Eats at El Rey

El Rey neon sign

After a round of last-minute emails back and forth with my friend Queenie, I suddenly had brunch plans for Sunday. It’s been a long while since we last met and our schedules just hadn’t worked out for a meet-up earlier this year. There was an errand I needed to run in Chinatown that morning so she suggested a restaurant (that won’t be named here) in the general vicinity. We were planning to meet just before noon so lines to get into this restaurant were to be expected, but it was absolutely ridiculous to find out the wait time for a table for two was an hour.

Coffee bar and counter

Absolutely not. I don’t mind waiting for things at times but not for this. And yet, there were plenty of people who had put their names down and didn’t seem to mind standing outside in the cold to wait for a table. Since I had arrived early, I let Queenie know and met up with her at the train station and we went looking for a different restaurant. The night before, I did some research and came up with a list of back up places in case things didn’t work out but we didn’t use the list at all. Instead, she suggested a few places on the Lower East Side so we just began to walk over; there are plenty of good restaurants in that area so we were bound to find something decent. Where we ended up was El Rey Coffee Bar and Luncheonette.

El Rey is one of those places I’d always wanted to visit but promptly forgot about. It wasn’t even on my current “to visit” list (yes, I do have a list saved in Google Drive), so I’m glad that Queenie suggested it. And we were fortunate enough to arrive and snag two empty seats in the really tiny café.

Mugs of Tea

There aren’t many items on the lunch menu but most of the dishes looked pretty good. It was easy for me to decide what I wanted: the Avocado ‘Del Sur’ with poached eggs and flatbread. Queenie settled on the Kale Salad with egg and avocado, and we both ordered hot tea to go along with our food.

Avocado Del Sur with eggs and flatbread

Not only did my dish look pretty but it was so damn tasty! I especially loved the za’atar bread, especially when dipped into the runny yolks and chimichurri sauce on my plate. I almost considered ordering an extra side of the flatbread—that’s how much I liked it. And extra bonus points for being a healthy dish that sated my hunger but not leaving me overstuffed.

Kale Salad with egg and avocado

Queenie’s salad looked delicious too. The salad comes in two sizes and she chose the large. Several people who came into the café after us eyed her big bowl and ended up ordering it as well.

There was a display case on the counter full of baked goods that looked interesting. I didn’t get close enough to see the labels but it seemed to be mostly slices of tea cakes or pound cakes. The ironic thing is that by the time we finished eating and getting ready to leave, exactly an hour had passed since I put my name down at the other restaurant. And look what we accomplished in 60 minutes: crossing from the west to the east side, sitting down and finishing a meal. I’m kind of glad things turned out the way they did and I would very happily return to El Rey for lunch again.