|Unfussy, Unpretentious, and Unbeatable: Gramercy Bistro|
I’ll admit it. I’m a brunch person. For me, there is no ritual more sacred than a good Sunday brunch. I love waking up late, filled with that delicious “no particular place to go” feeling. I love taking my time as I get ready, anticipating the satisfying, leisurely meal ahead. I love settling back in my chair, scanning the restaurant for familiar faces, and sipping one cup of coffee after another. Most of all, I love – I mean, I simply adore – brunch menus: steaming blueberry pancakes, fluffy eggs benedict, hearty homemade granola. Of all the meals we eat in our lives, Sunday brunch is the one that was truly meant for savoring.
You can imagine my delight, then, when I discovered that Gramercy Bistro, one of the newest restaurants to locate in downtown North Adams, had not only opened, but that it was also serving classy, affordable brunch fare on weekends.
Little fanfare or hoopla accompanied Gramercy Bistro’s opening. During the months prior to their opening, observant passers-by probably noticed that the Marshall Street space, formerly occupied by Joe’s Diner, was being renovated. But it took a keen eye to notice on Saturday, June 30, when the “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign that had adorned the restaurant window for months, was quietly flipped to read “Open.” The opening, like the restaurant itself, was unpretentious and unfussy.
Gramercy Bistro is reminiscent of an old-world saloon. Ceilings are high, and crossed by heavy, dark wooden beams. Ceiling fans turn high above head. Plain, wooden chairs scrape across bare, tile floors. A tavern-style bar with swivel stools overlooks the kitchen, and rose-tinted walls are decorated only by a handful of black-and-white photographs of urban landscapes. The overall effect is minimalist and sophisticated, but with a familiar, comfortable feel.
The brunch menu offers your typical fare: pancakes, omelets, French toast, eggs benedict, coffee, teas, juices, and the like. The food, however, is exceptionally good. I ordered almond cinnamon French toast, and my companion a bowl of oatmeal and an herb goat cheese omelet.
The oatmeal was hearty and pure, hand-cooked on the stovetop, of the sort that Mom used to make. The omelet was light and fluffy, slathered with delicious puddles of melted goat cheese, and freshly-snipped chives and parsley. The flavors were blended with subtlety, and to perfection. The accompanying fried new potatoes, while simple, were anything but humble. They were full-flavored, cooked to a lovely, satisfying texture, and not at all greasy.
The almond cinnamon French toast was even better. Homemade, rounded, cinnamon bread was thinly sliced, lightly battered, then topped with heaps of toasted, slivered almonds, and garden-fresh strawberries, blueberries, and bananas. A fresh, orange edible pansy finished the handsome presentation. The dish was so tasty and well prepared – the cinnamon bread and fresh fruit so inherently sweet and savory – that it barely required the maple syrup that came with it.
Service was swift and friendly, and water glasses, as well as the all-important coffee mug, were filled regularly, without our having to ask. The tab for one coffee, a bowl of oatmeal, and two dishes? A mere $13.15, plus tip.
Gramercy Bistro is owned and managed by Sandy Smith, a friendly, down-to-earth guy who has been involved with several Northern Berkshire favorites, including Williamstown’s Cobble Café, Mezze, and Wild Amber Grill. Gramercy Bistro features a lunch menu of tasty, reasonably-priced sandwiches, soups, salads, and burgers. Dinners are more upscale, featuring elegant entrees cooked with a delicate, almost international touch.
It’s worth noting that while I was enjoying my brunch, a table of other local restauranteurs – including Jeff and Susan Bendavid of Il Tesoro, and Dan Weissbrodt and Liz Canarossi of Joga Café – were enjoying a champagne toast to Gramercy’s opening. This was refreshing; as they’re part of a wave of new restaurants appealing to the North Adams market this summer, these restaurant owners could have adopted an attitude of bitter competition. Instead, they’ve embraced the spirit of cooperation and community, supporting each other, and even toasting to each other’s success. Referring to Gramercy Bistro, Jeff Bendavid remarked to me, “this is the place to be on Sundays. Every Sunday, you’ve gotta come here for your brunch.”
No problem, Jeff. I’m there.