June 18, 2011

Brunch at Sabrina's Cafe: Worth the Wait?

For as long as we've lived in Philadelphia, Sabrina's Cafe has had the reputation of offering the best brunch around town. After completing the ODDyssey Half Marathon a few Sundays ago, I finally had the chance to check it out.

The regular menu has all the usual egg/bagel/fruit cup options, plus some really attractive frittatas, omelets and signature items like Stuffed Challah French Toast (farmer's cream cheese, bananas and vanilla bean syrup - sweet heaven!). There are also burgers, vegetarian options and a handful of salads and sandwiches. Every plate going past our table looked incredible.

My running partner went with the frittata of bleu cheese, sauteed spinach, mushrooms and bacon. She thought it was excellent but estimated it had 5-6 eggs in it, and was therefore way too big for her to eat more than half. We didn't think it would taste too good as a leftover so it was a bummer to waste all that food.

Inside one room of Sabrina's Cafe
You have to appreciate the creativity behind Sabrina's. It's an adorable maze of tiny, artsy rooms, plus every coffee mug is different - something I would totally copy if I ever owned a cafe.

I imagine with all the small rooms it would be tough to get a table for a large group but supposedly you call ahead so that might help your cause. 

There are all sorts of random paintings, mosaics, chalk drawings and more on the walls that make for good conversation pieces, too.

Speaking of creativity, my visit happen to be the day after the so-called "Rapture" was set to end the world. Naturally, the long list of specials for the weekend were all themed accordingly: The Gate of Oblivion Eggs Benedict Florentine, The Under Water Zombie Omelet, Apocalypse Wow! Stuffed French Toast, etc. Each combined an extraordinary set of ingredients to sound so delicious it was tough to decide what to eat. Of course the special options change but I'm confident they'll consistently have really interesting and tasty dishes,with fun-themed names.

Spinach, bleu cheese frittata and parmesean fries
Dr. Doomsday shortrib sandwich

I went with the Dr. Doomsday Sandwich, with Dr. Pepper-braised shortrib, roasted tri bell peppers, sliced apple, melted Fontina cheese and caramelized onion-roasted garlic horseradish sauce on rye toast. Amazing! And unique - never had apples on a sandwich like this, but between that, the peppers and the sauce it was a really tasty and unique flavor. The sandwich was also a very eatable size. I never would have finished anything larger and it would have been a shame to waste more food.

The only part I wasn't crazy about was the cheddar-herb grit fries. At an inch thick they looked more like french toast sticks but tasted kinda funny. I learned I'm not a fan of the consistency of grits, or the flavor I guess, so these "fries" just weren't my thing. Sweet potato fries at the table next to us made me jealous, and I enjoyed picking at my friend's parmesan fries, so I'd recommend substituting for either.

Mini champagne bottles, just right!
Lastly, don't forget to pack some champagne and order a glass or pitcher of OJ for a lovely boozy brunch, as Sabrina's is a BYOB.

Prices for the regular menu items aren't bad. Omelets run $8.00 - $9.00 and basic french toast is $7.29. The specials get up there though. My Dr. Doomsday was $12.95, which is a little higher than you'd pay for a sandwich at a lot of pubs and other cafes. Other specials ranged from $10.95 - $13.50. Between food, OJ for mimosas, tax and tip, my friend and I split the bill at $18 each - not terrible for a city brunch but a little rough on someone who is more used to just grabbing a bagel for a few dollars.

If you've heard about Sabrina's, you've probably also heard there is a long wait. Yup, it's true. The day I went was optimal for Sabrina's because I was a) in pain from running 13.1 miles and b) not worried about accomplishing anything else for the rest of the day, so sitting on the curb for 50 minutes waiting to get in wasn't all that bad. Not sure I'd go often and deal with that wait, but in my opinion it's worth it the first time or for special occasions (just make sure you are with patient people). The food was very good and Sabrina's gives you a number of different options than a typical brunch menu, plus you can't not feel like you're living the super-chill-urban-hipster dream in that atmosphere.

Anyone have tips for skirting around the wait? You agree it's worth it? I hear Morning Glory, just two blocks away, usually has a shorter wait and is a little cheaper. Any comparisons on the food? Need to try that next.

Crowd waits outside Sabrina's Cafe. I'd hate to parallel park in that spot.

Sabrina's Cafe on Urbanspoon


Hilary said...

I also love Sabrina's and its my go to brunch place for out of town guests. I've been to the Morning Glory diner as well and it has a similar hipster vibe. The menu is a little more conventional with egg dishes, pancakes, french toast, and few different choices thrown in. In the nice weather they have an outdoor seating area. I would say its worth checking out but not to expect the line to be any shorter in the winter, its tiny!

A and J said...

Must comment on the greatness that is Sabrina's for dinner. So much less crowded, but still super good food and huge portions for cheap. It's my little secret.. that I'm slowly sharing to the world.

Kristy said...

Good tips. I'd aim for Morning Glory to sit outside. At Sabrina's it seemed like if you sat outside you might have people standing around your table the whole time waiting for theirs. Will keep Sabrina's on the list for dinner too!

hungry crasian said...

i would tell you to go to Honey's Sit n Eat but I see you already reviewed and Loved IT!! I've been there many many times, ordered something different every time and everything was amazing!! Also, Carmen's Country Kitchen (http://www.yelp.com/biz/carmans-country-kitchen-philadelphia) Small place, but totally worth the wait and now that it's warm, you can have a table on the back of her pickup truck!! just make sure you keep your place in line, those hipsters like to butt in front of you.

Chris said...

No. I wouldn't wait. Sabrinas is alright. As someone else said, HIPSTERS EVERYWHERE!! Enough to drive you mad. No thank you.

For about the same price, less of a line and just as good food, Famous 4th st. is my choice. That is a place I love. More simplified then Sabrina's, but still great.

Gotta say, MAN, I love seeing all the complaints about hipsters!! Send them back to NY or SF. Get them out of our hardworking city. They really are self centered little brats. Don't think about anyone else but themselves and their skinny jeans.

Claire said...

My vote for brunch is McCrossen's - only about 2 blocks away from Sabrina's (on 20th between Spring Garden and Hamilton). For $20, you can choose an entree and also drink as many bloody marys or mimosas as your heart desires. And the food is good (though the portions nowhere near as monstrous as those at Sabrina's)! Plus, rarely is there a wait!

Casey Reynolds said...

The cheddar polenta fries at Sabrina's are amazing, if didn't like them, you are insane. The very famous homefries with carmalized onions, which you didn't even mention, are also amazing. Either of them makes a meal there worth the wait.

mike said...

For brunch, my choice is always Cafe
Lift(13th & Buttonwood)...the food is always spot on, the service is friendly & efficient and the price is
hard to beat! This one's a keeper.

Anonymous said...

Sabrina's is my fav over Morning Glory, just because I prefer their menu. Also, I remember when it opened so long ago, who knew it would last and would last long enough to open up a nother shop...mind you, the South Philly restaurant is smaller than it's museum area sister, but it's still better. Bella Vista Omelet. All the way! :)

Kristy said...

Thanks for the ideas guys. Definitely need to try Carmen's. I have a group of girls to entertain next Friday for brunch so I'm thinking we'll go there and assume there won't be such a wait? (don't worry, they'll appreciate the raunchiness of it, too)

This McCrossen's all-you-can-drink mimosas deal is also calling my name! [sigh] I need more weekends in my life.

yahoo.com said...

ssabrina' cafe is for the doufus that can't drive to a better place. such pete' clown house in frankford. the best breakfast in phila.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have been eating at Sabrina's since it opened. Also at the one on Callowhill. Great for every meal. Dinners are spectacular, now mainly at Callowhill, and reasonably priced. And the owner, Robert, is a gem.

From Pain To Personal Gain said...

Never had a bad meal at Sabrina's. I highly recommwend this place for breakfast and dinner. Stuffed challah is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Go to Carman's with a friend. One person should get something sweet (Pancakes or Challah french toast), the other get one of the two savory choices (the omelette or the wild card choice that Carman selects) and then share.

There are only 4 choices each week. If I had one last meal it would be brunch at the counter at Carman's with the Sunday New York Times.


Anonymous said...

Cafe Estelle...another winner (but long wait). Very imaginative dishes in addition to the "usual." BYOB for their bloody mary bar.

Paul E. Johnson said...

Great review. Sabrina's has been a staple for us since we were dating. Always worth the wait...just harder with a 1 year old.