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Slaughter has a reasonable retort for the menu gripes: "We buy our produce from local farmers. Our breads come from Bloom Bakery. We use farm-fresh eggs. We're giving people really high quality, and we're not a la carting everyone. Our breakfasts include potatoes and toast, and our sandwiches come with a side dish."
The dishes served at the new Corner are probably the best in a quarter-century. Portions are generous, and the bananas Foster French toast — fluffy, egg-and-vanilla-bean-soaked brioche that tastes as light and comforting as the very best bread pudding in the city — is worth its $12 price tag. (There is, by the way, a brioche bread pudding on the dessert menu, but with cinnamon gelato instead of flambéed bananas.)
The sausage gravy on the Swoonin' Biscuits may skimp on the sausage, but the creamy gravy is seasoned with an artist's touch. And, yes, the Corner's plate of chicken and waffles isn't cheap, even by midtown standards, but the waffles' wedges are exquisitely light, and the chicken wing and thigh are satisfyingly crisp.
The eggs Benedict is offered with a choice of four toppings, but the best thing about this brunch standby is chef Sears' simple, silky hollandaise — the first I've eaten in months that doesn't taste like it started from a mix.
The 21st-century version of the Corner is also much more sensitive to vegetarian and gluten-free diets. However, Slaughter seemed surprised when I asked if the eggs were cooked on the same part of the flattop grill as, say, the ham or the salmon fillet (used in the grilled-salmon BLT, which is very good, although the bitter radicchio isn't an asset to the sandwich).
"That hasn't been an issue yet," she said, "but we'll discuss that with Natasha."
Last week, Slaughter, Pfeifer and Sears introduced dinner entrées to the menu, and Slaughter says they are "still tweaking that menu."
One dish that must never be tweaked: a first-rate burger, cooked to order and heaped with layers of boursin cheese, bacon jam and fried onion straws tucked between slices of toasted challah. It's messy to eat but delicious.
The savvy, cheery servers working here already seem to be on a first-name basis with many of the customers, including a couple of faces that I vaguely remember seeing in the 1980s — and they're eating the same dishes they did back then. It's a weird, culinary déjà vu, but the Corner was always a place where you expected the unexpected.
It was 1985 while dining at a window table at the Corner when I nearly inhaled my cigarette (you could still smoke in the dining room) after overhearing a man at the next table ask his dining companion: "Have you ever killed somebody?" Because I had a massive hangover, I didn't have the nerve — or the agility — to turn around to see who was sitting there.
The new Corner's tables don't seem to be as close together as in the old arrangement, so my eavesdropping days may be as far away as the combination of scrambled eggs and a smoke. But if the food at the improved Corner stays this rewarding, then eating will be the primary entertainment.