Peels: Breakfast at Epiphany’s

  I love a good epiphany. Really, I do. About as much as I love good food.

As a little recap, an epiphany can be “an appearance or manifestation, esp. of a deity,” as well as “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”

One epiphany, of the latter definition: I truly adore Lowcountry style cookin’ and its culinary staples like shrimp and grits. When I first moved to NYC, finding prepared grits was like trying to find the proverbial needle. Or in this case, grit. There had always been the Pink Teacup. But, now. Well….

Thank God for Peels. Its open, airy second story dining experience with its sort of southern cuisine (the grits and pork products definitely help) and super-friendly wait staff is another epiphany.

P first had taken me to Peels on Halloween for birthday brunch and my friend Rachel treated me a week later for breakfast. (What?! Birthday celebrations are supposed to last at least one week….) So, the next epiphany? Peels’ shrimp and grits with tasso bacon bits in an ersatz red gravy? Black kale salad with yummy anchovy vinegrette? The thick hot chocolate with homemade vanilla marshmellow? The Stumptown iced coffee, created like no iced coffee I’d ever sipped before or since? Possibly, possibly. Or maybe it was the fact that the team behind Freeman’s Alley, the directing force behind this new Bowery restaurant, was taking my Northern backyard to the next level. And I loved it!

I’d already digested the review from New York mag, where Adam Platt slathers over how “the new restaurant is located on a tricked-up stretch of the Bowery, which is fast becoming lower Manhattan’s answer to the Champs-Élysées.” Hmmmm. Really? And I’m still perplexed by how The New York Times refers to Peels as being placed at “the axis of punk and prep.”

Punk I get. Peels IS at Joey Ramone Place, after all. But prep? Is that because it’s next to NYU dorms? Or right up the block from John Varvatos’ boutique, the one that lives in the old CBGB’s space? Or near southern-son Billy Reid’s all-Americana heritage men’s and women’s boutique? Or The Smile’s gustatorial cafe-slash-general store sensation? But is that PREP?

Then I realized what it was. Down home delicious yet filled with the ghosts of punk past, this place took me from the corner of punk and prep back to the corner of ~ well, possibly punk and prep, years ago when I was slumped up against the wall of Group Therapy, that infamous college dive just blocks from my dorm at USC, and asked the guy slumping next to me in his black leather jacket, hiding behind his bangs and black sunglasses, if he was Joey Ramone.

Indeed, he was.

Epiphany #1, first definition.

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