Best brunch spots for every personality
Housed in what was once the legendary jazz bar Perk’s, this uptown sleeper opened late last year with chef Gustavo Lopez (Terroir, Lupa, DBGB) at the helm, turning tired farm-to-table fare on its head. Trend chasers should seek out the corner spot’s contemporary yet cozy bi-level dining rooms, where rib-sticking midday meals—like corn arepas covered in duck confit and salsa verde or eggs Benedict draped over inch-thick, house-made English muffins—are ushered to blond-wood tables on hand-thrown earthenware. In lieu of the expected mimosa or Bellini, barkeeps swirl fresh apricot juice with Spanish cava wine, while the cocktail docket pays homage to jazz standards with drinks like Good Morning Heartache, an ode to Billie Holiday that punches up delicate gin and génépy with rose-hibiscus bitters, pink peppercorns and sweet, tart beet juice. Think of it as a nifty way to take in both the new and old Harlem.
If you can’t imagine tossing back Bloody Marys without your entire crew in tow, Bar Sardine vet Gabriel Stulman’s all-day dining room, on the second floor of the Freehand New York, is an ace option. The airy, sprawling, high-ceilinged space is rife with leather armchairs and benches draped in fur blankets, so your squad will feel right at home tearing apart the Jewish-Moroccan menu: eggs enveloped in house-made, brik-style puff pastry, babkas with dulce de leche, and sourdough croissants. There are even shareable plates of lamb kefta in pita, drizzled with lemon tahini and dotted with cucumber relish, and rotisserie chicken over traditional black rice and mint yogurt. Invite all your ride-or-dies and dig in like it’s your very own light-flooded living room.
Weekend dilemma: You want a good bite to eat, but you also want to get completely smashed afterward. While numerous nabes boast a high density of bars (this is NYC, after all), none are quite as daytime-friendly as the eastern stretch of the West Village. You’ve got the casually hip Wilfie & Nell and Kettle of Fish, the LGBT-friendly Stonewall Inn and Duplex, the whiskey whiz Spaniard, the Irish institution Galway Hooker, and the pool-packed Fat Cat—all within a three-block radius. And Fairfax is the sunny café parked right in the middle of them all. Sporting of-the-moment midcentury-modern decor and large windows, it’s the prime place to pad your belly with trendy but comforting plates; think gravlax with challah chips, bacon-topped carbonara flatbread or a pimento-cheese burger. Now that’s drinking (and eating) responsibly.
Le Petit Cafe
Beyond the unassuming storefront and the slim grab-and-go counter is a big back patio, replete with hanging planters cascading greenery, floor-to-ceiling windows and a skylight through which sunlight drenches the reclaimed-wood tables. In short, this French country restaurant feels more like a greenhouse than a dining room. Take in the whimsical allure of the glowing string lights, rustic brick walls, and charming menu of dainty tea cakes and fresh, flaky croissants. Save room at the cash-only spot for more-filling brunch classics, including the quiche of the day (bacon, Swiss and onion; spinach, feta and tomato), Belgian waffles slathered in Nutella and strawberries, and the house special of poached eggs in a roasted–plum-tomato sauce with portobello mushrooms.
When Mom and Pop invade NYC, you no doubt feel the pressure to show them Gotham’s good side. Of course, that includes a swanky but budget-friendly brunch to remind them that you do, in fact, have your shit together. With its glittering tin ceiling and plush sapphire-velvet banquettes, this all-day café set inside a furniture store pulls out all the stops for your parental units, including a truly Parisian menu from chef Marie-Aude Rose (of global restaurant Pierre Gagnaire fame). Start with a traditional charcuterie board or beef tartare strewn alongside waffle fries, then opt for more-refined plates like creamy tarragon-chicken buckwheat crêpes or a beef bourguignonne to rival Julia Child’s. A full page of both French and domestic beer (Weyerbacher), cider (Aval) and vino (chenin blanc) keeps everyone blissfully content throughout the rest of your scheduled afternoon. Before heading to the next parent pit stop, take advantage of your mom covering the check by cracking into caramel-swirled crème brûlée. Or bring home one of the pastry chef’s fresh creations (chocolate croissants, apricot turnovers) from the counter.
If showboating is more your style (hey, no judgment), book a booth here. This French restaurant in the heart of the party-hard Meatpacking District prides itself on raucous music, discotheque light shows and free-flowing champagne. The atmosphere is like a stereotype of the neighborhood’s clubs but enjoyed at midafternoon. (That means bottles of bubbly lit with sparklers and enormous pitchers of spiked punch for every over-the-top group gathering.) With drinks like the Booty Call (tequila, jalapeño, watermelon) and the Rich & Famous (vodka, cucumber, Veuve Clicquot), dancing on tabletops is expected. If you feel extra indulgent, opt for one of the $215 martinis made with Nolet’s Reserve gin and Beluga vodka. And the brunch entrées are every bit as exorbitant, including the two-foot-long lobster rolls ($78), 48-ounce porterhouse steaks (market price) and the Insane Decadanse platter ($98), loaded with assorted doughnuts, waffles, pancakes, Nutella, jams and marmalade.
Charlie‘s Bar & Kitchen
Nestled in the same borough that gave rise to hip-hop, this orange-brick pub inside a former piano factory spins ’90s rap nuggets and hosts live jazz bands, all while slinging Southern-leaning plates every weekend starting at 11am. Belly up to the bar for DJ Menyu’s monthly “Boogie Down Brunch” of old-school hip-hop and R&B remixes, so you can tune in (or zone out) alongside the Bronx natives and newcomers. Ask for a Henny from the Block, which spices up the caramely cognac with hits of ginger syrup, orange bitters and fresh lemon, before diving into a favorite dish of the locals: the Fried-Chicken Benny, a rich hybrid of two brunch bastions that layers a sunny-side-up egg atop boneless fried chicken and a crispy waffle, then showers it in a sausage gravy good enough to make you forget your friends bailed.
Astoria’s iconic diner runs on nostalgia and a “no fucks given” attitude. Covered in ’80s memorabilia and ’90s knickknacks, the quirky restaurant draws crowds with its doodled menu of ooey-gooey goodness—like Oreo-stuffed brioche French toast smothered in chocolate-cookie crumbles or the cornflake-crusted, maple-Tabasco–glazed chicken and waffles. But the kitchen is just as well known for its 10 madcap riffs on eggs Benedict, including a “breakfast lasagna,” decadently layered with bacon, sausage, tomato and mozzarella, and a Creole version that stacks fried tilapia and cajun-spiced shrimp over a dense pillow of cornbread. Another plus is the BYOB service, which means you can pick and pour your poison with no corkage fee. Just be prepared for the strict cash-only policy, and bring a pocketful of change to try your hand at the vintage arcade games in the corner. At this brunch staple, lines around the block are a given, so do like the staff suggests and arrive either when the doors open or an hour before closing.
Inspired by 1960s Los Angeles, this café boasts a flavorful menu that won’t leave you feeling guilty or dazed from a food coma. That said, the plates—named for neighborhoods and institutions in and around L.A.—don’t follow strict nutritional rules but, rather, a general ethos of wellness practiced by owner and Golden State native Camilla Marcus. The healthy dishes from the open kitchen are smart and subtle, like the buckwheat Malibu waffles topped with vanilla crème fraîche, the pair of Echo Tacos loaded with potato-pepper hash and crisp romaine, and, of course, the chia pudding tinged with coconut and decorated with toasted almonds and fresh raspberries. If nothing else, you have one reason to leave feeling pretty damn full: A donation is made from every purchase to the poverty-fighting foundation Robin Hood.
The Butcher’s Daughter
From its humble juice-bar beginnings to its current status as a raw-food superstar with bicoastal outposts, this sun-drenched café has vegetarians hooked. The rustic-chic aesthetic (blond-wood counters, whitewashed brick, lush greenery) sets the scene for farm-forward plates, such as the smashed-avocado–toast Benedict with curried hollandaise and a sprinkling of mustard seeds or the vegan-friendly tacos verdes piled high with sautéed mushrooms and quinoa, then crowned with chipotle-cashew crema. Not to be overlooked, the extensive drink list includes superfood smoothies (avocado-pineapple, acai–goji berry, mango-coconut), elixir shots (wheatgrass, ginger), and even cold-pressed cocktails like a pineapple-jicama mimosa and the gin-based Ochoa that quells zippy yuzu citrus with a savory thyme tincture.