Food

The 10 Best Breakfasts in NYC

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Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it too often becomes an afterthought, skipped altogether in lieu of a hurried borough-to-borough commute. New York may not be much of a breakfast town — unless you count the hordes who queue for corner store coffee and a mediocre egg on a roll — but the city has a lot more to offer than that much-hyped cocktail hour we call weekend brunch. And one could argue that pancakes taste just as good on Monday as they do after an hour-long wait on Saturday.

Here are the 10 best breakfasts in NYC, which range from shops where you can grab sandwiches to-go, bakery/coffee shop duos, and bistros where you can indulge longer mornings playing hooky.

10. City Bakery, 3 West 18th Street
Open weekdays at 7:30 a.m.

This two-level cafe near Union Square is packed almost any time of the week, but crowds are thin early in the morning, which makes it easier to grab what you want. The place made its name on its enormous and unusual breakfast pastries — the pretzel croissant, the cinnamon-y baker’s muffin — which share case space with standby muffins and other pastries. The staff behind the coffee bar will make up any single-origin invention you can come up with, and if you’re willing to throw down the (admittedly steep) $7.50 for a mug of hot chocolate, you may join the ranks of those you can’t stop raving about the stuff, even in the summer months.

9. Milk Bar, 620 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn
Open weekdays at 7:30 a.m.

Milk Bar occupies a nearly park-adjacent corner in Prospect Heights, and it catches morning sunlight from multiple directions. The small cafe serves a simple menu, which matches the minimalist wooden booths and peaceful decibel level. A number of offerings revolve around toast: Sweet fiends should opt for the syrupy strawberry compote; savory breakfast fans might go with the egg “toasties” with avocado and salsa or ham and Gruyere. Pair your a.m. meal to a cup of single origin coffee.

8. Ess-a-Bagel, 359 First Avenue and 831 Third Avenue
Open weekdays at 6:30 a.m.

“We don’t toast,” declares the team behind the spit-shield at this old school spot (the Midtown location is newer). The bagel-mongers wield loaded cream-cheese spreaders and apply the topping at alarming speeds — they have to if they’re going to contend with the line that forms during breakfast hours. During the morning rush, you’ll watch a batch of doughy, shiny rounds come out of the oven and be tossed into baskets, only to be pointed at, sliced to order, topped with eggs and cheese or cream cheese and lox, and then wrapped and handed over to a hungry customer within minutes. Bagels aren’t toasted here because it’s unlikely they’ll get cold enough to need it.
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7. Pies ‘n’ Thighs, 166 South 4th Street, Brooklyn
Open weekdays at 9 a.m.

You probably already know that this plain storefront in Williamsburg serves fried chicken and pie, but it’s a mistake to overlook the shop during morning hours, when you can find hearty Southern breakfast fare. Specialties like fish and grits, chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, doughnuts, and an egg breakfast round out a menu that’s also stacked in midday fare. Best of all, you can get this menu until 4 p.m.

6. Lafayette, 380 Lafayette Street
Open weekdays at 7:30 a.m.

Andrew Carmellini’s NoHo spot established itself as a brunch mecca the moment it opened, but you can also get this take on the Parisian weekend on a New York Tuesday morning. Sink into a leather banquettes beneath tall light-filled windows and order the quiche du jour, the lemon pancakes with fruit, the farm eggs with pommes de rôtisserie, or the oatmeal topped with cognac stewed fruit. It’s all of the brunch experience without the brunch insanity.

5. Russ & Daughters Cafe, 127 Orchard Street
Open weekdays at 10 a.m.

At the beginning of May, century-old family business Russ & Daughters opened up a Lower East Side sit-down restaurant, where serves its traditional smoked fish and herring and other traditional Jewish staples. The simple gray booths and white walls are adorned with memorabilia from the family’s long history as an institution in New York; the food hews to tradition, too. Bagel boards come littered with spreads and fish, and eggs come sided with potato latkes and fish or mixed into a smoked salmon cream cheese omelette. If you’re into sweet breakfasts, don’t miss the babka french toast and blintzes.

4. Bakeri, 150 Wythe Avenue and 105 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Open weekdays at 8 a.m. (Greenpoint location closed on Mondays)

These shops aren’t frilly patisseries: They’re spots where a fleet of bandana-clad ladies donning utilitarian jumpsuits bake serious artisan breads and treats like savory tarts, galettes, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, chocolate rolls, brioches, and Scandinavian skolebrød in addition to the standard croissants, muffins, and seasonal cakes. Pair any of these breakfast indulgences to a barista-concocted coffee drink; if your appetite won’t be sated with bread alone, look for made-to-order baguette sandwich options and a yogurt and granola bowl.
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3. Morandi, 211 Waverly Place
Open weekdays at 8 a.m.

From the breakfasteur behind Balthazar comes Morandi, an Italian trattoria from Keith McNally. Here, rustic farm tables and wooden cafe chairs serve as the backdrop for simple yet meticulous breakfast fare. Eggs any way are done particularly well sunny-side-up and served over a bed of seasonal vegetables (recently, fava beans and spring peas). Also worth tucking into: grilled bread with sweet and sour fruit preserves, the seasonal frittata, and breakfast pizza, the crust doughy within and crisp on the outside, topped with anything from Italian cheeses to pancetta to smoked fish — plus a sunny-side egg.

2. Tom’s Diner, 782 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn
Open weekdays at 7 a.m.
A relic of the American diner’s heyday, the folks at Tom’s have been flipping pancakes and slinging hash since 1936. Slip into a backless tall stool along the counter or a booth in the back and drink in bits and pieces of the restaurant’s long history: an autographed photograph of Marilyn Monroe near the register, giant striped coffee mugs painted those perfect eighties pastels stacked along a shelf, and a poster of Barack Obama Scotch-taped above the doorway. As for the food, you’ll find mostly classics: dozens of iterations of eggs and omelets, and thick, fluffy pancakes and waffles topped with everything from fresh strawberries to cinnamon smothered bananas.

1. Buvette, 42 Grove Street
Open weekdays at 8 a.m.

Chef Jody Williams envisioned Buvette as a place her West Village neighbors would hang out in all day, and that starts with breakfast. Stop in for light and airy steamed eggs, scrambled with the wand of an espresso machine; little croissants with dollops of butter and jam; Belgian waffles with berries; or croques. Williams is exacting in her coffee drink specifications, too — don’t even think about asking for a cappuccino with skim milk — and the latte art is on point, too.



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