Food & Drink

Happy hour plus food, minus five hours

A successful brunch requires four things: good atmosphere, good food, good deals and steady drinking. Unfortunately, this combo is rare, which is why Thrillist generally spends weekend afternoons curled up in a pool of our own sputum. Or we did, until we stumbled into Essex on the Lower East Side. While their prix fixe brunch runs the same $15 you'd spend on an omelet and juice at a softer restaurant, Essex's includes three strong cocktails. Better still, fresh rounds are served automatically after you've dusted the one before. Whether you're drinking to overcome a hangover, drown out a memory, or simply because you're physically incapable of stopping, the uninterrupted service ensures you'll have glass in hand throughout your meal. Essex also delivers on brunch's other, non-alcoholic essentials. The excellent Jewish-Latin fusions are worth the $15 on their own. We suggest the Mexican matzoh brie, similar to huevos rancheros. It's delicious, and it brings back fond memories of Miguel Moskowitz, the accountant we used while on the lam. As for atmosphere, Essex' twin lofted dining areas are sunny and airy, thanks to the many skylights and windows. You get all the benefits of sidewalk seating, minus the car horns, uncomfortable weather conditions, and high probability of being spotted by a passing ex-girlfriend, one-night stand or unsympathetic bookie. In the end, Essex is more like happy hour than brunch. But, unlike happy hour, Essex takes reservations. We suggest you make one -- it's always good to demonstrate a little responsibility before getting shamelessly hammered at noon.