Meals for brunch agnostics

Weary of the food world’s most divisive portmanteau? Then try these serious restaurants that are reinventing classic brunch fare—or avoiding it altogether.

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  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Grilled cheese at Cannibal

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Duck leg at Isa

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Wakame Biscuit at Isa

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Cinnamon Bun at Isa

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Michelada at Isa

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Oyster Po Boy Sandwich at Isa

  • Photograph: Dominic Perri

    Ravioli with egg yolk and spinach at Osteria Morini

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Creamy Chicken and Sunchoke Soup at Back Forty West

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Smoked Chicken Breast Salad with Whole Grain Mustard Dressing and Crungy Vegetables at Back Forty West

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    16 Hour Pulled Pork on Potato Roll at Back Forty West

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Fatty Johnson Burger at Fatty Cue

  • Photograph: Dominic Perri

    Cheeseburger (debragga dry aged beef) with stilton at Jones Wood Foundry

  • Photograph: Marianne Rafter

    Thai-inspired modern american cuisine at Kin Shop

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Pad Thai with bacon and egg at Talde

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Everything bagel spring rolls at Talde

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Pad Thai with bacon and egg at Talde

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Grilled cheese at Cannibal

The beer-nerd alternative: The Cannibal

  • Critics choice

Christian Pappanicholas’s artisanal meat-and-beer emporium provides rich rewards for those looking to skip French toast and Bloody Marys in favor of nose-to-tail butchery and top-notch suds. While there are some breakfast-friendly extras to choose from on weekends (house-made granola, freekeh with milk and honey), the heartiest stuff is best: a ballsy Cuban with pig’s head, smoked ham and Gruyère ($12); grass-fed beef dogs served Coney Island-style with beef-heart ragù ($14); or a gorgeously browned grilled cheese with just the right balance of Vermont cheddar, Gruyère, pork belly and streaky bacon ($12). Sit in the handsome back garden and while away the day with a few pours from the leather-bound beer menu. A fitting choice that’s been in rotation recently is Carton Brewing Company’s “Brunch. Dinner. Grub.,” a New Jersey–made brown ale with notes of toffee and dark bread.

  1. 113 E 29th St, (between Park and Lexington Aves), 10016
More info

Avant-garde for the bleary-eyed: Isa

  • Critics choice

With piles of chopped firewood stacked against the wall and sun streaming through huge windows, Williamsburg’s most exciting new restaurant offers a calming escape from the brunching hordes. They may be scared off by the modernist bona fides of chef Ignacio Mattos, who has built a following with his challenging, free-form cooking. But in the light of day, the toque’s menu skews more comforting than confronting. There’s easy appeal to a cinnamon bun ($5), burnished around the edges and extra-gooey within, and fork-tender roasted pork ($15) in a cast-iron skillet with polenta, brussels sprouts and a pair of just-set fried eggs. In other dishes, glimmers of Mattos’s knack for earthy, unusual flavors comes through. An excellent wakame biscuit ($4) is speckled with gently sweet dried seaweed, then slicked with citrusy yuzu butter. And the best dish—a gorgeous confited duck leg caramelized in the wood-fired oven ($16)—rests in transcendent sweet-potato puree, thickened with egg yolk and then dusted with cocoa and ground coffee beans.

  1. 348 Wythe Ave, (at South 2nd St)
Book online

All-day pasta: Osteria Morini

  • Critics choice

We’re not quite sure why more people don’t eat pasta for brunch. If you’re on the same page, sidestep the lines at Balthazar and head around the corner for a taste of Michael White’s impeccable from-scratch creations, which you’ll find readily available during the walk-in–friendly daytime hours. Opt for favorites from the regular menu—cappaletti with truffle butter and salty prosciutto ($19), garganelli quills with cream and crumbled pork sausage ($20). Or, try the brunch-only raviolo ($20), an oversize envelope that oozes its filling of egg yolk, ricotta and sautéed spinach into a Parmesan béchamel brightened with English green peas, sliced asparagus and diced tomato. A selection of hearty egg dishes rounds out the offerings, including polenta with salumi hash ($17) and poached eggs served with cotechino on an English muffin-like tigelle ($18).

  1. 218 Lafayette St, (between Broome and Spring Sts)
Book online

Locavore lunch: Back Forty West

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Malleable agnostics can find common ground with their brunch-loving cronies at this casual refit of Savoy, Peter Hoffman’s trailblazing farm-to-table joint. For those with eggs Benedict on the mind, the BFW egg sandwich ($10) offers an elegant spin on the classic: a breaded and fried poached egg sitting atop a house-made English muffin, with slivers of celery for crunch and preserved Meyer lemon zest to cut through the richness. But chef Shanna Pacifico trains her focus more toward the lunch end of the spectrum, turning out familiar dishes (fried chicken, grass-fed burgers) reenergized by bright Greenmarket ingredients. Bold salads, served in rustic wooden bowls, include a Caesar-style mix of grilled kale and raw escarole with creamy Parmesan dressing, crunchy fried chickpeas and salty white anchovies ($14). And you’d be silly to leave without trying the signature pork-face nuggets ($4), which gush their unctuous porcine filling when you bite into the crunchy outer shell.

  1. 70 Prince St, (at Crosby St)
More info

BBQ for brunch haters: Fatty ’Cue

  • Critics choice

If the standard sausage patties don’t do it for you, head to Zak Pelaccio’s Malaysian-inspired ’cue joint for a midday meal with some real carnivore cred. Fluffy ricotta flapjacks ($13) arrive smothered in house-smoked maple syrup, with a meaty side of coriander bacon to dip into the amber liquid. Tender heritage pork ribs ($14)—fat-stippled behemoths rubbed down with Indonesian long pepper—also get a ride in the smoker, followed by a slick of salty-sweet fish sauce and palm sugar. And besides the late-night menu (Thu–Sat midnight–2am), brunch is the only time to get the Fatty Johnson burger ($12), made with house-ground Brandt Beef from Texas, seared in drippings and topped with aged Gouda, mustard aioli and B&B pickles.

  1. 50 Carmine St, (between Bedford and Bleecker Sts)
Book online

The Spanish hot spot: Tertulia

  • Critics choice

With a Food & Drink Award, a James Beard Best New Restaurant nomination, and celeb boosters such as Jay-Z and Martha Stewart, it’s not surprising that Seamus Mullen’s Spanish taverna is a tough table to score. One workaround is to stop by during the quieter brunch service, when you can nab many of the same rustic small plates served at dinner. Any meal, at any time of day, should begin with the addictive pan con tomate ($5) rubbed with tomato, olive oil and garlic, as well as a classic tortilla española ($6) and crunchy Ibérico ham croquettes ($11). There are also breakfast-friendly creations that showcase Spain’s love affair with eggs. While these dishes can be a bit awkward to share, we still loved the revuelto de gambas ($15), an upgraded breakfast sandwich featuring soft scrambled eggs, ruby-red shrimp and crème fraîche tucked into a buttery grilled brioche.

  1. 359 Sixth Ave, (between Washington Pl and W 4th St)
More info

The Anglophile’s retreat: Jones Wood Foundry

Chef Jason Hicks—a British expat and fine-dining vet (La Goulue, Orsay)—goes beyond the full English breakfast at this handsome gastropub, where you can eat among Shakespeare tomes and antique teapots in the homey back room. Well-executed upgrades on Anglo classics include house-made crumpets with lemon curd ($7); a toad-in-the-hole ($14) that cloaks chipolata sausages and sweet caramelized onions in eggy Yorkshire-pudding batter; and a bowl of kedgeree ($7)—fragrant rice dish featuring hunks of smoked haddock and boiled egg tossed with saffron, parsley and curry sauce. Hicks has a knack for sprucing up the English pantry with seasonal ingredients, so keep an eye on the specials board for weekend roasts and rotating pie fillings like rosemary-spiced Moroccan lamb and cider-braised pork shoulder.

  1. 401 E 76th St, (between First and York Aves), 10021
More info

Thai from a Top Chef: Kin Shop

You won’t catch Top Chef winner Harold Dieterle trying to cater to the bacon-and-eggs crowd at his impressionist Thai joint, inspired by his travels in Southeast Asia. What you’ll find instead is a pared-down version of the ambitious—and often fiery—dinner menu, including the tangy, tongue-searing duck laab salad ($13) and slow-braised goat neck covered in a rich, silky Massaman curry sauce flavored with pineapple and toasted coconut ($19). Those looking to keep the bill in check can opt for a $20 three-course prix fixe, featuring options such as garam-masala-and-tomato soup, spicy braised skate with calamari, and calamansi sorbet.

  1. 469 6th Avenue, 10011
Book online

Hangover dim sum: Talde

  • Critics choice

Chef Dale Talde’s Asian-American spin on brunch is tailor-made for hungover Park Slopers, as well as anyone who would choose pad thai over pancakes after rolling out of bed. The recently launched “dim sum” menu is hit-and-miss so far, but amid the misfires (crumbly cheong fun, mushy chilaquiles) you’ll find successful mash-ups such as the extra-crispy “pretzel” pork-and-chive dumplings ($8), coated in egg wash and butter then dredged in coarse salt. Another successful remix, inspired by Talde’s favorite breakfast, is the flaky “everything bagel” spring roll, stuffed with a lemon-kissed mixture of cream cheese and smoked salmon. And if your head is really throbbing, that pad thai should set you straight with its salty blast of fish sauce and smoky nubs of Benton’s bacon; at brunch, it’s topped with an over-easy egg instead of fried oysters.

  1. 369 Seventh Ave, (at 11th St), 11215
More info


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