A Next-Level Brunch Experience ‘Hatches’ in Huntington

Photo courtesy of Hatch

Oversized industrial doors in canary yellow. Concrete-looking walls in nearly navy. Floor to ceiling windows framing moments of easy laughter and conversation in a busy dining room.

Needless to say, this isn’t your parents’ Lessings. With the establishment of boutique-y Hatch in Huntington, one could even say that the hatchling isn’t even the “brunch playground” itself, but a coming of age of Lawrence Lessing, a scion of six generations of New York restaurant royalty.

I politely elbow my way to the front of the crowd of mixed-age brunchers, Millennials, Xennials and Gen-Xers alike, all gathered at the host stand of this unconventionally retro-modern restaurant on Main Street. Unlike many other breakfast and brunch spots, Hatch eschews the expected kitsch and tchotchkes for stark trappings and a whimsical feel that would not be out of place in the hipster-heavy neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

“I’m here to talk to the owner,” I say, to the restaurant’s perfectly wing-linered hostess. “Sure,” she says cheerily, sashaying between wide-smiling servers. “I’ll go get him!” 

As I study the menu—featuring of-the-moment names for dishes like Hashtag Tots & Eggs, fun coffee and cocktail names like The Heated Affair (hot coffee with silver tequila and agave, topped with whipped cream and cocoa) and Botanical Breakfast Club (gin, lemon, blood orange, bubbly and rosemary)—I look up to an immediate impression of youth.

A flash of white teeth, bright eyes, and easy self-assuredness that wouldn’t be out of place at a polo match in the Hamptons greets me with a firm handshake and an enthusiastic introduction. “Hi, I’m Lawrence!”

It doesn’t take long, however, for me to encounter the experiential weight of Lawrence’s last name. As with all involved members of the Lessings clan, Lawrence spent more than two years working for others in the food and beverage industry, cutting his teeth working his way up from Shake Shack prior to overseeing the franchise division and “hatch”ing the concept he and his cousin opened to great anticipation in April of last year.

“Hatch is my first from-scratch, full-service project,” he says. “I grew up in this town, and I really wanted to make my mark with something new and different, specifically with breakfast and brunch.”

Why those specific meals? I want to know. 

Lawrence’s reasoning surprises me.

“There’s so much good food on Long Island nowadays, with chef-driven restaurants, but it’s hard to give up your whole life,” he says. “I wanted to be able to provide a creative environment for talented people to make and serve great meals while also being able to enjoy time with friends and family. I mean, there were definitely people who thought it was crazy; they said, ‘you have this corner spot in Huntington and you’re going to lock up at 3?’ And I said, yes. I mean, you hear about all these great companies all over the world, and they’re so cool because they’re doing this and that for their employees. So I asked, why not us? Why can’t we be a company that people look at and go, ‘That’s so awesome that they’re doing that’?”

This idealistic approach lends an optimistic freshness to the business, and extra pep in the step of the servers who work there. It is not surprising that, in this way, Lawrence sees himself as a “disrupter,” a term with Silicon Valley origins that feels almost out of place in a family as grounded on Long Island—and in old world excellence—as the Lessings.

Fortunately, the established institution has been “good about listening to the next generation,” says Lawrence. That listening has already yielded a harvest: employee appreciation programs that “celebrate little successes along the way,” like rewarding servers mentioned in five-star Yelp reviews with gift cards, contests, and letting them personalize their uniform gear; and in-house charitable initiatives that see Hatch donating some of its proceeds to local organizations like the Family Service League.

The best part of Lawrence’s harvest, though? The food.

Working closely with executive chef Billy Muzio, a CIA graduate and Le Bernadin alum, Lawrence made sure that Hatch’s recipe and menu development received as much attention as the restaurant’s founding principles. After all, it’s for good reason that their long list of exceptional pancake combinations (best experienced through signature pancake flights custom-designed by the diner) have become visual fodder for social media. Particularly popular are the peanut butter cup pancakes—an indulgence covered in peanut butter glaze, chocolate ganache, whipped cream and peanut butter chips—and the cinnamon roll pancakes, where butter pecan, toasted pecans, and a cream cheese glaze make syrup a thing of the past. The pineapple upside-down pancakes with housemade vanilla-rum creme anglaise, caramelized pineapple, and cinnamon butter are also fan favorites, and secret menu orderers know that to ask for any version “El Gato”—a nod to Hatch’s GM, Kat—is to add crispy maple bacon to the batter.

Egg Benedicts, like the Godfather and the Charleston, also pique interest for non-conventionalists, with prosciutto, taleggio, arugula, balsamic, and cream cheese hollandaise on the former and fried chicken on brioche with spinach, bacon and smoked cheddar hollandaise on the latter.

Savory Power Bowls with quinoa, creminis, eggplant caponata, roasted tomatoes and more and spa-in-a-skillet Peach-Blueberry Oatmeal with flax and chias baked in almond milk with a cashew cream glaze are a nod to their customers, part of the Not So Guilty options driven by a more health-conscious generation. This portion of the menu was, in fact, inspired through carefully watching and responding to what Long Islanders gravitated toward—which I’m proud to say is local sourcing.

“We use Southdown coffee; they’re right down the block,” says Lawrence. “With a breakfast place, the coffee has to be awesome and the guy who owns Southdown goes as far as picking the beans himself, traveling to places to vet before bringing them home to roast.”

But that’s not all: “We get our bacon and special blend of meat for our sausage from Cow Palace,” a beloved Long Island name, “and our teas from the shop across the street.”

Being short on storage space also adds to the quality of what’s served at Hatch.

“We get six shipments a week, and we make as much as we can ourselves. Our pancake batter is a house recipe, and the batches are limited to a certain size for consistency. We also make our hash browns fresh every morning from shredded Yukon Golds, fry our own tortillas for rancheros and create all of our sauces and salsas from scratch.”

This may be the harder route, but discerning brunchers have voted that it’s the one worth taking. There’s no mistaking the popularity of Lawrence’s vision based on the crowds alone, and that success has only served to make him that much more dedicated to his dream for Hatch.

The most valuable lesson he’s learned?

“That you’re gonna get a million points of view and you have to take your vision of the brand and protect it. Stick with your principles for your game plan and work through it. You can’t be everything for everybody, so I just want us to be really good at what we’re doing—staying true to designing an experience that measures up to what the neon sign behind the bar says: ‘My happy place’.”

With pancake flights, runny eggs, smashed avocados, and “dranks for days” on offer, this hatchling from the Lessings dynasty may have just #nailedit.