Sure, you can find brunch in nearly every major city in the world, but it's New York that holds this tradition on a pedestal. While some may only consider it a convenient segue to recovery after a crazy night out on the town, others gush that it's the pinnacle of their week. It makes sense - after all, no other meal lends itself to so seamlessly to recounting the fun of the night before while simultaneously nursing yourself back to health, or catching up with friends without a looming list of weekday obligations.
As a visitor, you should take full advantage of New Yorker's passion and dedication to weekend brunch. Whether you choose to go luxe at French brasserie and celebrity hotspot Balthazar, or find a bit of southern comfort at Melba’s in Harlem, head to Brooklyn to Buttermilk Channel or to Queens for Astor Bake Shop & Restaurant, or perch yourself at Alta Linea or High Line overlooking New York and New Jersey. One thing is certain: you won't walk away disappointed.
In New York, brunch is serious business, an all day event filled with delectable treats, constant conversation, and depending on the mood, a launching off point for a whirlwind of connoisseur cocktails and coffee. Take some time to satisfy your cravings, but remember, anything beloved by New Yorkers usually requires a little patience and comes with a long line.
Alta Linea is the Italian-inspired restaurant by restaurateur and beverage expert Joe Campanale, located in the picturesque courtyard garden of The High Line Hotel, Alta Linea in Italian. Brunch is the latest addition to this fresh, new restaurant. Amid the new brunch favorites: olive oil pancakes with market berry compote and lemon ricotta or the Alta Linea Breakfast of fried eggs, crispy pancetta, potatoes, mixed greens or the Beets alla Panzarella or a simple frittata, Campanale spikes up the menu with vibrant beverage list of aperitivi cocktails such as spritzes and Negronis (frozen and otherwise) along with a hand-picked wine list of artisanal Italian wines. (212.933.9735)
Brunch is a hefty and solid affair here: from Short Rib Hash, to Eggs Huntington and Warm Lamb & Romaine Salad, chances are, you will likely not be hungry until Monday. Famous for their buttermilk fried chicken – which is not on the brunch menu – you won't miss it. Try the buttermilk fried pork chop with cheddar waffles instead. The wait for a table can be considerable, but the atmosphere is communal, convivial and crowded. The bright interior and outdoor patio are jammed but the chefs and owners philosophy is: meals should be shared. Don't be shy, chat with your neighbors, while lusting after the pecan pie French toast. ((718) 852-8490)
Affectionately known as "The Sturgeon King," Barney Greengrass is the place where fish want to be smoked. Housed in its current location on the Upper West Side since 1929, the faded wallpaper and worn linoleum scream old-school Jewish eatery, even as the crowds change, and elderly regulars are joined by carefully cultivated blondes pushing thousand-dollar strollers. Pay them no mind, and get ready for an old-fashioned, fishy feast. Try the Nova Scotia Salmon, lox or the famed Sturgeon with rich cream cheese on a bagel. Want to diversify? Consider a modest morning break with classic matzoh brie, or move on to the overstuffed pastrami sandwich, filled with peppery punch, or the hearty corned beef on rye. (212-724-4707)
Jack's Wife Freda
Jack's Wife Freda dishes up a mean breakfast menu that mixes Jewish Grandmother via South Africa influences with American favorites. Order up the rosewater waffle with Lebanese yogurt, or opt for the green shakshuka, baked eggs floating in a tangy spinach sauce with a side of challah toast and house-cured duck bacon for non-pork eaters. On busy mornings, you may have to get a little cozy with your neighbors - though this small space is flooded with sunlight, it packs 'em in with family-style seating. But don't worry too much: that just gives you a chance to spy on everyone else's order before putting in your own. There are now two Jack's but they are equally popular. (212-510-8550)
Astor Bake Shop & Restaurant
While Astor has won burger competitions, no one seems to rate their superb egg sandwiches maybe it is the house-baked Portuguese rolls, the hog case sausage or apple wood bacon and cheese but it is not ordinary. Brunch is a feast here: croissants, stuffed French toast with fragrant Tahitian vanilla bean and orange zest and homemade granola with Greek yogurt.From the start, Chef George McKirdy's Astor Bake Shop and Restaurant worked closely with the micro-roaster, Stone Street Coffee, located in Red Hook, NY. Together they developed a "house blend." Don't miss the frozen hot chocolate, the signature "gingerade," house brewed iced teas and a lightly salted lemonade.
McKirdy's regulars include local artists, musicians and writers so brunch may be accompanied by any of this talent. Sit back and enjoy. (718-606-8439)
If you ever ask yourself, "Do fresh and local ingredients make a better brunch?" Then Egg is the place for you. Explore this and other fascinating culinary question with Egg chef and owner George Weld. He serves up his balanced combinations of southern style comfort food. Composed of the very best farm-stand ingredients like Grafton cheddar, real Vermont maple syrup and heirloom tomatoes, richness meets just a touch of acidity with mouthwatering results. Enjoy the casual atmosphere created by wooden folding chairs, large open windows letting in fresh air and sunlight while stuffing your face with buttermilk biscuits, grits and country ham. Beer and wine only. (718-302-5151)
Born, bred and buttered in Harlem, Melba Wilson knew she wanted to stay close to home so she could nurture and provide an exquisite yet comfortable dining experience to the community that raised her. Melba's Restaurant opened its doors in 2005 and has come to be regarded as the premier comfort food destination in New York City. The eponymous restaurant was the vision of its founder, niece to Sylvia Woods, the undisputed queen of soul food in Harlem. Start with a "comfortizer" like the inventive spring roll of rice, black-eyed peas, collard greens and cheddar cheese. The classic chicken with waffles will also bring a smile as will those beef ribs with a side of Tres Mac & Cheese. Not a meat eater? Try the country catfish, pecan crusted tilapia. Brunch has never been oh-so-decadent as when you dive into the eggnog waffles topped with strawberry butter. (212-864-7777)
The NoMad is among the most chic hotels in New York and has become something of a destination in itself as the restaurant is rooted in the same traditions found at the chef's critically-acclaimed, Michelin three-star rated Eleven Madison Park. The setting can be in the romantically-lit lobby, all wine colored and dark woods or the well-lit Atrium an airy space more like a European courtyard. You'll see Eggs Benedict on the menu but they are anything but traditional – with crab, tarragon and of course Hollandaise sauce. By far, the chicken sandwich turns heads. Herby breast of chicken nestled in a fresh brioche with black truffle and foie gras sounds rich, but when the aroma arrives before your dish, you'll be very glad you invested in a $26 chicken sandwich. (347-472-5660)
This 40-year-old Soho institution is buzzing with a new brunch menu since last fall. This is not the place for dainty, fluffy egg dishes, in fact, the chef at Raoul's swore off Eggs Benedict from the start. The breakfast-lunch hybrid, the rest of us call brunch includes a souffle apple pancake and for many, the star of the show is Raoul's classic burger au poivre with fries and St.-Andre cheese for $23 where unlike at dinner are only available at the bar, about 25 or 30 are made at brunch. So get there early if this is what you crave on a Sunday morning. The Catskills Mountain Smoked Salmon and a farm egg is about the closest to a classic breakfast dish you will find here, but all is as fabulous as Raoul's is. (212-966-3518)
Peacock Alley at the Waldorf Astoria
Known as one of the country's top brunches, this truly decadent culinary display features numerous gourmet options laid out in Peacock Alley, the renowned lobby restaurant. Offerings range from cold dishes such as caviar and a seafood bar (lobster, crab, oysters, and more!) to hot dishes including made-to-order Eggs Benedict (which originated at the hotel!) and numerous carving stations. The array of specialty desserts includes favorites such as Red Velvet Cupcakes (another hotel original!) and Baked Alaska. Brunch cocktails (including the Bloody Bunny, a carrot take on the Bloody Mary) are also available. $125 per adult, $75 per child, plus taxes and gratuity. (2128724920)
About Maria Lisella
No matter how many countries Maria Lisella has visited (62), this native New Yorker finds the world at her doorstep in amazing Queens where its residents speak 138 languages.
Maria writes about New York and other destinations for outlets including NYC & Company, AFAR, Travel and Leisure, Wells Fargo Conversations, and others.
As the Queens Poet Laureate, 2015-2018, she observes, listens and captures the urban energy of NYC in poetry and prose.
Her book Thieves in the Family has been described as “… a collection of postcards from the Global Village…”
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