I was living in Amsterdam the first time I heard about Banter. Or, I should say, the first time I saw Banter as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed. The Australian café’s pink walls and ceramic plates piled with fried eggs, french toast, and avocado toast demanded my attention. It was luring me inside, except I was living across the ocean. So I scribbled the name down on my never-ending list of restaurants to try. I drooled one last time at a photo of a thick slice of sourdough topped with mushrooms and whipped ricotta, and filed the café away for another day.
Fast forward six months and I’m back in Manhattan. There’s something curiously unnerving about coming back to New York City after time away—no matter how long or briefly you were gone for, something has changed. In my case, many, many things had changed. Walking around my neighborhood, I felt like a visitor, and it took a little time to reground myself in my surroundings. Returning to the farmers market and going for long meandering wanders helped. So did re-establishing myself as a local at one of my favorite coffee shops. But even more grounding than returning to the places that hadn’t changed was welcoming the newness that had arrived while I was gone.
I was not change’s biggest fan growing up, to say the least. I liked consistency and expectations that were met. New York City is not good for those things, I’ve since learned, and also come to accept. New bakeries and fitness studios and shoe stores open every day. (So do banks and Starbucks, but we don’t need to talk about that right now.) Instead of thinking about what had closed and gone during my time away, I instead reframed it as an exciting new adventure to experience what had opened in my absence. And really, do you need much more of an excuse to go try new cafés than the aforementioned thick slices of sourdough toast?
I’ve been to Banter twice now, and each time I get a little closer to asking the owners if I can move in. I am pretty sure they’d say yes, too, but maybe that’s just me misinterpreting the sunny, welcoming vibes that seep out the door of Banter. Even on a rainy day, you’re bound to see customers sitting outside under cover, drinking flat whites and chai lattes. (In case you were wondering, they also have golden milk lattes, which I can vouch for/would highly recommend/order every time.) Walk in the door, and you’re greeted by a buzzing espresso machine and a happy-go-luckily barista smiling behind it. The atmosphere is light. There is contentment in the air. There are flowers on the table. You want to sit down, soak up Banter’s positive energy, fill your stomach with delicious food, and take it all with you when you go on your merry way.
And when I italicize the word “delicious” to refer to the food, it’s because if I were sitting in front of you, gushing about Banter, I would likely enunciate every single syllable of the word to make sure you understood. I could bring anyone to Banter, confident that they would drool over the menu.
If you’re a vegeholic like me, either the Banter Bowl or the Greens Salad will allow you to veggie-overload—in a not-your-average-salad sort of way. The asian-inspired Banter Bowl is full of pickled vegetables, edamame, and a flavorful miso dressing, and is served buddha bowl style. It’s the kind of thing that I attempt to recreate in my own kitchen all the time, but Banter does it better. And when my friend Helen ordered the Greens Salad, she received a mountain of appropriately dressed kale and quinoa topped with broccoli, avocado, pepitas, and chili peppers. In other words, nothing that you will order will be bland.
My most recent visit, my body was craving simple food. (Or, was yelling at me to chill on my fiber intake. Sometimes I get a little more excited on the vegetable front than my body can handle). Two fried eggs, two thick slices of sourdough toast, and a side of slightly mashed peas drizzled in herb oil. The kind of breakfast you dream about when you imagine your idealized version of yourself, slicing into fresh, crunchy loaves of bread and dancing around your sunny kitchen on a blissful Sunday morning. In my version of this daydream, there’s also a puppy playing at my feet and a big vase of sunflowers on the table, just in case you were curious. But before I veer too far off track, what I’m getting at is that I have yet to have something at Banter that hasn’t made me want to propose to the chef.
And fear not, dear omnivores—the menu is home to pulled pork sandwiches served with sweet potato fries and a bacon and egg roll served with caramelized onions on ciabatta. You can also order beer, or wine, or a mimosa, if a trendy latte isn’t really your thing. Banter is the kind of place I could bring my Dad for lunch, while also selfishly getting to order exactly what I wanted to eat. Beer, burger, golden milk latte, fried eggs. Everyone’s happy.
But the best part is, there’s more on the menu that I want to order (mushroom toast, I’m coming for you), so I have to go back. And, Banter serves dinner now, too, so that’s at least another five visits.
New York felt like home pretty instantaneously when I moved here three years ago. I relished in creating a sense of familiarity and routine, and felt comforted in knowing the ins and outs of the neighborhood where I lived. I rarely left the city for longer than a long weekend, and maxed out at about a week when I went home for Christmas. So when I left the city for a full seven months, coming back was daunting—would the city still feel like mine? The initial shock of seeing so much change scared me, reminded me that the city hadn’t slowed down while I was gone, and made me wonder if I would be able to catch up to it. When you get caught up in all that’s changed or closed in your city, look for adventure in the midst of newness and the unfamiliar. Find something—a café, a community, a new bookstore—that you’re excited about. Find your Banter. And if you need to quite literally find this Banter, and are in need of a breakfast/brunch/lunch/dinner date, you know where to find me.
Banter, 169 Sullivan Street, New York, NY 10012