While the history of Tompkins Square Park is riddled with tumult, the East Village plot has become an idyllic place for a weekend stroll. You’ll catch neighborhood denizens lounging on the grass with a book, and you should stop at the dog run, where herds of canines chase each other and play. The park is also home to the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, where owners dress their dogs up in costumes and compete for prizes. All that activity incites hunger, so you’ll probably want to follow up your trip to the park with brunch. Here are the five best spots for a midday weekend meal nearby.
Northern Spy (511 East 12th Street, 212-228-5100)
You may have to wait for a table at Northern Spy; its brunch commands crowds. But if you can stomach the line, you’ll be tucked into a cubby and plied with sticky rolls, slow-whisked scrambled eggs, and some of the best biscuits and gravy in the city. Have your meal with a Fuji apple mimosa or a celery tonic if you need to undo the effects of last night.
Huertas (107 First Avenue, 212-228-4490)
This Basque tapas joint launched brunch not long ago, and it’s serving a sizable menu of Spanish dishes like tortilla española, huevos rotos, and Spanish french toast. Dip into the churros con chocolate, which come as a side for this daytime meal, and consider the sandwiches, which stack fried calamari or ham and cheese between slices of bread.
Back Forty (190 Avenue B #1, 212-388-1990)
Back Forty bills itself as a farm-to-table burger joint at its core, but its brunch tells a different story. Sure, you can get a burger, gussied up with bacon, cheddar, and an egg, if you please. But you should also explore the rest of the menu, which includes fresh doughnuts, buttermilk fried chicken and waffles, and a braised brisket and yucca hash. If the sun is shining, the back patio is an ideal place to be.
B&H Dairy (127 Second Avenue, 212-505-8065)
Two avenues from the park sits this old Village stalwart, which turns out typical diner fare, like pancakes and omelettes, plus Eastern European vegetarian staples, like blintzes and pierogies. You’ll be able to get breakfast or lunch; if you go for the latter, consider the grilled cheese sandwich, which is like the platonic version of the grilled cheese you were served in your youth. It’s a small space, and the atmosphere is decidedly no-frills, but you’ll spy old neighbors at the tables and counter who have been in this area since before Tompkins Square Park was a desirable place.
Miss Lily’s 7A (109 Avenue A, 212-812-1482)
Located across the street from the park, this Caribbean restaurant offers a one-hour unlimited bellini, bloody mary, or rum punch deal for $15 with the purchase of an entree. Not after a boozy midday meal? It might still be worth braving the scene for the food, which is quite good. Try the breakfast roti, which comes with scrambled eggs and sausage; the coconut pancakes; or the Jamaican breakfast, a platter of ackee and saltfish (Jamaica’s national dish), verdant callaloo, and festival, a fried bread.
Want takeout? Try Empire Biscuit or Zucker Bakery, or hike down to Russ & Daughters.