Monkey town, the restaurant/cinema/bar/lounge and now brunch spot on North 3rd Street in Williamsburg is a jumble of aesthetics. It’s located in a converted garage near the East River and home to a regular series of films and video art projected nightly on four screens. In the front dining room, low cushioned benches are set at stylish right angles in a loft-like room with high, high ceilings and big potted plants in a row by the windows. You might get a calm Japanese garden vibe until you take in the massive cardboard chandelier and the wall hanging made out of yarn. And then there’s the mural of the tropics at night and the neon lights in the hallway to the bathroom. Just where are we again? Oh yes, Williamsburg, where we like eye candy.
The weekend brunch menu is a similar tangle. Monkey Town is the only place in the city that I’ve come across migas, a Tex-Mex breakfast staple that I first met in Austin. Posters plastered around the ‘Burg have been touting “mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmigas” for weeks, and I was eager to try.
Monkey Town migas involve eggs scrambled with queso and strips of corn tortilla and served neatly on a plate with tomatillo salsa, refried beans, cubed potatoes and a side of soft flour tortillas. The eggs were fairly salty on their own, so best to pile all the ingredients together and create a breakfast taco concoction. It’s not as messily authentic as it was down in Texas, but I’ll take what I can get.
Not as flavorful were the Southern-influenced eggs and biscuit, studded with sausage. It’s hard to compete with the biscuit bakers up the street at Egg, and the Monkey Town version were doughy and topped with a dull white gravy. The Cardamon French toast also had a doughy center, but was saved by excellent edges. I thought the pulled pork sandwich would be another import with a Southern accent, but it was more nicely in tune with a Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich. The pork was topped with tangy pickled carrots and served on a brioche bun with a side of breakfast potatoes. All together, it may have been the most fully realized item on the menu.
Coffee was taken as the French do, in big bowls, and refilled often. Should all this coffee be the cause of a bathroom break halfway through your meal, you’re in luck. The three doors in the futurist back hallway each lead to a “Bathroom Sound Series” experience—90 second, custom-crafted sound collages that begin when you open the door. The bathroom I chose was also outfitted with a showerhead. I don’t know if it actually worked, but I do know that it made me chuckle.
Monkey Town’s website says they serve experimental cuisine and classic dishes from a country that doesn’t exist. I like that idea, although I wish some things could have been imported from reality. The spicy homemade ketchup was interesting, but my breakfast potatoes deserved, I think, a dose of Heinz. The country that doesn’t exist was also sparsely attended at noon on a Sunday. That all may be changing soon since there’s talk of movies programmed during the brunch hours, and (to be perfectly honest) the upscale movie room with its quirky programming is the biggest streetside draw. But on this lazy day, lacking exotic people-watching opportunities, my brunch-mates and I admired the decor and the region-hopping menu. And it seems we perhaps felt just a touch more arty and exotic ourselves, just by being there.
58 N. 3rd St. (betw. Wythe & Kent), Brooklyn