If there is anything to love about the cold weather—and we’re mostly convinced that there is not—then it has to be the berets, or should we say, Bear-ets? Nothing says “New York City brunch” like a beret, and our favorite hipster headgear found itself right at home at Flat Top, a cute and cozy spot right in Columbia’s Morningside.
Flat Top is located at the corner of 121st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, which is a short walk from the north end of Columbia University’s main campus in Morningside Heights. If you’re taking the subway, the easiest and most direct route would be the 1 train to 116th Street and walk across the Columbia campus. Otherwise it’s likely reachable from the 125th Street stop on the 1, A, B, or C, but not as easy, given the ongoing construction and pedestrian detours around those areas.
Because of the ambient lighting from the various obscure fixtures and our seat from a corner table, photographs of the interior were difficult. However, based on the clientele, we can guarantee that there were enough vintage accent pieces, old books, and fake gourds to satisfy the average college hipster, particularly of the Columbia variety. For example, the foyer combined an old typewriter not unlike my dad’s, an antique lamp not unlike my hometown library’s, and an ancient music stand not unlike Apollo’s. (Ancient Greece is so vintage).
Their brunch menu is sparse, and when I asked the waitress about food allergies, she seemed confused but not necessarily concerned. She pointed out the kale salad, but when I told her that I was not a vegan or a vegetarian, she was not sure what to recommend. I asked her to please check with the kitchen about the simple egg plate, and when she came back, she said the kitchen was willing to do their best to accommodate the allergy. At these times, it is difficult to know whether or not to trust a restaurant, because there is the problem of trusting the server and the altogether entirely different problem of trusting the kitchen. The latter is more important, but sometimes the only information on the kitchen is through the server, who may or may not seem trustworthy. I decided to give Flat Top a chance—certainly they were accustomed to gluten-free requests enough to process dairy-and-peanut-free requests, plus I was really hungry.
The egg plate itself was generously portioned, with twice as much toast as Community and well arranged to give the illusion of more food. While I had to ask several times for jam, I was rewarded with thick preserves that spread nicely. Toasters are prohibited at school, and so toast at brunch is always an exciting feature. The bacon was crisp, the eggs were firm, and the potatoes were fully cooked, which I really appreciate, as many restaurants tend to undercook their eggs and their home fries. Unfortunately, the potatoes had the addition of bell peppers, which I find icky, but they were easy to remove and deflect to another plate.
Because we were seated at a corner table, it was difficult to get good service and the other diners seemed accustomed to a blasé waitstaff. Our waitress never checked about the allergies after she served our plates, and in fact, another server handled our water refills, and requests for condiments. The Brunch with Bear team prefers a more attentive and friendly staff, but perhaps now that we have been to Flat Top, we will be more upfront about asking for all our accommodations at the very beginning.
Flat Top’s pricing is comparable to that of Community or other Morningside brunch establishments, but because the service is slow and they are not enthusiastically accommodating of allergies, it may not be as comfortable an experience for Brunch with Bearees. However, it is very convenient in terms of location and heavily populated by Columbia students, so if you are on a campus tour or visiting near the area, it is not a bad place to hipster-watch and enjoy a leisurely meal! We encourage you to wear your best beret.