Front window, St. Helen Cafe
Damn fine hot chocolate
Baked goat cheese & pears with toast
The service is slow. We are unconcerned.
At Enid's, mere blocks away, we'd still be shifting weight on the corner with the cattle-call throng of hipsters in leather boots and vintage accessories. We'd wait for Gelles and watch jealously, hungrily, as group after group of brunchkateers hear the tables calling. They sashay through the velvet curtains, coffee cups sloshing. They will eat. You will wait.
Here at St. Helen, we are waiting on slow service, yes, but we are shocked to find ourselves sitting. We have coffee.
Gelles won't arrive for another 45 minutes. When he does materialize, the rest of us will have just received our lovingly baked dishes. He will look at our hot plates, look at his watch, order a coffee and bemoan his bad parking karma.
The coffee is good. The hot chocolate is surprisingly good. There is much in the way of toast. There is Nutella. The food is unrushed, unfussy and affectionately prepared in the way our mothers might, if they were professional cooks with a well-stocked kitchens and really good knives.
There is much wood here. One tries to remember what the space looked like before St. Helen Cafe opened. How much of the detail is old? How much is cleverly made to look old?
The decor — including the clean bird-and-axe crest — is so deftly tapped into the past year's sweetly creepy whitewashed sparrow-vine-and-deer trend, it gives off an uneasy vibe. One is almost scared to be seen in it, lest the fad crest, fall and froth into the shamefully passé during the few moments while our eggs cool.
Thankfully, the trend holds, the eggs satisfy, the lattes are lovely and the check is very reasonable. No mean feat in brunch-mad Sunday morning Williamsburg. Thank you, St. Helen, for small miracles.
St. Helen Cafe
150 Wythe Ave.
(Btwn 6th & 7th)