Bowery to Williamsburg, CBD

Bowery to Williamsburg is an American style restaurant located on Oliver Lane, just off Flinders Lane near Chin Chin and The Meatball and Wine Co. I decided to visit this restaurant after seeing it in the Talk of the Town section of Urbanspoon for so long, but was actually quite disappointed with the experience, mostly due to my friend becoming ill from her dish, and feeling a little ripped off with the extras we ordered.

The interior design of Bowery is quite simple, with one wall/stairs designed to look like a subway station, and a large blackboard covered another with the breakfast and lunch menus. The subway station design reflects the name of the restaurant; Bowery to Williamsburg are the names of two neighbourhoods in the state of New York, USA. The long communal table that takes up most of the interior gives it a homely feel, like how you would imagine a large family sitting down for a meal. There are also a number of small tables for two or three, and outside, tables for groups of up to six, decorated with large colourful umbrellas. The staff were generally quite friendly and attentive, coming over a few times before and during our meal and refilling our water. However, there was slight inconsistency as we didn't get an explanation to the items on the lunch menu, but the people sharing our table did, with descriptions to what each item was.

There's a good range to choose from on the breakfast menu, including bagels and shakshouka eggs, but there isn't a lot to choose from on the lunch menu, which doesn't start until 11am. However, the select few sandwiches are what Bowery is most well known for, and supposed to be quite authentic. I ordered The Reuben sandwich, with the Mac and Cheese side dish ($12 for the sandwich + $4 for sides), and my friends ordered a hot smoked salmon bagel and the bacon bagel from the breakfast menu. We also each ordered a drink; a Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate ($5), a flat white and a latte ($3.80 each). The peanut butter hot chocolate was really great, with a rich chocolate flavour and a subtle peanut butter taste that surprisingly didn't make the hot chocolate too sweet, and came with a Reese Buttercup on the side. The hot chocolate came in a really cool ceramic cup that looked as if it was a crushed paper cup, and the pepper on each table also came in a smaller version of the same cup. My friends thought the coffees were quite average for their price, but it did come with nice coffee art and a Hersheys Kisses on the side, which was nice. 

The Reuben sandwich consisted of corned beef brisket, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), Russian dressing and swiss cheese. In general, I felt the sandwich was quite salty, but perhaps that is how a Reuben is supposed to be. Despite all the thin slices of meat in the dish, it wasn't very heavy, which was surprising. In addition, the bread was lovely and soft, and didn't become soggy even with all the ingredients in it. The sauerkraut added a crunchy texture, and balanced out the salty flavours well with its more acidic tastes. The portion was extremely large for the price; I only ate half of it and felt quite full! The Mac and Cheese was extremely delicious, and came in a cute little jar. The top layer of cheese was slightly burnt and crispy, which gave it extra texture, and the mac and cheese itself didn't have too strong a cheese taste, going extremely well with the Reuben sandwich to balance out the salty flavours. The lunch sandwiches also come with pretzels and a pickle as sides, which makes the price all the more reasonable. The pretzels were really crunchy and flavoursome, and not too salty.

The bacon bagel also came with prune relish and monterey jack cheese, on a seeded bagel. The bagel itself was quite tough and dense, but the flavours itself were really good and not too salty. The prune relish wasn't too sweet, and balanced out the thick bacon quite well, and there was a good amount of bacon in the bagel itself. It would've been good to have more cheese on it though, as there was only a thin layer that could hardly be tasted, to the point where my friend even forgot there was supposed to be cheese in the bagel. In addition, the bagel itself felt quite small, compared to the average size of a bagel, and how much it cost.

The salmon bagel came with hot smoked salmon, scallion schmear and watercress, on a sesame bagel. The salmon had an extremely strong fish flavour that was a lot stronger than just the taste of raw fish, overpowering the rest of the flavours and almost to the point of being sickly. Hot in this case didn't mean that it was spicy, just that they weren't using cold smoked salmon. Now that we look back, this strong fish flavour was probably the cause of my friend become sick afterwards, as it appears that the fish was starting to go off. There was a very strong chive tasting mayo which was unexpected - it turns out this was the scallion schmear, but we had no idea what it was. This mayo was a little watery and kept dripping, making the bagel quite messy to eat. Like the bacon bagel, this bagel was also tough and dense, and uneven as well - the top half of the bagel was significantly smaller than the bottom. The egg was too big for the bagel and completely overcooked, and didn't really seem to fit in with the other ingredients. There was hardly any watercress in the dish, but what little amount was quite bitter in taste. Overall, this was quite a disappointing dish. 

Both of my friends ordered the mac and cheese side to go with their dish, and we assumed it would mean the dish also came with pretzels and the pickle, like my Reuben sandwich one did. However it didn't, and to pay $4 for a small jar of mac and cheese felt a bit overpriced, considering it came with the lunch menu for the same price but with two extra ingredients. It would've been nice when we were ordering to have been told by staff about this; we may have chosen another side dish or shared one between two.

For dessert, we ordered a New York Cheesecake to share, which came with cream on the side (you could also choose to have maple cream with it, though this is a lot sweeter). The dish is good to share between a few people as it is quite a heavy cake to have by yourself, and the slice is quite large. It would've been good to have more biscuit base to go with the cheesecake, though what amount they had was nice and crumbly, and broke easily when cut. The cake itself had a slightly sour tinge to it, but overall the flavours were good and strong, as you'd expect from a cheesecake. One downside to this dish was that the sign said it was $5 per slice, and yet we ended up paying $7 for the cake for some reason. The sign had disappeared at this stage, so we couldn't tell the staff member serving us that we saw it for $5. 

Overall, this was an average experience for me, but the particular downside of my friend getting sick for the whole day after would be enough to prevent me from visiting again. I say this because my friend hadn't eaten anything all day before coming here, and a little while after we left she began to fell unwell. I don't wish to accuse the cafe of having hygiene problems, but it was unfortunate we did have a bad experience there. In addition, the dishes weren't really what I had expected them to be, given the many rave reviews I had read. I most likely won't be visiting Bowery to Williamsburg again, as there as many other cafes around Melbourne I could try instead. 

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  1. It's a pretty big call to say this place gave your friend food poisoning, you can not know for sure and you can actually get in trouble stating so without hard evidence. You can do a lot of damage to somewhere for saying such things and if untrue it is very unfair. It is actually illegal to state so on such sights as Urbanspoon so i'd rethink these accusations. You could be accused of defamation which is very serious.

    1. I have adjusted the wording slightly and taken it back. However as I stated, my friend hadn't eaten anything all day before we came here and afterwards she felt ill. Whether it was due to something from the cafe I cannot be sure, but I thought that I should point it out.


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