Porridge Is Actually Trendy in NYC: 7 Variations to Try Now

The old-school breakfast food goes from rags to riches
February 13, 2017
by Juliet Izon

There are few dishes calibrated more perfectly for warming chilled bones than a good, old-fashioned porridge. We'll admit, the dish historically doesn't have the greatest associations. But unlike the bland, gloppy sludge of your grandmother's era, new-school porridge is loaded with flavorful mix-ins and can be served either savory or sweet. New York City is having a bit of a moment with the oft-maligned dish, with new restaurants offering takes ranging from traditional Chinese-style congee to breakfast versions studded with fresh fruit and tangy syrups. Bring your appetite (and a big spoon) and dig in to one of these seven bowls.

Sprouted grain porridge at De Maria
This hip newcomer in the heart of NoLita follows in the chic footsteps of trendy trailblazers Dimes and Sqirl — an Instagrammer's paradise complete with pink plates, avocado toast, bone broth and a blue neon Virgin Mary painting in the bathroom. Chef Camille Becerra (Navy, Cafe Henrie) is behind the food, known as much for her chic personal style as for her use of seasonal produce and innovative twists on health food staples. If you can snag a table, try her sprouted grain porridge, swirled with miso butter and cranberry molasses, resulting in a savory/sweet melange that will leave you scraping the bottom of the bowl.

19 Kenmare St.; 212-966-3058 

Breakfast congee at The Good Sort
This 12-seat jewel box of a coffee shop in Chinatown, attached to sibling establishment Chinese Tuxedo, makes up in flavor for what it lacks in space. While the Instagram-friendly rainbow-hued lattes often take center stage, the menu's four variations of sweet congee are the sleeper hit. The flavors range from turmeric to pandan, but none is more satisfying than the breakfast congee, which is loaded with fresh and poached strawberries, blueberries, maple-cassia syrup and crunchy housemade granola.

5 Doyers St.; 646-895-9301

Japanese-style congee at Bessou
At this buzzy, homestyle Japanese haunt in NoHo, comfort food reigns supreme (the name of the restaurant is actually a play on the Japanese word for "home away from home"). So it should be no surprise that chef Emily Yuen's Japanese-style, umami-rich congee is utterly addictive. Yuen's version, which is available only for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, is topped with crisp fried prawns, togarashi garlic peanuts, black garlic and fragrant ginger oil.

5 Bleecker St.; 212-228-8502

Clams and congee at Hanoi House
This year has brought an influx of Vietnamese restaurants to New York, but Hanoi House in the East Village stands out for its commitment to authenticity. The cozy spot offers up an even cozier version of chao hao, the rib-sticking Vietnamese equivalent of congee. The dish, made from broken rice porridge, is topped with roasted manila clams, peanuts, scallions and crispy garlic. Sop up the broth with the crisp-light Chinese donuts served alongside.

119 St. Marks Pl.; 212-995-5010

Coconut grits at Lalo
Bringing a bit of California cool to Chinatown, newcomer Lalo has been wowing eaters with its brightly hued and flavored dishes, all courtesy of chef Gerardo Gonzalez, a native of San Diego. The brunch menu features the unique coconut grits, a savory dish made with chimichurri and pickled red onion and topped with a plume of watercress. Add the 12-hour braised pork (or braised turnips if you're vegetarian) plus a soft-poached egg for a true morning feast.

104 Bayard St.; 646-998-3408

Congee at Tim Ho Wan
While this Greenwich Village dim sum joint (a Hong Kong import) may be chiefly known for its long line, the food is absolutely worth the hassle of getting inside. The barbecued pork buns may be the star of the meal, but don't skimp on the traditional congee made with pork and preserved egg. Finish your meal with a porridge of a different ilk: sweet pumpkin cream studded with starchy sago pearls.

85 4th Ave.; 212-228-2800

Rice and millet congee at abcV (opening soon)
The hotly anticipated vegetarian spin-off from ABC Kitchen will offer a congee made from black forbidden rice and millet. In true ABC fashion, the porridge will be studded with seasonally changing condiments like fermented chile, nori seaweed, and mushrooms with Chinese black beans. "This dish is inspired by the travels across Asia of chef Jean-Georges [Vongerichten, of the ABC empire] and ABC Home's Paulette Cole," says chef de cuisine Neal Harden. "I put my healthy, modern spin on it by using antioxidant-rich black rice and whole millet."

38 E. 19th St.; no number