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'Brunch Gang' Girls Blog About NYC's Tastiest Late-Morning Meals

By Andrea Swalec | October 12, 2012 1:56pm

WEST VILLAGE — Longtime friends Stephanie Iovieno, Victoria Lee and Erica Broadwell were luxuriating over brioche french toast and scrambled eggs with salmon at the Allen Street Latin restaurant Rayuela last spring when they came up with a delicious idea.

"The drinks were flowing, the food was great, and we decided to start something," said Iovieno, a 29-year-old Chelsea native.

That May, the trio launched Brunch Gang NYC, a photo-filled website where the friends rate brunch offerings across the city — ranging from see-and-be-seen spots to no-frills diners.

Now, with a year-and-a-half of blogging under their belts, the trio has racked up more than 150 reviews of New Yorkers' favorite late-morning meal.

 The brunch review website Brunch Gang NYC launched in May 2011.
The brunch review website Brunch Gang NYC launched in May 2011.
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Brunch Gang NYC

Broadwell, a 28-year-old West Village resident who works in the fashion industry, said she and her pals started the blog as an outlet for their love of what the site calls "the best made-up meal of the day."

"We're passionate about brunching, and we feel that our blog is an excellent place to find out what's good," she said. "You could go to Yelp, but this is more personal."

The trio said brunch is the perfect meal, because it's social, leisurely and an affordable way to eat at swanky restaurants.

"[Brunch] allows you to try some places that are maybe too expensive for dinner," Broadwell said.

The restaurant-obsessed bloggers said they are also fans of the meal as a means to sample the Big Apple's seemingly endless food options.  

"There are so many places in the city, and brunching is one way to experience them," said Lee, a 29-year-old paralegal who lives in Chinatown.

With at least one new brunch review every week, the Brunch Gang ranks meals on a scale of one to five mimosas — judging based on the food, drinks, service and atmosphere.

A restaurant that scores five mimosas is "the Cristal of brunches," the site explains. "Drinks are flowing and the food is delicious."

At the other end of the spectrum, a score of only one mimosa means "the toast is burnt and you wish you went somewhere else."

The women said the most common brunch missteps they see are restaurants that offer too few brunch dishes, have no lunch items like burgers, and serve mimosas that contain more orange juice than they do champagne.

In the spirit of having an authentic brunch experience, the trio doesn't tell restaurants they'll be writing a review until they leave one of their business cards on the table before they leave.

Broadwell, a Seattle native, said the site is useful for finding the right brunch for every occasion.

"Every weekend is a different circumstance. If your best girlfriend were coming to town, you'd want a hip vibe, a good location, a lot of hype," she explained. "If you were just getting up and getting food, you'd want someplace nearby and more relaxed."

In that sense, the West Village is a brunch mecca, the bloggers said.

"There are just so many good brunch places here, around every corner," Iovieno noted.

The West 12th Street location of Smorgas Chef is one of their favorites in the neighborhood because of its "cool, Scandinavian design" and Swedish touches like fresh lingonberries in cocktails, Lee said.

They like the Hudson Street restaurant Philip Marie for its variety of dishes and top-notch service.

"They did something I'd never seen before," Iovieno said. "A brunch club punch card, which I loved."

The gang gave Good Restaurant, at 89 Greenwich Ave., top marks for its banana cream cheese-stuffed french toast, buttermilk biscuits and pear pecan crumbcake. They also like the Washington Street spot Barbuto because of its big portions, leisurely pace and breakfast pizza.

The women said they are looking forward to seasonal brunch offerings at this time of year.

"Fall is a big brunch time, with strong flavors like apple and pumpkin," said Iovieno, who grew up with Lee.

Lee said she and her dining companions want to see "brunch" catch on as a verb, the way she and the gang use it.

"Brunch on!" she exclaimed.