American Madness

Intelligent Criticism in the Service of a Better Nation

AM at Brunch: A Casa Fox

Posted by Eric Hazard | 19 Comments

A Casa Fox

Josh, Matt and I (and the Misses Hazard and Matt) rendezvoused at the latest Lower East Side restaurant A Casa Fox for its inaugural brunch.

The brick-n-mortar realization of Melissa Fox’s long running catering business, A Casa Fox pulls from her rich cultural experience growing up in New York with an American father and Nicaraguan mother, and she has put together the tastiest brunch this side of Granada.

Her fried plantains rely more of the thinness of the original slice and less on the a double dose of frying. The hot sauce is made 50 feet to the left of your table. And the empanadas, which aren’t embarrassed of their flavor, and are baked, not fried. The result is a tender, flaky crust on the outside which does a good job of holding together succulent meat and cheese, vegetable and cheese or just cheese and cheese goodness.

A Casa FoxWe ordered at least a dozen of these addictive stuffed pastries and it is not a stretch to say Matt and I could have ordered a dozen more. While all of them were perfectly balanced and well done, we were particularly fond of the chorizo and manchega cheese and the pulled pork with caramelized onion.

Everything else on the menu was equally good. The tortilla chips are made on the premises and the guacamole, pico de gallo and black bean dips they were served with are, without exaggeration, the finest examples of these three respective sides one will find in New York.

Of the brunch entrées, the hands down favorite was the terrine with chorizo and aged manchega — a perfectly crispy-on-the-outside-gooey-in-the-middle fried egg laid on top of a spicy, but not too hot, chorizo and cheese combination. It was of little wonder when I asked Melissa where she got such good chorizo — and growing up in South Texas, I know good chorizo — and she told me she had them imported from Spain.

For dessert, we split a bowl of the fruit salad, which was a fresh assortment of melon, grape, peach and kiwi tossed in a simple syrup and mint concoction. Complementing the fruit salad was our order of Ille coffee. I was a little disappointed the coffee was shipped in from the cloud rainforests of Mount Mombacho, but no doubt with enough demand, Nicaragua’s finest shade grown coffee will soon find itself on the menu.

Right now, Melissa is sans liquor license, so it is a BYOB joint ($6 corkage fee, however). To help grease the skids of the Sunday morning drunks, A Casa Fox will prepare tasty, spicy, virgin Bloody Mary mix which paired nicely with the U’Luvka Vodka we brought (our review of the vodka will follow shortly).

This is the brunch experience the way it should be: in a tranquil environment, where conversation is more important than the speed at which a table is turned over. Adding to the excellent conversation was our luck in being seated at a large, but cozy, table with Melissa’s parents, who had come out to support her inaugural brunch.

Melissa’s mom and I became fast friends, as I was able to share the stories of the two-week trip Mrs. Hazard and I took to Nicaragua two years ago. After that, the Fox matriarch told me the family history of the decorations throughout the cozy and comfortable dining area and some of the family touches Melissa has put into her dishes.

Melissa was never far from the kitchen (which is huge and completely visible from the restaurant) but also very engaged in her parental visit, thus we were able to converse with her for a while.

The best way to sum up her gregarious personality is Rachel Ray, if Rach actually knew something about food and actually had something to contribute to the New York cuisine fabric beyond a few idiot catch phrases. At one point during our meal, she asked if we could top off her Bloody Mary drink with a little (actually a lot) of our vodka, and it didn’t seem the least bit out of place.

If I have to assign demerits, I give them to service, which was slow and inattentive. Matt was much more forgiving, saying the lack of attention probably had to do more with the fact that we spent 2 and ½ hours in a very relaxed brunch and the waiter saw no need to bother us much. (Josh concurs, and gives the waiter points for command of the menu and gravity-defying hair.)

Regardless, the entire crew had nothing but great things to say about the brunch experience. If you aren’t Nicaraguan when you enter A Casa Fox, but the time you leave, you’ll feel like you should’ve been.

Matt Says:
While Eric’s review is complimentary of the restaurant, and I know he tries to be even-handed in his writing, I feel no need to be. I bash where I see fit and compliment where it is deserved. The Bloody Mary mixture (made fresh) was pretty outstanding. There are a couple of folks who I brunch with (yes I used brunch as a verb there) who are frequently on the hunt for an awesome Bloody Mary. I had to stop myself from calling them from the table (because that would have been rude), and now they know anyway, so I expect they’ll be at the Fox House soon.

The empanadas were delicious (as I mentioned at the time, I am lucky A Casa Fox is not open for breakfast because I would stop by every morning on my way to work and thereby soon require new pants). I especially liked the pulled pork and caramelized onions (I was a little disappointed by the time the first one got around to me since someone had already eaten the center of it. Fortunately that wasn’t the case with the next two we got).

I definitely plan on heading back there for brunch (and since Melissa thought our U’luvka was too strong and appeared to be drinking Stoli, I know which vodka I will be bringing back with me), and can’t wait to try dinner. This is a great new addition to the LES food scene.

A Casa Fox: 173 Orchard Street. (212) 253-1900.

PS – Melissa is looking for a good line cook. If you, or someone you know, is looking for just such a gig, but sure and stop by to inquire.

Photos courtesy of Eric Hazard’s 12 -24mm f/4.0 wide angle lens.

a casa fox

A Casa Fox in New York


19 Responses to “AM at Brunch: A Casa Fox”

  1. sophie
    April 27th, 2008 @

    actually, you used brunch as a verb, not an adjective. just saying.

  2. Josh Friedlander
    April 28th, 2008 @

    Thanks Sophie…fixed.

    Just for that, Matt, you’re not invited to summer with us in Newport.

  3. Matt Cipriano
    April 28th, 2008 @

    I really need to go back to middle school… In fairness Josh proofed after I wrote… he missed it too.

  4. Josh Friedlander
    April 28th, 2008 @

    I did…I read right over it.

  5. Eric Hazard
    April 28th, 2008 @

    I think we can all blame our lack of editorial accumen on the opiate laced empanadas. It is the only explanation I have for why they were so addictive.

  6. Jason
    April 28th, 2008 @

    I caught it right away and was going to post about it until I saw that Sophie had already done it.

  7. Tom
    April 28th, 2008 @

    Sorry to disrupt all the chatter about grammar, but a question on the restaurant-

    I walked by the other day and saw their dinner menu which sounds pretty good, have any of you had a chance to try that out?

    How does it compare to other places in the neighborhood that have a pan-Latin flare (Oliva, Boca Chica, Rayuela, Mole, etc.)?

  8. Josh Friedlander
    April 28th, 2008 @

    We didn’t get a chance to sample dinner, though I plan to at the next opportunity. I imagine it is similarly excellent.

    Rayuela had a good brunch, but I would say it is a step beneath ACFox. I’ve not been to the other place, but perhaps Matt can answer to them.

  9. Matt Cipriano
    April 28th, 2008 @

    Hey Tom-

    Being an LES resident I have the benefit of having all of those places within 4 blocks of me (and, actually all within four blocks of each other now that I think about it.

    My comments aren’t exactly fair since I have only had dinner at both Mole and Boca Chica and brunch at Rayuela and Oliva (and ACFox for that matter, but as Josh mentioned, we are working to rectify this).

    Reading up on Mole, apparently it aims to be Oaxaca cuisine which places it firmly in Mexico, thus they make a good margarita (I recommend the Spicy Cucumber) and know their burritos, but it doesn’t really compare. Mole’s menu is much more of what you would expect from a Mexican restaurant then anything else.

    Boca Chica takes us from Mexico, over shoots Nicaragua and takes us to Brazil. You get a similar fried plantain there as well as a bean dip which has much more garlic and a bit more heat (I kind of like it a tad bit better, but drown anything in garlic and I am a fan), you get foods here that tend to be a bit more coastal and island in nature (like the cubano sandwich and the maduros) then you would find at ACFox.

    Oliva takes us across the ocean and is Spanish in nature instead of being Latin American. Honestly, while they do a decent brunch and are pretty easy to get into on the weekends (possibly due to the head splitting music) they really don’t hold a candle to ACFox).

    Rayuela is last on the list and as I recall they list their menu as being pan-Latin cuisine. From what I recall from our brunch there, they are probably the closest competitor of the 4 restaurants you named and really, they aren’t even in the same division when it comes to the food. ACFox, as Josh said is a step above.

    Melissa Fox told us she was shocked to have people waiting to get in during her first week open. Having eaten there, it isn’t much of a surprise. I recommend getting in there before it becomes the new hot spot to brunch on the LES.

    Of course, it is also the closest to me… So maybe I am a bit biased (plus none of the other owners have sat down to share vodka with me…). You know how I go, don’t agree with me? That’s cool, go ahead and try it for yourself.

    Enough from me for now

  10. Eric Hazard
    April 28th, 2008 @

    Tom, My two cents. Having spent some time in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Hondurous (four weeks in aggregate, edit for knowledge as you see fit), ACFox is the real deal. The food is flavorful a way Central American cuisine is just not done in the city. Her cuisine is the closest I have come to authentic Central American in the city. (Mexican is a whole other issue, as my bias is heavy toward the King Ranch, given that is where I grew up). Of the restaurants you listed, Reyulla is the only one I could comment on and it doesn’t hold a candle. Period.

  11. Jason
    April 29th, 2008 @

    But what I want to know is do those places know their adjectives from their verbs?

  12. Eric Hazard
    May 2nd, 2008 @

    I pointed my co-worker Frank to this place and he reported much awesomeness. Apparently they do a fried manchega that Frank reported as being “just wrong” because it was insanely good.

    And he agrees with my asertion that the empanadas must be laced with opiates. There is no other way to explain why they are so good and so addictive.

  13. Josh Friedlander
    May 2nd, 2008 @

    I had the manchega there on Wednesday night. It was incredible.

  14. Lizzie Graham
    May 12th, 2008 @

    Way to go Melissa!!! I don’t think we ever opened the oven door when we were in college, did we? I had no idea. I hope to get to NY soon, I’ll know where to dine.

  15. Congratulations to “A Casa Fox” Restaurant! « Bluenileblog’s Weblog
    June 9th, 2008 @

    [...] You can find a great review and pictures by fellow bloggers at American Maddness: [...]

  16. American Madness » Blog Archive » At The Bar: 10 Cane Rum
    June 23rd, 2008 @

    [...] it’s also pretty sizeable. So it was with much glee that we carried it down the street to A Casa Fox to add to Melissa’s already incredible mojito [...]

  17. ImemenselyRave
    December 24th, 2008 @

    Exactly Lizzie! Way to go Melissa! For anyone who hasn’t been to the restaurant, it is INSANELY amazing. Just saying. :)

  18. jess
    July 29th, 2009 @

    oh yay! finally a brunch place to go to LES. i rarely wander down there and after being away from nyc for a bit, i was so shocked that the scene changed so much.

    you should definitely submit some of your photos to their goal is to create a visual restaurant review site with a template similiar to that of tastespotting

  19. AT THE BAR: 10 CANE RUM | IsQuicker
    February 10th, 2013 @

    [...] it’s also pretty sizeable. So it was with much glee that we carried it down the street to A Casa Fox to add to Melissa’s already incredible mojito [...]

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