The Good Sort – Where Congee and Lattes Meet for Breakfast

Amanda Shapiro wrote . . . . . .

On a little wisp of a street in Manhattan’s Chinatown, across from a post office and a beauty salon, there’s a storefront marked by a blue flag and a name scrawled in neon: The Good Sort. On a recent morning, I leaned my head against a pink-striped wall and considered the genius of this new cafe’s theme: Congees and Australian lattes, all with colors that pop, no filter required.

But there’s more going on here than canny marketing. The Good Sort belongs to Jeff Lam, a Chinese-American restaurateur, and Eddy Buckingham, his Australian business partner. (The two also own the place next door, Chinese Tuxedo, which they opened in the fall.)

“Congee is something I ate a lot as a young child in China,” Lam told me. “It’s a very healthy, very traditional breakfast. I talked to Eddy about it, and we thought congee and Australian tea and coffee would make for a good combination in a cafe.”

That cafe, named after the Australian expression for a friend or likable person, is a place to visit in the morning, perhaps with your own “good sort.” It’s a place that knows who it’s talking to—the menu is dotted with ingredients like turmeric, blue algae, and activated charcoal, and everything’s vegan and gluten-free.

Congee, the rice porridge with different names and variations across Asia, is The Good Sort’s main event. Their four varieties are all cooked in almond milk, the way Lam grew up eating it in the Fujian province of southern China. His version is satisfyingly thick, closer to rice pudding than to soup, and made for oatmeal lovers (like me).

Turmeric congee topped with poached cranberries and coconut milk

Lam’s congee starts with cooked short-grain white rice pulsed in a food processor with a little water until it starts to form a ball. Then he combines the processed rice with almond milk and heats it over the stove. The turmeric congee is as warming as you expect, its spiciness cut with coconut cream. Another version comes pooled in maple cassia syrup and blanketed with granola made with pepitas and sunflower seeds. It’s a relief to find that nothing tastes much like virtue. If anything, the congees I tried bordered on dessert-for-breakfast. I imagine the fourth option—a tapioca-based bowl with coconut, lychee, pineapple, and puffed rice—might cross that border, and not in a bad way.

Now about those lattes. Served in tall glasses and topped with de rigueur foam art, they’re certainly fun to look at, and the barista will suggest which milk—almond, coconut, or Oatly oat—to pair with your chosen drink. But I’ll admit that the signature black latte—made with steamed oat milk, powdered charcoal, and black sesame seeds—left me thirsty for caffeine. Luckily, The Good Sort sells Vittoria coffee and espresso, too.

Like most places in the neighborhood, The Good Sort is almost comically small, just two tables along a banquette and a few stools at the bar. As word gets out, it’ll become harder to navigate the iPhone-photo-shoots in there. But, for now, breakfast at The Good Sort is a peaceful affair, with food that manages to be both perfectly comforting and perfectly on trend.

Source: Bon Appetit

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