Analysts bemoan how many hard-working Americans are forced to lunch deskside, but another unheralded victim of modern workaholism is the big, buttery, old-fashioned breakfast. On-the-go cereal bars and $12 juices may seem de rigueur, but they are not the only games in town. We think it’s time to make more room in your week for a Bloody Mary and eggs Benedict—like, on a Tuesday!—and reclaim the day’s most important—and most delicious—meal. Luckily, the breakfast restaurants of America are well equipped to help. You can get boozy with a brunch in NYC (and boozier at a brunch in L.A.), get greasy at a gut-busting counter joint in Texas, or go healthy with a mound of fresh fruit at Oahu’s top café. From coast to coast—and beyond—America’s best breakfast restaurants are making a strong case for kicking off your day with a killer meal. Follow Time Out USA on Facebook; sign up for the Time Out USA newsletter
Best breakfast restaurants in America
Brennan’s, New Orleans
“If you haven’t had breakfast at Brennan’s, you haven’t really been to New Orleans at all,” wrote novelist Peter S. Feibleman in 1971. Since 1946, like-minded breakfasters have arrived at the pink-painted French Quarter institution from 8am for ageless indulgences like bourbon milk punch, crab omelettes, praline bread pudding and Creole crepes. The restaurant relaunched with chef Slade Rushing in November 2014, after which he was promptly nominated for a James Beard Award. In addition to its timeless a la carte, Brennan’s now serves a three-course prix-fixe breakfast.
Sqirl, Los Angeles
What started as a preserves company is now one of LA’s most coveted eateries: Sqirl, a small nook of a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch made with farm-fresh ingredients. Chef Jessica Koslow is still churning out jams, but this time you can spread it on thick cuts of brioche toast with Sqirl’s house ricotta. If you’re not ordering toast here, you’re probably ordering one of the rice bowls, filled to the brim with sorrel pesto and radishes, sheep’s-milk and feta cheeses, a poached egg, scallions, cilantro and house sausage. There will be a line, but it’s well worth the wait (as will be Sqirl Away, no doubt—Koslow’s upcoming second venue which is set to open next door).
High Street on Market, Philadelphia
If there is such a thing as a superstar baker, Alex Bois is it. His artisanal breads, like anadama miche—not to mention perfectly flaky croissants—are the foundation upon which chef Eli Kulp builds edgy, award-winning menus for High Street on Market. Think beet-cured salmon with cream cheese and fried capers on a perfectly chewy pretzel roll, or go for broke with the Hickory Town breakfast sammie, which stacks Lancaster bologna, horseradish-spiked Amish cheddar and farm egg on a homemade kaiser roll.
Clary’s Cafe, Savannah
Neighboring grand dame Mrs. Wilkes might get all the guidebook ink, but Clary’s Cafe is the down-home real deal. Part diner, part greasy spoon, and all Southern charm, Clary’s is staffed by a multigenerational cast of affectionately surly servers wont to call guests “hon,” serving gargantuan pecan sticky buns, country-fried steaks and cheesy grits to ravenous crowds of families, students and John Berendt–reading vacationers.
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Garrison Gunter
Jack’s Wife Freda, New York
Israeli-born Maya Jankelowitz met her South African husband, Dean, while working at Balthazar, and the patrons at their charming, sunlit Soho nook look like holdovers from that New York City late-breakfast bastion—i.e., tiny-waisted ladies who brunch and the men who love them. But Jack’s Wife Freda offers Jewish-tinged bites as warm and comforting as anything your bubbe ever made you: rosewater waffles with Lebanese yogurt and honey, and the hard-to-pronounce but easy-to-eat green shakshuka (eggs baked in a chili- and cumin-spiced tomato sauce). Pair yours with a cantaloupe mimosa.
Pine State Biscuits, Portland, OR
In 2006, three North Carolina ex-pats started selling homemade biscuits from a Portland State University farmstand. Several accolades and countless butter-stained napkins later, Pine State Biscuits is an institution with two cafés, a takeaway window and a perpetually mobbed stand at Portland's seasonal farmers’ market. Locals revere the Reggie Deluxe sandwich, which combines fried chicken, bacon and cheese with sausage or mushroom gravy and a fried egg on a surprisingly buoyant biscuit. Like a soggy Portland winter, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Buffalo Grille, Houston
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the heaping plates of migas, huevos rancheros and Frisbee-size hotcakes accompanied by pecan-smoked peppered bacon served at these cavernous counter joints with outposts in University City and Memorial. Service is quick but friendly at Buffalo Grille, and bottomless cups of cinnamon-scented coffee make long wait times—beware Sunday morning’s post-church rush—a distant memory.
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Houston/Julie Soefer
The signature dish at this Logan Square hot spot is malted custard French toast, and it’s available in two sizes, so you can get a slice of the caramelized brioche on the side with your chorizo omelette, a surprisingly light dish that includes onions and piquillos. The rotating waffle is always worth trying—past renditions have included a buckwheat waffle topped with whitefish, a quail egg and crimini mushroom sauce. Too tame? Jam’s Bloody Mary comes garnished with cornichons, a cube of horseradish and the option to add a whole can of Schlitz as a beer back. Do it.
Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant, Nashville
With locations in downtown Nashville, Franklin and Columbia, not to mention a roving food truck, Puckett’s is a Southern(-fried) institution. Grab a booth or wooden table, like one-time regular Willie Nelson, and start your morning right with pulled pork atop sweet potato pancakes or Bubba’s Benedict, a misleadingly named, gut-busting take on biscuits and gravy beneath fried eggs and bacon.
The Friendly Toast, Cambridge, MA
Tattooed bright young things, Warby Parker–wearing academics and longtime locals convene at this hip Kendall Square haunt, which has a sister location in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. House-made breads are a highlight of the popular breakfast menus at the Friendly Toast, which span globe-trotting mains (Costa Rican scramble, anyone?) and classic dishes with a New England twist, a la their “Lobster Haul” eggs Benedict on griddled brioche.
The Laundry, Fenton, MI
Adjectives like "fun" and "funky" are not frequently applied to Fenton, a sleepy city an hour north of Detroit, but this retro, diner-chic New American haunt defies expectations. In addition to pastries from nearby Zingerman’s and Crust bakeries (the latter’s cinnamon bun is a local favorite), the Laundry’s bombastic breakfasts include the Spanish Conquistador—a cast-iron skillet filled with Tater-Tots, chorizo, baked eggs, smoked mozzarella and house-made romesco—as well as bacon and brie pancakes studded with Nueske’s pork and covered with apple compote.
Outerlands, San Francisco
The brunch fare at this reclaimed-wood-covered eatery is worth the trek out to Ocean Beach—and the inevitable wait. (In the meantime, buy a coffee from the excellent Trouble down the street.) Eggs in Jail, a feast of eggs, sweet sausage, squash, leeks and chermoula spilling from the center of a thick slice of levain toast, is a house specialty, as are the Frisbee-size, cast-iron-baked Dutch pancakes topped with roasted apples, bacon or ricotta. Outerlands’ weekly changing sticky bun makes an enticing appetizer. Top it off with bacon; don’t be shy.
Sleepy Bee, Cincinnati
Popular with Cincinnati scenesters and the people who share free-range omelettes with them, this breezy cafe has a chef’s garden, exposed brick and industrial chic steel beams. Lest the scene sound more Brooklyn than Buckeye State, consider the wildly popular Queen City Bee breakfast sandwich, which piles a soft egg, non-GMO apples,arugula and goetta, Cincinnati’s signature pork-and-grain banger, on Shadeau ciabatta. The original Sleepy Bee in Oakley spawned the second outpost in Blue Ash in August 2015.
Coastal Kitchen, Seattle
This open-air bar and café has killer oyster happy hours for the sundowner set, but fervent locals brave Capitol Hill’s steep, titular mounds for $5 breakfast cocktails from 8–10am on weekdays. Coastal Kitchen’s swinging scene also includes crowd-pleasing New American fare like the Dungeness crab cake Benedict, gingerbread waffles and scrambled eggs with smoked Wild King salmon. Anchors aweigh.
Lula Cafe, Chicago
One of the many reasons we love Lula: Breakfast and brunch are served every day (except Tuesday, when the restaurant is closed), which means you can sneak in for coffee and a simple breakfast burrito, stuffed with avocado and potatoes, before work or settle in for a leisurely weekend brunch with pastries. If that’s your style, can we suggest an adorably tiny cherry-almond kringle, a gin Bloody Mary speared with a smoked oyster and some terrific house-made sausage?
Café Kaila, Honolulu
What began as an experimental off-hours breakfast “pop-up” in Waikiki’s Pane e Vino wine bar—without permits or even a grease trap!—is now a (totally legit) Market City phenomenon. Owner Chrissie Kaila Castillo serves fluffy, flawless buttermilk pancakes and malted Belgian waffles topped with local berries or bananas in an airy café with blond wood tables and a perennially packed counter. Breakfast lines at Café Kaila can stretch around the block, especially on weekends, so those with flexible appetites should consider a weekday pancake run.
Clinton St Baking Company, New York
Clinton Street’s warm, mammoth buttermilk biscuits—flaky, savory goodness incarnate—and their fluffy plate-size pancakes are reason enough to battle the brunch-time crowds. But you already knew that because you have been reading about husband-and-wife Neil Kleinberg and DeDe Lahman’s LES spot pretty much since it opened in 2001. If you want to avoid the onslaught, the homey restaurant is just as reliable at lunch and dinner, when locals drop in for fish tacos or breakfast for dinner (the blueberry pancakes are on the menu day and night).
See the best breakfast restaurants in American cities
The best places can be found all over the Valley, from neighborhood favorites such as DW Bistro and Honey Salt to marquee destinations on the Strip
It’s not just stalwart Miami diners and coffee shops giving us our fill of eggs and pancakes—you can get brunch with an Asian inflection, or a fine-dining edge
Some offer unlimited food along with the booze, and a few even amp up the morning festivities with live music, drag shows and burlesque