Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New in New York: Breakfast is Lunch and Dinner at OatMeals

This unique sign introduces New York diners to Oatmeal a New in New York restaurant
By Mitch Broder

I politely declined a bowl of oatmeal with bacon, cheese, and apples.

I write now in the hope of sparing others my lingering regret.

The bowl was proferred by Samantha Stephens, who knows she has a pop-culture name, not long after we agreed that she has a more significant challenge. That challenge is me, or at least people like me, who need a bit of bewitching to embrace the pleasures of New York’s first all-oatmeal restaurant.

The counter at the New In New York restaurant Oatmeals
Samantha has just opened that restaurant, the culmination of a decade’s worth of dreaming, studying, imagining, and planning, not to mention spending. She calls it OatMeals. It’s a rustic shop that puts things into oatmeal that, to be fair, would probably get the Quaker Oats Man to quake.

It puts in dried figs, crumbled gorgonzola, and balsamic vinegar glaze. Or sundried tomato, parmesan, cracked black pepper, sea salt flakes, and glaze. Or raisins, sliced almonds, coconut milk, crystallized ginger, cardamom, vanilla, and brown sugar. Or chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers. That would be the oatmeal S’mores.

It also lets you put your own things in, starting with a base of hot oatmeal. You get to put your first two things in free. The toppings, besides those above, include dried pomegranate, pineapple, butterscotch chips, pesto, almond milk, and nutmeg. Don’t order these together.

A vase that welcomes visitors to Oatmeal a hot restaurant that is New in New York
“The cool thing about New York,” Samantha said, “is that it’s always about something new. We want to try new things. We go out of our way to try new things.” She invoked Rice to Riches, the ten-year-old all-rice-pudding restaurant in Nolita. If rice pudding could make it, Samantha reasons, oatmeal can.

She asked me what I like oatmeal with. I said one cup of sugar. Still, she suggested The Canadian, even though it’s listed as Savory. It has bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, roasted apples, maple syrup, and sea salt. I didn’t think I’d like that. She sagely brought me a small sample anyway.

It was stunning. It was a veritable party of flavors. The ingredients blended seamlessly to make cereal I’d never dreamed of. I already knew that Samantha had graduated from the French Culinary Institute, and yet I had doubted her. Now I am all alone with my Cheerios.

After the Canadian sample, Samantha brought me a bowl of what I’d selected, which is called, not surprisingly, the Pumpkin Pie. It has pumpkin purée, pecans, brown sugar, pumpkin spice, and whole milk. It was sweet and delicious. But more pleasant than stunning. Samantha had wanted me stunned.

It’s understandable. She took the scenic route to restaurant ownership, starting twelve years ago, when she came to New York from Fairfax, Virginia. She went to Baruch College, where she studied psychology and gained weight. She turned to oats to help with the weight. She didn’t say if she used the psychology.

You can order from Oatmeal's extensive menu
Though the oat seed was planted, she took a detour into investment banking. But she also took classes in business management at NYU. Finally, she attended the Institute, from which she emerged a pastry chef. She had taken night classes. She was serious about her oatmeal.

She chose a store near NYU, so other students could turn to oats. She decorated it with her collection of vintage rolled-oats boxes. She created a menu of two dozen oatmeal bowls, a dozen kinds of oatmeal pastry, and sandwiches made, naturally, with oatmeal bread.

She knows she has to get people to think of oatmeal as a meal. She knows she has to get people to expand their concept of oatmeal ingredients. She knows she has to get people to stop resisting The Canadian. Maybe she should start them on oatmeal S’mores and work them up from there.

Even though Oatmeals is New in New York it has a few classic touches like this assortment of Oatmeal boxes

Get bowled over at OatMeals, at 120 West Third Street, between MacDougal Street and Sixth Avenue, in New York City.


  1. Yum. I'll have a bowl w/figs, almonds & coconut milk or, of course, the S'mores. Hope it proves to be her recipe for success!

  2. What an interesting concept. How are her oatmeal cookies? Thanks for the great find!

  3. I've been there a few times and I can vouch for the oatmeal cookies - they're great, as is the oatmeal! My husband and I love this place and hope it stays around for a while.

  4. Even though the thought of oatmeal usually makes me cringe, I found myself wondering where exactly this place is and what I might order. Good luck to her!

  5. Mmmm.. oatmeal. I could have oatmeal.anytime of day. I just have to get down to this place!

  6. Amazing, Mr. Broder. You can even make oatmeal sound appetizing...and that is quite a gift. To me. "She turned to oats to help with the weight. She didn’t say if she used the psychology." Love it! So talented.