“So, like, you’re allergic to bread?” Of all the questions that I get about my allergies, I find these kinds of questions to be rather inane. I hate having to explain to people that I’m not allergic to the concept of “bread” but rather the dairy or nuts that are potentially in the bread. Is your bread dairy-free and peanut-free? Then I’m not allergic! (If you can’t figure this one out, just stop here.)

There are, of course, some foods that I consider categorically dangerous, foods like pizza that inherently contains gooey cheese as a necessary component. Pizza is a food that I had previously placed on the strict DO NOT EAT list, and I am largely okay with that. I may have been ostracized at sleepovers and Girl Scout meetings in my younger years, but as a fastidious avoider of pizza, I have also been immune to the bribery of several thousand campus clubs—“Meeting on Tuesday at 7 PM! FREE PIZZA!!!!!!”

As I said, though, I am technically just allergic to the cheese on pizza, and so if someone, somewhere made a cheeseless pizza, technically, I could eat it. A city like New York, which some would argue is the capital of pizza (sorry Naples), must have that somewhere, right? Behold, the Brunch with Bear team has found the impossible: allergy-friendly pizza!

nizza (front)

Amidst the dirt and danger of Hell’s Kitchen and New York’s Theater District stands Nizza, right on 9th Avenue, between 44th and 45th Streets, just a short walk from the 42nd Street – Times Square station on the 1, 2, 3, 7, A, C, E, N, Q, R, and S trains. It is close to most Broadway theaters, and is a great place to go for your pre-theatre dinner!

nizza (restaurant)

The inside of Nizza is pretty standard for a New York restaurant—cute décor, nice ambience, low lighting. The walls are lined with colorful bottles and the bar features prominently as an entire wall of the establishment. Outdoor seating is an option during the warmer months, but do take into account the crowd and traffic of 9th Avenue (read: cigarette smoke and truckers honking constantly).

nizza (menu)

The waitstaff at Nizza is a tad blasé but don’t let that stop you from being direct. They were able to accommodate the dairy and peanut allergy easily, and did not hesitate to double and triple check when I had questions. They seem very used to accommodating special requests, particularly food allergies. One of the things that our waitress checked on was the bread, a rosemary and olive oil focaccia sort of bread, which was very olive-oily but very delicious. I don’t know if we’ve gone over this before but I love bread so Nizza gets extra points for extra bread.

nizza (bread)

The pizza crust at Nizza, according to our waitress, is completely dairy-free. (For our non-gluten friends, I am told they have many gluten-free options as well, but obviously we cannot speak of those with any expertise.) Seeing as this blog is about brunch, I ordered the brunch pizza, the pizza uova, with eggs, pancetta, cherry tomatoes, and arugula.

nizza (pizza uova)

At this point, I might just start to cheer, because pizza! As I mentioned earlier, I really have no reference point for pizza but the idea of a brunch pizza is just genius. The sauce was not overwhelming, and the crust was puffy enough to accommodate the pile of ingredients. The eggs were cooked firmly enough that they did not go dripping over everything, and the pancetta and tomatoes kept it full of flavor. Altogether, the pizza encompassed some of my favorite things—arugula! arugula!—and combined them in a way that was both filling and thrilling! Pizza! What a concept!

nizza (bear)

If any campus clubs were offering me a free Nizza pizza uova, I would likely hand over my email address, phone number, and possibly several volunteer hours to get that pizza. While no one else in the restaurant was as excited as I was about the idea of eating pizza, they seemed to be enjoying the pleasant atmosphere. The clientele at Nizza was mostly just trendy adults eating pizza, but a few young families were also enjoying themselves. As I said before, Nizza is a great pre-theatre venue, and also a great casual lunch spot if you can handle the madness of Midtown.

nizza (to-go box)

The pizza portion was enough food for two people, so I kept half and took it home for lunch the next day. It was very easy to reheat in the oven, top with a little fresh arugula, and enjoy over a Netflix night. If it were a little closer to campus, and a little farther from Times Square, I would easily head back to Nizza often!

New York is a city of food and possibility, and unfortunately when I first came to live here that was a more dangerous combination than I would have liked. Thanks to restaurants like Nizza, New York has retained its potential for adventure—the good kind—and we can’t wait to have many, many more.

Café Gitane

Happy Labor Day everyone! As the summer season comes to a close, so does the season of wearing crisp whites and nautical stripes. So for one last summer weekend, we are taking you to Café Gitane at the Jane, where the legends of sailors and shipmen live on!

New York is a city full of secrets and among those secrets are darling little cafés tucked into all sort of pockets and hollows throughout Gotham. This particular café has two locations, but one of them is the elusive Jane Hotel. Originally a hotel for sailors, the Jane Hotel was apparently the refuge site for survivors of the Titanic, and has since functioned as an off-Broadway theatre and a ballroom. Now a New York City landmark, the Jane Hotel is still full of secrets, including the adorable Café Gitane.


Enter the grand entrance of the Jane Hotel on far corner of Jane Street and West Street, near the Pier 51 playground on the Hudson River Park. There you will find a French-Moroccan-themed establishment boasting accented waitresses in perfectly pressed uniforms and a bohemian décor that is reminiscent of both the Epcot Center at Disneyworld and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!. The closest subway stations are the 14th Street station on the 1, 2, or 3 trains, or the 8th Avenue stop on the L train. Café Gitane also has another location on Mott Street, though not attached to a historic hotel.


The menu is extensive and features French-Mediterranean fare at generally affordable prices. Their most popular item is an avocado toast, which has seen rising popularity since the settlement of California and the onset of celebrity lifestyle blogs. Unfortunately, according to our waitress, their French baguette does indeed contain milk, but she recommended a couple salads as well as their baked eggs.


The baked eggs were well-presented and topped with a generous heaping of tomato sauce and basil. On the side came a couple pieces of French bread, even though the waitress had mentioned the bread had dairy in it. I will admit, I was curious to see if she was telling the truth, as French baguettes are traditionally dairy-free. Alas, I will reveal that the waitress was right—one piece of French bread in, and my throat was already slightly itchy. The eggs themselves were runny and warm, and went well with the soupy tomato sauce. A large serving—three eggs!—was perfect for sharing, and certainly a complete breakfast.


Café Gitane has a family-friendly atmosphere and there were many young children with their scooters and stuffed animals, mostly sleeping while their parents finished sharing gossip and catching up. The high ceilings kept the restaurant airy but not drafty, and the many eclectic decorative elements made great conversation pieces.


Café Gitane, sadly, does not have enough selection to contend as a regular brunch option for Brunch with Bearees, but they do have a full bar, classic cocktails, and a building full of history that may be more conducive to a night out in one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Once a meeting place for salty seadogs and the artistic elite, the Jane Hotel and Café Gitane now maintain a quaint and quiet atmosphere for reminiscing and rediscovery.


Nothing says a perfect summer brunch like an open-air restaurant and some good huevos rancheros, so today we are taking a trip downtown to Edward’s for some sunshine and simple new American brunch. Edward’s, a TriBeCa staple, is a charming sidewalk café that boasts a family-friendly atmosphere as well as a full bar. Whatever you’re looking for this weekend, Edward’s has the brunch for you.

edward's (sidewalk)

Located on Broadway between Duane Street and Thomas Street, Edward’s is an easy walk from either the Franklin Street station on the 1 train or the Chambers Street station on the 1, 2, and 3 trains. Edward’s is also near the Hudson River Park, which is the perfect place for a weekend stroll before or after brunch.

When we swung by Edward’s on a Saturday afternoon, the sidewalk café was already filled with people sipping mimosas and munching their brunch. Consequently, we sat at the bar, which still had lots of natural lighting and a great view of the entire restaurant. (Of course, sitting at the bar means not a lot of places to put your bags, so don’t bring your whole life in your tote, especially if you also have to carry a stuffed bear, ahem.)

edward's (bar)

Our server was the bartender himself, and while he winced when I told him that I was allergic to butter, he recovered quickly and offered up any egg dish. I asked about the huevos rancheros and he nodded vigorously. “Oh, yes, huevos rancheros, yes, yes, we can definitely do that.” He ran to the kitchen to double check, and there seemed to be no problem.

edward's (menu)

For the uninitiated, huevos rancheros are a classic breakfast plate, with eggs (huevos), tortillas, rice, beans, and whatever else restaurants like to put on them, or consequently, whatever else you have in your refrigerator. I think of huevos rancheros like fried rice—it’s what you make the day after you’ve made tacos, and you throw all the ingredients together again with some eggs and call it breakfast. The eggs are classically served over easy, so if you like runny eggs but can’t eat Hollandaise, this breakfast dish is a great one!

edward's (food)

At Edward’s, huevos rancheros, though elegantly plated, is remarkably simple: black beans and tomato sauce, with a crispy tortilla, eggs, and diced tomatoes as a garnish. What started off as a fork-and-knife breakfast quickly became a spoon breakfast, but the simplicity allowed for the main ingredients to be powerful and complement each other fully. The runny eggs softened the crispy tortilla, and the tomatoes and the sauce gave a sweetness to the salty, hearty beans. Although there was not many ingredients on the plate, and we would have certainly eaten a larger portion, we appreciated that Edward’s was able to preserve a classic dish with integrity and respect to its simplicity, unlike so many restaurants who constantly try to reinvent things.

edward's (restaurant)

The ambience at Edward’s is friendly, and the volume level was low enough that we were able to converse sitting sideways at a bar, but not so soft that we felt uncomfortable discussing our personal lives. The bartender was attentive and kept our drinks filled and checked in about the allergies again after we started eating. He even let us split our bill three ways on three different cards! (Bless that man.)

edward's (matches)

New York can be overwhelming with its trends, especially the foodie ones, and it’s often frustrating to find a simple place to grab brunch and catch up without having to wait in lines for the hottest new place, or sift through the menu to find something where you recognize all the ingredients listed. Welcome to Edward’s, where you can embrace the romance of summer in New York and promptly ignore the rest. They even have old-school matchbooks with their logo printed on it, a throwback to the days when restaurants still did that!

edward's (bear)

Edward’s is the New York that you hope to find as a New Yorker—not the dazzling danger of Times Square and Rockefeller, but the quiet New York that you can tuck in your back pocket like a matchbook and keep for another sunny weekend.

L’Arte del Gelato

Happy National Ice Cream Day, a perfect ice cream Sunday to mark the midst of summer! July is actually National Ice Cream Month and last year we celebrated by attending the Brooklyn Flea Crème de la Crème Ice Cream Bonanza! If you’re able and willing to slog through the heat of the L train to visit this year’s festival, by all means, we recommend it! If, however, you’d like to stay on the island in an air-conditioned facility (we don’t blame you!), might we suggest L’Arte del Gelato in Chelsea Market?l'arte del gelato (chelsea market)

Chelsea Market is a little bit like the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco: a hipster market in a historical building. You can buy all your gift cheeses and goat milk soaps among the various bakeries and bruncheries, and all the while marveling at the incredible variety of people that stream like fish through the narrow hallway. The crowds are not totally ideal for a hot summer day—nothing is more unpleasant than the sweat of strangers—but if you can handle it for the sake of ice cream Sundays, then a trip to L’Arte del Gelato may be worth it!

Chelsea Market (and L’Arte del Gelato) spans an entire block in Chelsea between 15th and 16th Streets, with an entrance on 9th Avenue. The closest subway stations are the 8th Avenue station on the L train, or 18th Street on the 1 train. Chelsea Market is also a short walk from the 14th Street station on the 1, 2, 3, A, C, or E trains.

l'arte del gelato (counter)

L’Arte del Gelato is a family-owned Sicilian gelateria inspired by the American dream of ice cream. With flavors listed in the original Italian, L’Arte del Gelato reminds customers of its authenticity and heritage. The creative gelato flavors are dictated by the season, as fresh ingredients are the key to well-made gelato. Although traditional gelati contain a lot milk and cream, all the sorbetti listed at L’Arte del Gelato is both dairy-free and nut-free! As always, ask your server to please wash the scoop extra, and L’Arte del Gelato is happy to oblige.

l'arte del gelato (gelato)

I chose the pera (pear) and the limone arancia (lemon and orange) flavors in a regular sugar cone. Pear is a rare fruit, particularly in New York, and reminds me of juicy, buttery holiday pears. The sweet, soft pera scoop had the grainy fruit texture that I love and balanced perfectly against the tang of the citrus flavors in the limone arancia. The lemon and orange flavors were reminiscent of a sweet, summer drink, and perfectly refreshing as we fought throngs of people to get out of Chelsea Market.

l'arte del gelato (bear)

L’Arte del Gelato supplements their permanent residence in Chelsea Market with seasonal carts during the summer at both the High Line and Lincoln Center Plaza. Whether you are Instagramming flowers from the High Line or jumping in fountains at Lincoln Center, be sure to grab a refreshing scoop at L’Arte del Gelato to complete your perfect ice cream Sunday and celebrate National Ice Cream Month!

Umami Burger

Happy American Independence Day to all you Brunch with Bearees! We love nothing more than parades, fireworks, and star-spangled pants and hope that your long weekend is filled with all of the above and more. Today we bring you to Umami Burger, to remind ourselves of the innovation and creativity that inspired the formation of this country, as well as the hamburgers and French fries that sustain it today.

umami burger (logo)

One of the things that neuroscience majors such as myself learn over and over again are the five tastes that human tongues can detect. Perhaps the most commonly known ones are sweet, salty, bitter, and sour—but a taste with which you may not be familiar is known as umami. The Japanese word for “delicious,” umami describes the savory taste of meat, mushrooms, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and a multitude of other foods that are often sources of proteins. Capitalizing on this taste is the hip chain Umami Burger, which started in my hometown of Los Angeles but has since branched out to Greenwich Village, TriBeCa, and Williamsburg.

umami burger (awning)

On a sunny spring visit to NYU’s Shakespeare in the Square, we stopped by Umami Burger for a quick lunch on a blustery day. Located on 6th Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets, Umami Burger is a short walk away from the iconic Washington Square Park. The closest subway stops are the W 4 station on the A, B, C, D, E, F, and M trains, the Christopher Street – Sheridan Street station on the 1 train, or the Astor Place station on the 6 train. As aforementioned, there are also locations in TriBeCa and Williamsburg.

umami burger (exterior)

We were seated by the window in an empty upstairs section, and immediately we noticed the aggressively thumping club music—at 11:30 in the morning. Our waiter came over and walked us through the menu and I asked him about my food allergies to dairy and to peanuts. He pointed out several gluten-free menu on the items, but was unsure about the dairy and peanut situation. He pointed out that sometimes the buns have honey, which is not vegan, but I explained to him that I actually eat meat, but not dairy products. He seemed confused, so we started off with an order of maple bacon fries while he checked on the buns with the kitchen.

umami burger (restaurant)

When he came back with information in the buns, he said that the buns indeed had dairy in them, and contained honey. The way he kept repeating the information made me think that he thought I was allergic to honey, to which I said that I was actually only allergic to dairy. The miscommunication was not a good omen for the rest of the meal, as it made me suspicious of our waiter, as well as disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to eat an actual burger at a burger place. I decided to just order the classic umami burger without the parmesan frico, or a fried disc of parmesan cheese, and, of course, without the bun. The waiter mentioned that the restaurant really discouraged substitutions or changes to the menu, “but in your case, I guess we have to make the exception.” So far, not a great start for Umami Burger, though a very popular chain in the hipster-foodie-land of Los Angeles, and likely to be a big hit in New York City.

umami burger (fries)

The maple bacon fries were rich in flavor, although I’m not sure that I would necessarily call the flavor umami so much as just decadent. Pan-fried with a maple syrup glaze, these sweet potato fries were also tossed with generous “bacon lardons,” which is a fancy French way of saying thick chunks of bacon. The “group” serving may not seem that large, but because of the intense flavor, it was certainly enough for three people. We also ordered regular fries, which were just as crispy and salty as you would hope. Honestly, these might have been the best thing on the menu.

umami burger (burger)

The classic umami burger was certainly a disappointment. We hail from the land of In-N-Out Burger so we know a thing or two about simple hamburgers. Unfortunately, Umami Burger is anything but simple. Served almost rare, the meat was juicy and bursting with strange tangy flavors that seemed misplaced—although maybe that is just what raw meat tastes like. The lack of a bun was then a double disappointment, as the whole thing fell apart almost immediately after I speared it with my fork. Let’s just say that wrapping rare meat in lettuce is not a good substitute for not having any bread that accommodates dietary restrictions. In addition, the house made ketchup did not have the same sweet tomato flavor of Heinz, or even other homemade ketchups. It had a sharp vinegar flavor that left a sour aftertaste, which was only heightened by the onions. In addition there were tomatoes and mushrooms in the mix, to confuse my tastebuds even more The entire experience—bitter, sour, tangy, and not a bit umami—drove me to drink a lot of water, which is probably good, and eat a lot of fries, which is probably bad.

The flavors were so heavy and so eclectic that it reminded me of the time my grandmother put apples, orange juice, and Japanese cucumbers in a blender and made me drink the whole thing—the textures, the flavors, the concepts were good in her mind, but definitely did not work out in the blender. And the umami burger did not work for us on the plate.

umami burger (bear)

Umami Burger is also a great deal more expensive than your average fast food burger, with each burger upwards of ten dollars and all fries, even regular ones, are extra. The crowd at Umami Burger was nonexistent, as we were seated first in an empty upstairs room with only the bartender for company, and later were joined by only a few couples, hopefully not on first dates.

Of course, this reaction is one of personal taste rather than relating allergies, so it is naturally necessary to report that we suffered no allergic reaction or even the hint of side effects from Umami Burger. However, my experience with food allergies has taught me that sometimes the simpler foods are often the safest and the most comfortable. Umami Burger was certainly an exercise in discomfort, and we will likely not return again soon.

Although America may have been founded by rakish youths who wanted to settle a new world of freedom and hamburgers, it is also a country of tradition and loyalty so we will exercise the right to freedom of hamburger choice and stick to our regular hamburgers with ketchup optional. And what a perfect day for those!