Char No. 4 NYC Brunch Review: Come Hungry

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This Char No. 4 NYC brunch review is the third in a series of NYC restaurant reviews, all paid for using the Chase Freedom card to take advantage of 5X points per dollar spent on dining July 1-September 30. Prior reviews are:

Zoë NYC Brunch Review: Best Pancakes in New York?

Freemans NYC Brunch Review: Hidden Gem

Char No. 4 has been on my radar since reading about it in a Time Out New York article on great NYC brunch spots for pancakes. Now, Time Out New York is notorious for slanting its coverage towards Brooklyn (some readers complain it should be called Time Out Brooklyn), probably because most staffers live there, so I was curious to see whether this one was worth the trek, especially as they don't take reservations for brunch.

It's a good thing the munchkin loves subway trains, since we took 3 different trains to get there. If coming from Manhattan, you'll need to take either the F or G train to the Bergen stop. Fortunately, from there, Char No. 4 is less than a block away, and we got there a bit after 11am, which is early for brunch by NYC hipster standards.

Inside, the first thing you see is the massive bar, with whiskey and bourbon galore, since Char. No. 4's mission first and foremost is as a whiskey bar:

Char No. 4 NYC Brunch Review


We went up to the hostesses and asked for a table. She showed us to a tiny table for two, and when I asked if we could sit at one of the more comfortable looking booths, she noted apologetically that they were only for larger parties. There were a bunch of them open, but I could also easily understand that they might be filling up before we finished our brunch, so I asked instead if we could sit at the bar, which enjoyed more natural light, and she was happy to oblige. Interestingly, the munchkin was not the only kid at the bar–there was a tattooed and pierced young woman with a newborn in a baby carrier there as well, with a girlfriend. 

I checked with the bartender that they served the full brunch menu, and she assured me they did, and provided menus.

Char No. 4 Brunch Review


We already knew we'd be ordering the buttermilk pancakes with blueberry jam and honey almond butter, but I had a hard time deciding among the various savory options, which included chile-marinated shrimp with sweet corn-hominy grits, chopped pork sandwich with Char No. 4 mustard barbecue sauce, and Char No. 4 biscuits benedict with house smoked ham, poached eggs & bacon gravy. In the end, since the munchkin wanted orange juice and I wanted some coffee, I went with the $16 Brunch Fixed Price, which includes coffee and a glass of orange juice. They don't squeeze the orange juice in-house, but although purchased, it is fresh squeezed and was gone in about 2 minutes, with about 80% of it going to the munchkin.

Char No. 4 NYC Brunch Review: Come Hungry


While waiting for our food, we read stories, and all the other bar seats except one were filled, making my advice to get here closer to 11am than to noon if you don't want to wait.

The bartender had warned us the pancakes were huge (and had even cautioned us against ordering it, along with the brunch fixed price, until I mentioned we'd be taking the leftovers home for my husband). Well, no wonder; when the stack of 3 pancakes arrived, the munchkin was more than impressed, as each one was almost as big as his head. While they did come with the blueberry jam on top, I found it strange that there wasn't maple syrup, so I asked for some, and the bartender quickly came back with some. Since it's pure maple syrup, I suspect they don't automatically serve it because pure maple syrup is probably the most expensive part of the dish. Needless to say, the munchkin didn't complain at all about my taking some bites, and we ended up bringing home about two-thirds of it for my husband–the portion size was that huge. The pancakes were certainly light and fluffy, but I found them quite boring and my least favorite of the three I've tried recently–the blueberry pancakes with lemon curd at Zoe still holds top honors for me, followed by the ricotta pancakes at Freemans.


The Brunch Fixed Price comes with house smoked brown sugar ham, a poached egg, crispy potatoes with green onion and garlic, a buttermilk biscuit with honey-almond butter, and cheese grits. The portion sizes aren't as outrageous as the pancake, and my favorites of these were the potatoes and house smoked brown sugar ham. The biscuit was ok, but nothing special, and I definitely preferred the biscuit at Zoe over this one.

Char No. 4 Brunch Review


Afterwards, when we made a quick trip to the restroom in the back, we noticed a small back room flooded with light from skylights–I'd request to be seated there, if there's space.

Char No. 4 Brunch Review


The verdict: I'm glad we tried Char. No. 4, and I can see why it's popular with locals. The pancakes are undoubtedly a great deal if you want to split an order of pancakes with a friend (or if you're a sumo wrestler). But for taste, I'd always pick Zoe or Freemans over Char No. 4. While there may be a Brooklyn brunch place that beats out my Manhattan favorites, I haven't found it yet (especially since my former Brooklyn brunch favorite, Traif, sadly no longer serves brunch). So come on, Brooklyn-based readers–have any favorites I should try? The only requirements are that it must serve pancakes and be reasonably accessible by public transit 🙂

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