New York City is obsessed with brunch. After partaking in many brunches whilst living in NYC, I’ve incidentally become somewhat of a brunch aficionado.
Here is my list of the best NYC brunch spots for 2015.
This hip Greenpoint cafe is situated on the corner of Brooklyn’s beloved McCarren Park. Sit outside to bask in the sunshine and enjoy this ambient neighbourhood. There is a solid selection of cocktails, but a classic mimosa will hit the spot. You cannot come here without ordering the famous ricotta pancakes. A thick stack of pancakes with pockets of creamy ricotta topped with honeycomb butter and layers of fresh banana and berries. If you’re in a savoury mood; the house burger with fried pineapple, house pickled beets, harissa mayo and sunny side egg will happily induce a food coma. Get there early as finding a seat can prove difficult.
The famous Balthazar has long dominated the French-fare brunch scene in New York City. Buvette is a worthy alternative and far less touristy. It’s an authentic neighbourhood spot tucked away in the backstreets of the West Village. Although, you could easily be mistaken for thinking you’ve walked into a bistro in central Paris. The beautiful space is filled with the sound of French ex-pats chattering away. Most importantly the food is rich and divine. Small plate servings of buttery dishes such as ham and gruyere croque madames and smoked salmon with fluffy scrambled eggs. For the sweeter tooth; freshly baked croissants or Belgian waffles topped with juicy berries. Order the freshly squeezed blood orange juice to brighten up the morning or sophisticated cocktails for those lingering over a late brunch.
This joint offers rustic American cuisine with a southern accent. For brunch, that translates to some of the best fried chicken waffles in New York City. The trendy restaurant with cosy setting and homely feel has a menu packed with all the good things. Hearty Southern style dishes like shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy and creamy mac and cheese. I’m not going to argue with Michael K. Williams who plays Omar Little in the HBO series ‘The Wire’ who says that the chicken and waffles are “awesome”. They also do a mean Bloody Mary.
You may have heard of Russ & Daughters on Houston, a famous purveyor of appetisers, smoked fish and Jewish delicacies since 1914. Well, they recently opened a retro-styled cafe on nearby Orchard Street that has all your favourite Jewish comfort foods in an old-school diner setting. It is seriously top-notch nosh and the best place for out-of-towners to sample some authentic fare. Be sure to start off with an iconic chocolate Egg Cream; a fizzing combination of chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer. Start off with some small plates such as knishes or potato latkes with salmon roe and for the fancy types there’s a vast selection of caviar. If you feel like soup you’ll have a tough time deciding between the famous matzo ball or the vibrant beetroot borscht. A popular main is the open sandwich with smoked salmon, capers, onion, tomato and cream cheese served with you choice of bread; be it bagel, rye or pumpernickel. Large platters of appetisers can be ordered for groups who wish to try a variety of things. Please, whatever you do, save room for dessert. The babka French toast with melted swirls of chocolate, sour cream and sweet strawberries is to die for.
Miss Lily’s boasts Jamaican fare and Island-inspired cocktails that will transport you to a Caribbean oasis. It’s the perfect venue for brunch as the colourful beach shack vibes and laid back retro kit-out create a fun atmosphere to kick back with friends. A feast of grilled corn, breakfast roti, jerk chicken or a mango salad blows boring brunch options out of the water. If you still want your pancakes; the toasted coconut pancakes with fresh berries taste like an island holiday. Sip on coconut water or try an organic juice combo from next door’s Melvin’s Juice Box. For those getting boozy order the Hotstepper which is a fiery take on a Bloody Mary impressively garnished with scotch bonnet pepper. Brunch here is like a vacation in the middle of New York City.
The quirky couple behind this venture have nailed it with their arty menus, relaxed dining environment and healthy but ever so delicious fare. The tiny cafe is always packed, even their second outpost is buzzing. It remains unpretentious despite being regularly frequented by top models and Instagram celebs. Middle Eastern and Jewish influences pepper the menu from the well-loved rosewater waffle with Lebanese yoghurt and mixed berries, the green shakshuka served with toasted challah bread and the grilled haloumi. The fragrant mint tea and fruity cocktails go exceedingly well with the light fare. There is also some South African heritage on the side of the owner. You really ought to try the Malva pudding for dessert – it’s like sticky date pudding.
This eatery has New Yorkers making a beeline to the heart of Harlem. Here they join locals jazzed up in their Sunday best for some of the city’s most outstanding fried chicken. Southern comfort food always draws a crowd, and there are also some surprising Scandinavian influences as the chef, Marcus Samuelsson, grew up in Sweden. It’s not everyday you have a choice of Swedish ‘Helga’s Meatballs’ or shrimp and grits. The chicken and waffle with bourbon maple is bang on. For more adventurous types the blackened catfish is a traditional Southern dish or for those wanting a calorie binge the lobster mac and cheese is greasy goodness. A side of the warm corn bread with a tangy tomato relish is a must and if you have room for dessert the bite sized sweet potato doughnuts are ideal for sharing.
The Lower East Side has its own breakfast haven. New Yorkers will venture to Clinton Street specifically for some of the most renowned pancakes in Manhattan. For those serious about pancakes, the wild Maine blueberry pancakes with maple butter are delectable. There are some Mexican influences that feature on the menu such as heuvos rancheros and fish tacos that are a welcome alternative to the typical brunch menu that pervades New York. I need not remind you that these dishes are nicely complemented by a classic mojito. Get excited for the naughty twist on a salted caramel shake called the ‘boozy shake’ with welcome lashings of bourbon. Clinton Street Baking Co. started as a humble bakery so there is a tempting selection of cakes, cookies and muffins at the front counter. The best bit is, you can order brunch any time of the day – even for dinner. Now that’s a place after my own heart.
The long dining room and communal table is brimming with local types who’ve long loved this neighbourhood joint and visitors who’ve travelled from afar to taste the promised delights of Buttermilk Channel. The brunch is highly regarded by New York foodies, and for good reason – it’s homey American comfort food done exceptionally well. Pecan pie French toast, mouth-watering short-rib hash with sunny side eggs and fried pork chop with cheddar waffles are a few menu items that might take your fancy. Dabble in a side of warm-from-the-oven buttermilk biscuits for the table. There are a few varieties of Bloody Marys but the ‘Star of the Sea’ is extravagantly served with a freshly shucked East coast oyster.
A trendy Nolitan eatery dedicated to the art of an egg sandwich and every other egg dish you can imagine. It’s simple and, quite frankly, pure genius. Whether you’re in search of smashed egg, scrambled egg, pickled egg, egg white, egg salad, egg in sandwich, egg in a health bowl or perhaps a build your own egg and cheese – Egg Shop has got it sorted. They even do a damn fine French toast (Yes, that does in fact count as egg). A mouth-watering selection of sides from hashbrowns, buttermilk biscuit or black forest bacon to pimp out your egg-cellent feast. Brunch coupled with a rosemary Negroni is ever so satisfying.
A bohemian brunch spot on a cosmopolitan strip of East Village called St Marks Place. It’s a local landmark and well loved for it’s interesting selection of Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine. In the warmer months the terrace seating along the sidewalk has a welcome European feel. The ‘Moroccan Benedict’ with a spicy tomato sauce, ‘Middle Eastern Eggs’ with hummus, tabouli and pita and ‘Haloumi Eggs’ offer an exotic twist on typical breakfast dishes. Include a blood orange mimosa into the mix and you’ll be staying well into the afternoon. The traditional Moroccan mint tea is served in a gorgeous silver teapot and with pretty glasses for sipping tea as if you’re in a souk in Marrakesh.
This downtown rooftop restaurant and bar has a vibrant atmosphere. It’s a secluded little Parisian garden terrace complete with old-fashioned lamps, park benches, manicured greenery and mosaic floors. The setting is undeniably chic and consistently packed with good looking people. Besides that, the French inspired brunch is actually superb. There is a decent selection of healthy options such as the acai bowl. Otherwise, get stuck into the creamy lobster benedict, ‘Smore’s Toast’ (marshmallow and chocolate stuffed brioche) or the ‘Maison Burger’ with pomme frites. Meanwhile enjoy a pleasant backdrop of live jazz music played by a trendy young band until the afternoon eventually turns to evening. At this point the place transforms into a bustling bar which is all the more convenient after your fourth mimosa.
This quaint cafe is about as local as they come. Iris Cafe is tucked away on a quiet street of the ever-so-pretty (sigh) Brooklyn Heights. Imagine rows of brownstones, cobblestone streets lined with trees and the sound of chirping birds. You’ll spot Iris Café by the dark green awnings, large windows and lovely garden benches. If you’re lucky enough to visit in spring the pink blossom trees may be in bloom. The interior is cosy and rustic and a small, seasonal menu offers sophisticated brunch items. A particular favourite is the tasty smoked salmon with scallion pancake, crème fresh, pickled onion, horseradish and poached eggs. Other highlights include the spicy Mexican chilaquiles or the roasted tomato shakshuka. This hidden gem is just the perfect spot for a low-key weekend brunch that will leave you dreaming about one day living in Brooklyn Heights.
The upscale neighbourhood of TriBeCa deserves some attention, and Locanda Verde has an exceptional brunch offering. It’s an urban Italian taverna with a seasonal menu attached to the 5-star Greenwich Hotel (famously owned by none other than Robert De Niro). It’s already earned itself some cultural credit but it’s also the light Italian fare that keeps locals coming back for more. There is an enticing selection of pastries, such as olive oil cake, to go with a strong Italian coffee. If you want something heartier there are popular dishes such as the sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast or the lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries and meyer lemon curd. For secondi indulge in a variety of pastas and dishes with rich Mediterranean flavours. At this classy restaurant you’ll want to pair your meal with a smooth glass of wine.
This European café has elegant brasserie style interiors and al fresco dining complete with large umbrellas and pretty window boxes. Lafayette Grand wouldn’t look out of place along the Champs-Elysees. Fresh flowers and elegant patisserie goodies from colourful éclairs to buttery croissants is a feast for the eyes. Baked goods teamed with coffee and a copy of the arts section of the New York Times makes for a most pleasant Sunday morning. The grand fromage selection is served with fruits stewed in cognac and raisin bread straight from the in-house boulangerie. The cocktails are awfully appealing; especially the French Melon which is vodka based and made with sweet honeydew and orange bitters. A selection of perfectly balanced salads are wonderful accompaniments to a variety of rich mains, such as the soft scrambled eggs with leeks, chevre and pain de campagne. If you feel like something more swanky, try the dry-aged strip steak frites.
Bright and charming surroundings complemented by Franco-American cuisine that never fails to delight the West Village crowd. The striped blue and white tops worn by the staff are particularly endearing. Try scoring a coveted seat by the pretty curtained window which is ideal for watching the fashionable flocks of young people that parade down West 4th Street. The brioche French toast with seasonal fruits is always a winner, as is the house cured salmon plate with toasted bagel or the gruyere and ham croissant. There are also plenty of lighter options for those who watch their waistlines. The coffee is fairly average so skip that and opt for a cocktail.