New American Brunch Fare with a Twist
The Living Room Cafe opened one month ago at 701 South 5th Street in Queen Village. It replaces Cups and Chairs Tea Cafe. The breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch concept by owners Steven and Ting Zheng (who also own Sushi Planet on 3rd Street) and Chef Steve J. Leonard, offer traditional brunch items as well as a unique spin on New American cuisine with Asian, Southeast Asian and Hawaiian influences.
Their mission is to avoid being pigeon-holed as a “brunch spot” only. On the food side, they want to focus on offering a well-rounded menu, with an emphasis on quality, flavor and healthy options. Moreover, while the menu will offer the usual favorites — buttermilk pancakes, 3 egg omelettes, challah French toast — they will have distinctive items that you can’t get at any other restaurant doing brunch in the city.
“Everybody is doing brunch. We want to stand out,” explains Ting Zheng.
For example, they’ll offer a version of Congee, which is a rice porridge popular in Asian countries, and traditionally found in Asian restaurants exclusively. Other selections that feature a particularly Asian spin are the Breakfast Banh Mi (pork roll, fried eggs, pickled radish, carrots, daikon, cucumber, and cilantro) and Tofu Banh Mi. Banh mi rolls come from Ba Le Bakery at 6th & Washington.
“Just don’t call it “fusion,” says Chef Steve.
Chef Steve is adamant that what they’re doing is New American cuisine and shies away from jumping on trendy ingredient bandwagons. His goal is to breakaway from the expected and introduce customers to new, palate-expanding foods as much as possible; which is why he added items like Breakfast Egg Rolls (bacon or sausage, egg and cheese in crispy, deep fried egg roll) and Lumpia (Hawaiian-style spring rolls) on this week’s special menu.
With 30 years experience working in a variety of kitchens as a chef, notably with Susanna Foo and Roy Yamaguchi at Roy’s Restaurant in Philadelphia, he’s clearly passionate about cooking and being a chef. So when the opportunity to work with the Zheng’s came up, he was excited to help bring their vision to fruition along with his complementary point of view and personal food philosophy.
Together, they want people to walk through the door and feel like they are home with family; Ohana (Hawaiian for “family”) is at the very heart of what they are trying to accomplish at the The Living Room Cafe. It is paramount to the Zheng’s and Chef Steve that the staff also share this unified philosophy of treating everybody like family.
Most food will be organic and local as much as possible. They plan on creating more partnerships with local food purveyors to assure they source the highest quality ingredients.
Homemade is the key behind the menu. All of the condiments are made in-house. We particularly enjoyed the Sriracha ketchup, Chef Steve’s own recipe, which is enhanced by the inclusion of cilantro. Unsurprisingly, Chef Steve is also a trained pastry chef so all of the sweet baked goods (muffins, brownies, etc.) are made fresh daily in-house as well. They will have items to support many diets — vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free specifically — and they are willing to accommodate requests when possible.
The eatery is in soft opening mode; they are still working on the final menu and finishing touches on the interior decor. They’re shooting for a warm, bright and cozy space that evokes the felling of being in — you guessed it — a Living Room. They’re getting a feel for what the community wants and so far reception has been good. In fact, some offerings are so popular, they find themselves selling out. They will fine tune as they go and adjust based on feedback and demand.
During the week they offer reasonably-priced breakfast for those dining in or on the go and a daily lunch special for $8 which include half sandwich and choice of 2 sides.
If you’re looking for an innovative and delicious twist on weekend brunch, or for a new breakfast and lunch spot during the week, The Living Room Cafe is a sure bet to excite your taste buds and provide a different experience from the usual fare. We highly recommend adding them to your to-go list soon. Check out pictures from our recent visit in the slideshow below.
The Living Room Cafe is open Tuesday-Friday 8am-4pm and Saturday-Sunday 8am-3pm. Closed Mondays.