Loving/Hating Penelope

While Murray Hill isn’t exactly known for its culinary wonders, it does have its fare share of ethnic restaurants, whether it’s Indian in Curry Hill, Thai, Japanese, and even Turkish. What it does not have much of (at least to my knowledge) is restaurants with comfort food. Enter Penelope – a home-style restaurant/cafe that I have a love/hate feeling towards. I’ll explain.

This neighborhood doesn’t have a ton of great brunch options aside from diners. So, that is part of Penelope’s appeal. It’s a cute country-kitchen atmosphere that offers more creative, country-style takes on traditional brunch items: Nutella French Toast, Pumpkin Waffles, chicken apple sausage, and homemade baked goods like granola, scones, and muffins. Because their food is so tasty and something different than the norm, Penelope attracts a huge crowd for weekend brunch. I went with some family one time and we were told the wait would be about 45 minutes, and it ended up being 1:45. It’s just too much. And, as a result of being slammed for so many hours on end, the service becomes pretty terrible. Clearly, this area is starving for more places like this, but until that happens, it is either miss out on Penelope or put up with an incomprehensible wait and non-existent service.

Another option is to go for dinner, and while you’ll miss out on the delicious breakfast items, you’ll still get the down-home feel and some great comfort food. That’s just what I did with two friends. Even on a Tuesday night, there was still a wait, but this one was much more manageable…only 5 minutes.

The dinner menu runs the gambit from mac & cheese to chicken pot pie to sandwiches served on hand-made organic breads. I had been to Penelope for dinner before and loved two of the sandwiches I had gotten. So, I decided on the Nice Chicken Meatball sandwich. One of my friends was torn between that and the Grilled Three Cheese sandwich, so we decided to go halfsies. Didn’t take much arm-twisting on her part!

The chicken meatball sandwich was phenomenal. It’s served on a hollowed out baguette with melted fontina, tomato and pesto mayo. The chicken meatballs were such a treat since I don’t eat regular meatballs, and were so flavorful. The pesto mayo had such a great taste too and complimented the sandwich perfectly. The grilled cheese was really good too, how can you go wrong?! Only problem was it had gotten a little cold by time it was served, but other wise the three cheeses were a great combo. It normally comes on sourdough, but the waiter was happy to accommodate my friend’s request to have it on 7-grain instead. All of the sandwiches are served with homemade French fries that sprinkled with fresh herbs…so good.

So, now you see why I have a love/hate approach to this place. It’s a really cute restaurant that feels comforting almost all around…to your eyes, to your stomach, and to your wallet. Problem is it doesn’t feel comforting to wait an hour for a table. I definitely recommend trying Penelope, but avoiding it for brunch on the weekends, unless it’s a nice day and you don’t mind standing outside.

159 Lexington Avenue
@ 30th Street
Menu Pages listing


LaFleur said…
We went to the Barking Dog - seems like they have homey things like meatloaf. Not so much like Mom makes, but like Sysco makes. Sometimes that's ok. Very good cocktails though :)