1557 Columbia Street, Little Italy
On lazy, warm weekend mornings, my man and I skip our usual breakfast at home (Greek honey yogurt, almonds, bananas and blueberries), and venture outside to find a relaxing patio and an energizing crowd of similarly minded brunchers. On this particular gorgeous sunny Saturday, we chose to explore Little Italy.
I don’t know what an Italian brunch would look like — if it’s anything like the dishes my Italian mother used to make, it would probably include scrambled eggs whipped with generous amounts of oregano and garlic. But I wasn’t in the mood for Italian, and I was starting to get sick of Little Italy, mostly because of the parking (which was worse than usual because of the crazy-Saturday farmers market crowd) but then David reminded me of Queenstown, and I stuck it out until we finally found a place to put the car that didn’t cost $8 an hour.
I’d been to Queenstown for lunch a handful of times. They have one of my favorite salads in town, the “Heirloom,” with heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese, basil, house-made sourdough croutons, shaved parmesan, greens, and capicola. The tomatoes are as fresh as the burrata, and the balsamic drizzle is a syrupy sweet that cuts the salt of the savory meat.
I remember how shocked I was on my first visit with David many months ago, when I learned the “jumbo” pretzel lived up to its name.
Though on past visits I tended to order the wine on tap, because it was brunch and I wanted to wake up, I opted for coffee. David, who doesn't drink coffee, got the peach sangria.
My eyes lit up when I saw “chicken and waffle” on the menu. It seems this guilty southern dish is popping up on menus all over town. I had no choice but to get it so I could compare it to those I’d tasted elsewhere. My verdict — delicious, but lacking in the salt department. Salt makes the sweetness pop, and without it, the dish delivered all sweet notes. Usually, it's the chicken's job to bring the salt, but this chicken (though cooked well, nice and tender on the inside, crispy on the outside) fell short on flavor. If they’d held back a bit on the sugar in the waffle (there's plenty of sugar in both the syrup and honey butter to go around), and added a bit of salt to both the chicken and waffle batters, this would have been moan-worthy.
David ordered the “prawn and grits.” Because of the lack of a crucial “s” on the menu, he was expecting one gigantic shrimp, but was pleasantly surprised when he got four pieces of shrimp on a heaping serving of grits, with a poached egg in the center. The grits were a tad too salty, which made them the perfect bite-pairing for my bland chicken. I spread some of the stuff on the chicken like it was a specially flavored corn salt. David loved every bite — he had no trouble cleaning the plate (with a little help from the grits pilferer sitting across from him).
Aside from the food, my favorite thing about Queenstown is the country-home feel of it. Sitting on the shaded patio among sweet-smelling jasmine flowers being visited by bumblebees and hummingbirds, wire baskets of potatoes, oranges, and citrus lining the walls of historical home-turned restaurant: it all makes me feel as if I’ve been transported to a casual country farm. In New Zealand.