Christmas is traditionally the most boring day of the year for Jews; almost every store is closed and all of your non-Jewish friends are busy celebrating with their families. Usually, the only choices I have on Christmas are which movie to see and whether I want Szechuan or Hunan.
Although they say that Easter is the holiest day of the year for Christians, it is not the all-day "bore-fest" for Jews that Christmas is. Most of the stores are open and usually more people are free to socialize. Even so, I sometimes find myself alone on Easter with nothing to do, as was the case this year. Luckily, the Five Spot Supper Club in Clinton Hill presented me with almost a full day of entertainment, so I did not have to resort to cleaning my apartment in order to keep myself occupied.
Last February, Malik Armstead, owner of the Five Spot, expanded his 5-year-old Myrtle Avenue soul food restaurant from a small takeout joint to a beautifully remodeled, 2,500-square-foot supper club. In addition to pouring libations and dishing out heaping portions of delicious ribs, catfish and collard greens every night of the week, the Five Spot began serving up jazz shows and poetry readings Thursday through Sunday.
Live entertainment (with a cover charge of just $5) makes a tasty side dish to the Five Spot’s dinner menu (average entree price is $11). On May 4 and May 5, the Five Spot hosts the eight-piece JC Hopkins Biggish Band. The Biggish Band, returning after a successful April run at the Five Spot, will also perform every Thursday night from May 10 to May 31.
Official as of Easter Sunday, the Five Spot is now open for a southern-style brunch every Sunday.
The "Five Spot Brunch" is a fixed-price menu featuring hearty, down-home, southern cooking. Each diner gets a choice of entree, meat side dish, vegetable (grits, homefries or red potatoes) and cocktail, with toast and coffee for $14.95. If that sounds like a lot of food to you, it is. Although the menu is small, this diner was satisfied with the selection.
I ordered the Five Spot omelet with a crab cake and rosemary red potatoes, while my companion chose the French toast with turkey sausage and grits.
Since I am originally from Maryland, I usually refrain from ordering anything containing crab when I’m away from the Chesapeake Bay watershed, but the allure of having a crab cake for brunch was too strong to resist. Even though the crab cake was more "cake" than "crab," it was nicely spiced with Old Bay and crispy - tasty and appealing overall.
The Five Spot omelet, containing onions, spinach, green peppers and cheddar cheese, was hearty, but there eas nothing particularly Southern or interesting about it.
The French toast was lightly dipped in egg, fried until the outside was golden-brown and crispy, dusted with powdered sugar and served with butter, syrup and molasses. I had never considered having molasses on French toast before, but I took the opportunity to try something new. It was very good, adding a nice Southern accent to a breakfast standard.
A mix of freshly cut strawberries, cantaloupe and grapes accompanied each entree, which was a refreshing surprise and a nice touch.
In addition to the food, part of the appeal of this Easter brunch was the live music. The entertainment was a band hesitantly calling themselves Brass Monkey East. The group, which features John Birdsong on tuba, Sebastian Isler on trombone, Stewart Bogie on clarinet and Sandor Moss on the drums, played an entertaining mix of New Orleans and Dixieland jazz. Brass Monkey East put on an energetic romp that was a perfect match for the food and atmosphere of the Five Spot. (Owner Armstead hopes to add live music to every Sunday brunch in the near future.)
With tasty vittles, good music and a Bloody
Mary under my belt, I went home and immediately fell into a happy
and peaceful food coma.
When I regained consciousness, it was just about time to return to the Five Spot for another helping of live jazz. As one of the final shows of the second annual Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival, the Five Spot that night played host to the Eric Frazier Quintet. From behind his congas, percussionist Frazier led Kenny Forshe on soprano sax, Charles Kerrington on keyboards, Nat Valentine on electric bass and Andrei Strobert on drums, through an eclectic mix of bop, funk, blues and bossa nova.
Frazier and his group seemed to personify the title of their latest album, "Smiles Inside Your Soul," (EF Productions, 2000) playing with a joy that obviously stemmed from an immense, internal delight in the music. Bassist Valentine especially brought energy and excitement to the performance with his dynamic solos and bright tone.
So if you find yourself free of commitments on Sunday, check out the brunch at the Five Spot, and then come back later for more great live music.
The Five Spot Supper Club is located
at 459 Myrtle Ave. at Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill. For
reservations call (718) 852-0202. Brunch is served Sundays from
noon to 4 pm. Call for the Five Spot’s live jazz calendar. For
more information about Eric Frazier visit www.ericfr