A Battle Over the Power Breakfast

It was a time of much strife, we'll be telling our grandchildren many years hence of this moment in our New York City history. It was brunch. It was ice cream. It was chicken. And then it was breakfast.

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It was a time of much strife, we'll be telling our grandchildren many years hence of this moment in our New York City history. It was brunch. It was ice cream. It was chicken. And then it was breakfast. The latest trend-story-war-about-town is the one between hoteliers over who will claim ownership of the "city's reigning power breakfast." The New York Post's Beth Landman explains it comes down to a few key players (and sadly, approximately zero Jimmy Dean sausage patties. Why are those things so delicious?). The battle is on between hotelier Jonathan Tisch, whose Loews Regency—since 1975, the cream of the wheat of breakfast spots—is shutting down for an entire year in January for a renovation. This means his breakfast feeders may go elsewhere. And because it's Manhattan, there are always elsewheres ...

For instance: The Pierre Hotel's new Sirio, opening tomorrow, featuring "blueberry pancakes, eggs Benedict and frittata mozzarella" to lure regulars who'd otherwise be dining at the Regency. You know, Al Sharpton, Andrew Cuomo, Les Moonves, etc. There's Geoffrey Zakarian's the Lambs Club, for the Conde set. Or the Four Seasons, the owners of which are finally planning, after years of deliberating, to start offering breakfast, given the egg in the hole in the market. Then there's Michaels, long a meeting spot for the who's who of waffle-eating, and secondary waffle-eating:

“I have some customers that have two breakfasts — one meeting after another,” says [owner Michael] McCarty. “People say they do more business over breakfast than in a full day at the office. And chance meetings can turn into deals — if you could see the crowd and watch the dynamic of the room, it’s astounding.’’

Downtown hoteliers are getting into the breakfast act, too, in a way that makes one near nostalgic for the old days of laid-back, leisurely brunches. When did we all start getting up so early, with so much drive and ambition in our hearts? There's the Hotel Americano in Chelsea, which caters to "the gallery crowd" and the "hungry parent" crowd. Landman writes, “'All the parents whose kids are at the new Avenues school, where Suri Cruise goes, come here after they drop off their children,' says Americano owner Carlos Couturier."

Tisch, feeling the oatmeal drip steadily through his fingertips over the next year of closure, has a backup plan, a "pop-up power breakfast" at Michael Stillman’s Park Avenue Winter to take the place of the Regency breakfast during its renovation time. This does not mean just moving over some special recipes or a few sets of plates and water glasses. There is a seating chart, "meticulously organized like a VIP wedding." There are lists of morning preferences, "the exact right teas and exact right toast." (Al Sharpton, for instance, enjoys a particular green tea—they will have that, but they will provide more: "special seasonal blends," for instance). Maitre d' Lee Wynn and a Regency doorman will be on hand to comfort customers during this transitional moment. The personal touches will be the same, regardless of locale, they promise. The breakfast battle is not lost until the breakfast battle is lost, and Stillman and Tisch plan to fight. Of course, at the end of this year of breakfast bonanza, Stillman has to stop selling breakfast (it's in the contract) and give all those loyal customers back to Tisch. It's for a greater good, but man, breakfast. It'll break your heart, every time.

The message we would give to Tisch in this trying emotional time is, if you love someone, set them free. If they come back to you, they were always yours. If they don't, try to find some new customers: They're waking up and being hungry every day. A little toast sounds pretty good right now, in fact. With just a tiny dab of truffle butter, please.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.