Is Clinton St. Baking Company worth the queue?
New York City’s Clinton St. Baking Company, a bakery-cum-café is so popular it boasts long wait lines as early as 8.30am on weekends. So I was excited to hear it had opened its signature red doors over a month ago in Dubai.
The company first launched in 2001 as a small wholesale baker with only a few loyal neighbourhood customers lingering over coffee and muffins (hence the name). Over time it developed into a café but continued serving ‘breakfast for dinner’ with a focus on locally sourced produce, organic eggs and chickens, whilst making sauces and jams in-house.
After giving it a little time to settle in, my friends and I drive around Burj Views on a Friday until we spot the red doors. Then we drive around some more until we find parking. Happy to make it out of the heat, we open the door and stand still. The cosy diner-styled space is packed full of people, noise, and that delicious smell of goodies baking in the oven. The hostess asks us for our party size, name and phone number. That is how busy they are – they will call us once a table is free, which we’re told will require a 30 minute wait. We realise someone has come up with the brilliant idea of a counter serving coffee and pastries. A narrow bar with stools (all taken of course) is available for quick bites. My caffeine-deprived friend makes a beeline for the counter and orders a cappuccino proclaiming it good but too sweet. I’d guess it was the sugar she douses it with, rather than the barista’s fault though.
From our vantage point, we can see dishes popping out of the kitchen and it isn’t hard to guess their names from the two-page menu. French toast, American breakfast and lots of stacked pancakes, with a few sandwiches and even a steak at some point. I spot what I would have liked to order – a soft shell crab Benedict (only available on weekends) but I decide I can’t stomach the idea of a breakfast with legs. After a 45 minute wait, we’re told we are next in line – but only if we can produce the missing member of our party. Oh, she’s the one by the counter happily munching on a yoghurt muffin. We quickly squeeze into a newly vacated booth through a very tight space.
The order is taken by our friendly waiter. I have to say that despite the staff being understandably stressed out and overwhelmed, service is consistent and offered with a smile throughout our visit. Our drinks arrive quickly. My smooth latte, made with freshly roasted coffee, tastes delicious. The chocolate milkshake is entirely too dense, more like melted chocolate ice cream – but my friend loves it. After 20 very long minutes, our dishes arrive. My friends are ravenous so I restrict myself to trying two dishes, whilst they wolf theirs down.
The country breakfast is simple, comfort food. The scrambled eggs are very runny and way too buttery for my taste. The hash brown is fluffy, light and well-seasoned – more of a mash than a hash though. The chicken apple sausages are dry, whilst the huge buttermilk biscuit (a crusty round bread that looks like an English scone but is a long-time staple of southern US cuisine) is both soft and crumbly. The homemade pink raspberry jam is exquisite and tastes like freshly crushed raspberries – which trust me, tastes better than it sounds.
The brioche French toast is basically French toast (bread soaked in beaten eggs and fried) made with a couple of generous slices of brioche, topped with caramelised bananas and pecans. The warm maple butter served on the side makes for an interesting twist, adding a much-needed balance to the otherwise very sweet dish. Be warned, this is one heavy breakfast. I am only able to eat half a slice. You’ll need to mute the pleas of your waistline, but your taste buds will be eternally grateful.
While we would love to linger, we are acutely aware of customers lining up waiting hopefully, even desperately, for a table. We ask for the bill which isn’t cheap. Our choices, among the most reasonable on the menu, are between AED70 and 80, with a 30% mark up from the original New York menu – a bit much for what is essentially breakfast in a diner. I am not sure how much, if any of its produce is sourced locally, but given Clinton’s ethos perhaps that should be a priority to help reduce prices.
I’d planned on paying them another visit before writing this review – mainly to try the award-winning blueberry pancakes. I do visit the following weekend, but I am informed the wait would take 90 minutes. With no standing room and moved by the hunger-induced panic in my husband’s eyes, I decide one visit will have to be enough. I will probably return once the crowds have thinned, enabling me to actually have breakfast before lunchtime – and unless you can visit on a weekday, I would highly recommend you wait too. Until then, I’ll be in the gym burning off that delicious French toast.
What is you favourite comfort food? And how long would you wait in line to eat it?
So who’s our anon guest reviewer Reem? “I am a proud Emirati, although spending most of my childhood in the UK makes me a bit of a Brit at heart. As much as I loved it there, I enjoyed returning to witness a cosmopolitan Dubai be born. I’m married to a wonderfully traditional man – a rare breed. We spend our free time exploring our lovely city – new spots, hidden gems and all. At twenty something (don’t ask!), I’ve realised just how much I still have to discover, experience and enjoy.”