced fresh to order (try the Agent Orange, with orange, grapefruit, lemon, ginger, and carrot), and there’s a wide variety of coffee and tea. All the brunchtime cocktail classics are there, and $30 pitchers come with a free refill, which is a pretty spectacular deal. Other brunch cocktails include The Rising Sun (Stoli Vanili, cold brew coffee, almond milk, and chocolate bitters), Las Palmitas (Thai-spiced mezcal, Thai basil, grapefruit bitters, and grapefruit beer), The Intervention (Jack Daniels, plum, Aperol, lemon, and Spanish bitters), and, of course, frosé.
Vandal is one of those restaurants that’s incredibly of-the-moment, with a globetrotting menu that really goes out of its way to provide something for everyone. Sure, it’s a scene, but brunch there was also casual and relaxed, with a complete lack of pretension. Service was friendly and professional. Everything we sampled was delicious, and our meal was, overall, a whole lot of fun.
The meal that was the subject of this review was provided at no cost to the writer.