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BreakfastClub founder, Emily Elyse Miller shares her favorite spots ahead of her new cookbook

Emma Orlow

You may not yet know Emily Elyse Miller's name, but you will soon. This month, Miller releases her new, BREAKFAST: The Cookbook (out May 29th with Phaidon) with over 380+ recipes, taking a global look at morning eating rituals from 80 countries around the world. She's not a chef, but she's quietly been an authority on "all things sunrise" in the New York City for some time. Miller is a food writer also running BreakfastClub, pop-ups and tours focused on the first meal of the day. Collaborating with brands like Noosa Yogurt, S'well, The LINE Hotel and Impossible Foods, her breakfast experiences have hit the road, hosting events at Enrique Olvera’s (owner of Atla, the #1 on our best NYC restaurants list) Mexico City megahit, Pujol, Sam Smith's Tusk in Portland, as well as all over New York City. She's even be creating her own Republic of Booza limited-edition ice cream with a Malaysian breakfast pulled tea and kaya toast flavor, which you can try later this month. Looking for more breakfast recommendations? Check out the best brunch in NYC to try this weekend. 

Photograph: Courtesy Katie June Burton

What fascinates you about breakfast culture in New York? Breakfast in New York is as diverse as the people, and all the people end up at their local bodega. Nobody is above a $3 bacon, egg and cheese on a kaiser roll with a coffee in a Greek-style paper cup. It’s the classic New York breakfast, dare I say, even more so than a bagel. People show their true personality in the morning, and there’s no better time to observe New York culture than in the early hours.

You live on the Upper East Side, right? Do you have any favorite breakfast spots in your neighborhood? After living in Brooklyn for over 7 years, the Upper East Side was a tough, but welcomed transition. I’ve found myself reconnecting with old-school New York diners, having a go-to order at my local bagel shop and appetizing stores, and being in close proximity to all kinds of art. On a nice day I’ll grab a pastry from Flora Bar, have an espresso at the counter at Saint Ambroeus, and go for a walk in Central Park. Breakfast is the best way to feel affordably elegant on the Upper East Side.

Photograph: Courtesy Nicole Franzen

When it came to putting together your cookbook, were there any markets or restaurants you hit up for inspiration? I can’t imagine a better place to test a cookbook on global breakfast than New York. Every culture is represented in some way; from a small Senegalese coffee shop in Harlem (recommended by my taxi driver) to comprehensive markets like Kalustyan's stocking everything from curry leaves to canned abalone. The only ingredients I found tough to find were fresh banana leaves to make cochinita pibil and fresh pandan leaves to make kaya.

Photograph: Courtesy Katie June Burton

What other breakfast spots are you into? There are so many! I have one or two go-to spots in each neighborhood. Some favorites are: Okonomi, Frankel’s, Factory Tamal, West~Bourne, Buvette, Flora bar (any pastry made by Natasha Pickowicz), Cafe Sabarsky, Abraço, and so many more.   

In the intro for your book, you mention that your grandfather used to own an appetizing spot in the Bronx! Yes, my Grandpa Shelly used to own a Jewish appetizing store in the Bronx called Miller's Appetizing. He later moved to Long Island and opened an ice cream shop called Milky Way. Based on my family’s background I think it’s officially acceptable to eat ice cream for breakfast.   

Photograph: Courtesy Katie June Burton

What inspired you to turn your obsession with writing about breakfast into your BreakfastClub tours around the city? Now more than ever, people are expanding their knowledge of food and excited to learn about and taste dishes from all over the world. After finishing the book I wanted to bring the global breakfast I had documented into the real world. The tours were created as an extension of that research and the passion to support the diverse landscape of culture present in NYC.  

I love the packaging you create for the events. This is my event series that brings creative people together to share a meal prepared by a chef who doesn't normally serve breakfast. I’m obsessed with cartoons and take away packaging so partnering with Amit Greenberg to create our own world where breakfast characters interact with human-like characters was a dream. Enjoying a fast-food style meal in a tasting menu only restaurant; it helps get people into a creative mindset and creates the perfect high/low contrast.

Photograph: Courtesy Katie June Burton

The tours focus on spots on the Lower East Side. Why'd you pick that neighborhood to start? The Lower East Side, back to the 1940’s was considered one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Manhattan. If you’re paying attention you can walk the globe in just a few blocks. I make it a point to bring guests to a mix of modern and old-school establishments that tell the story of the neighborhood. There’s a Dominican breakfast plate at El Castillo de Jagua, Shanghainese wonton soup at Wu’s Wonton King, Malaysian kaya toast with jam from Kopitiam and more. There are 5 stops that I switch up every so often.

The Lower East Side has changed so much in the last five years. Do you see the tours as a way to archive that neighborhood before there are further erasures in the restaurants? Absolutely! It took months to grow relationships with the restaurants but it was important for me to show the full scope of culture present in the LES and not just the popular spots accustomed to tourism. Guests have sent me photos of them returning to some of the restaurants, which truly makes this all worth it.
Would you say the tours are just for tourists? Definitely not. It's been an incredible mix of food and design industry people, their families, and food-loving travelers discovering the tours through my Instagram or via some of the wonderful media coverage the tours have received. Everyone becomes friends at the end, and many people actually keep in touch.

Photograph: Courtesy Katie June Burton

Sign up for Emily Elyse Miller's BreakfastClub newsletter to stay up-to-date on her book tour and future breakfast events.  


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