In NYC, brunch offers a perfect opportunity to sample the city’s veritable smorgasbord — you can find everything from roving booze carts to D.I.Y. gourmet breakfast sandwiches to Mediterranean spreads of seasonal small plates. Here are our favorite places to indulge:
10. Mission Chinese Food (171 East Broadway, 212-432-0300)
Last year around Christmastime, Danny Bowien and executive chef Angela Dimayuga’s Mission Chinese Food crew debuted a playful take on dim sum brunch, complete with carts. The only catch is that you’re more likely to find tartare-topped congee and bagels smeared with chicken liver than crystal shrimp dumplings. If he’s around, Bowien himself may serve you bowls of sinigang, a Filipino soup soured with tamarind or wobbly rice rolls stuffed with smoked eel and sprinkled with cornflakes. He works the room harder than his waitstaff, whose indifferent attitude feels identical to what you’d get in Flushing, Sunset Park, or Mott Street. Barring the mimosa bottle service, the check’s nearly on par with Chinatown, too.
9. Mekelburg’s (293 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-399-2337)
Every day of the week at Alicia and Daniel Mekelburg’s subterranean grocery and pub, the couple transforms the shop’s soft, dense babka into luxurious French toast. The brief menu also features smoked salmon and whitefish toasts, as well as a “Mek-muffin,” which puts the golden arches to shame with a crème-fraîche-and-chive frittata covered in melted cheddar, slab bacon, wilted arugula, and Malaysian hot sauce. The signature breakfast sandwich clocks in at $10, but a naked frittata on Mazzola Bakery brioche is just $3.75, with toppings like serrano ham or broccoli rabe available for about $2 each.
8. Glasserie (95 Commercial Street, Brooklyn; 718-389-0640)
In addition to brunch fare like lamb phyllo pies and ricotta-smeared grilled bread with stewed fruit, Glasserie’s Israeli chef Eldad Shem Tov offers a meze deal that comfortably feeds two. The $19 feast includes ten small tastes (bowls of yogurt, hummus, and seasonal vegetables) to pair with grilled flatbread. For $25, the kitchen throws in a choice of entree — think poached egg shakshuka, house-cured sardines, or more flatbread (this time with lamb and charred vegetables). Sure, the restaurant’s a bit remote, but that’s part of what makes it such a gem.
7. Delaware and Hudson (135 North 5th Street, Brooklyn; 718-218-8191)
Patti Jackson satisfies all your Mid-Atlantic desires at this charming and relaxed Williamsburg retreat known for its killer beer list. Scrapple, a Pennsylvanian pork-scrap treat, is made in-house. The kitchen serves the hash in thick golden-brown slabs with eggs any style. And Jackson forgoes fried fowl for crisp and airy waffles ladled with luscious chicken stewed in gravy. She’s even gotten into the breakfast sandwich game with “the Moose,” a mess of cheese, bacon, mushrooms, onions, and creamy special sauce on a hard roll — skin-on potato chips and seasonal pickles included.
6. Joe and Misses Doe (45 East First Street, 212-780-0262)
Opinionated restaurateurs Jill and Joe Dobias slay the weekend daytime meal Beyoncé-style at their stalwart East Village shoebox of a restaurant. Joe lets loose with inventive brunch riffs (BBQ chicken Benedict) and some seriously fierce biscuits. Enjoy them on their own, or split in half for a hot chicken sandwich that’s just begging for Queen B’s handbag hot sauce. Jill is a big fan of encouraging folks to have “sexy time” with her cheeky sidewalk chalkboard signage, and serves quirky goblet drinks, like a Michelada for two, perfectly attuned to the meal’s bacchanalian tendencies.
5. Barney Greengrass (541 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-724-4707)
New York’s oldest surviving appetizing shop and restaurant, Barney Greengrass has served the Upper West Side since 1908. You can sit in the timeworn beige dining room eating lox and eggs while the wait staff banters, grabbing cans of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda or your pick from the cold case. These days, third-generation owner Gary Greengrass oversees the action. The outfit also offers pastries, cheeses, matzo ball soup, blintzes, and other Jewish comfort dishes. But undoubtedly, the “sturgeon king” deserves his crown: the flaky, thick slices of pink-hued fish are subtly smoky, with remarkable unctuousness and a firm, meaty chew.
4. High Street on Hudson (637 Hudson Street, 917-388-3944)
Eli Kulp and Ellen Yin’s breezy spinoff of Philadelphia’s High Street on Market rouses weekend customers with provocative pastries (hello, Benton’s ham danish with coffee gravy), cured fish presentations, and bold breakfast sandwiches layered with everything from pastrami and bologna to seared king oyster mushrooms. Kulp even delivers a biscuit-bound homage to NYC’s bacon, egg, and cheese with a malted breakfast sausage patty and aged cheddar. That same sausage anchors a full breakfast involving spicy coppa, potatoes, eggs, and rapini, and the chef balances his meatier offerings with lighter plates like ginger yogurt and oatmeal. The breakfast menu is available until 3:30 p.m., but the kitchen begins offering lunch items starting at 11:30 a.m., so time your arrival accordingly. You don’t want to miss the salads, vegetable sides, and mouthwatering sandwiches like roast pork with fermented broccoli rabe, and a duck meatball sub that tempers sweet marinara with earthy duck liver. Lunch desserts are also available.
3. M. Wells Steakhouse (43-15 Crescent Street, Queens; 718-786-9060)
Chef Hugue Dufour and his wife, Sarah Obraitis, the trout-farming owners of this charming, offbeat steakhouse built inside a former auto-body shop, added brunch early last year. Dufour, long known for his unconventional creativity in the kitchen, turns the indulgent weekend meal on its head. The menu changes frequently, but seared foie gras plunked into a bowl of creamy oats is a mainstay, and depending on the season you might encounter jacked-up avocado toast drizzled with sea urchin vinaigrette, or an inverted and stately frittata with explosive pockets of kimchi and blood sausage, the eggs stained a Seussian purple thanks to Okinawan sweet potatoes. There’s also kimchi in the Bloody Mary, which comes garnished with a cocktail onion and top neck clam.
2. Lakruwana (668 Bay Street, Staten Island; 347-857-6619)
Wife-and-husband team Jayantha and Lakruwana Wijesinghe first opened their Sri Lankan restaurant, Lakruwana, in a midtown office building, surreptitiously. Then they went legit and moved to Staten Island, joining some 5,000 other Sri Lankan expats, the largest community of its kind in the U.S. At their stately restaurant, lovingly decorated with Buddha statues and gilded wall etchings, the Wijesinghes serve a $13.95 all-day, all-you-can-eat buffet on Saturdays and Sundays with more showmanship than anything Vegas has to offer. Dozens of dishes — many of them Jayantha’s family recipes — line the wall, bubbling away in clay pots of all shapes, sizes, and patterns. They hold heady fruit and vegetable curries (pineapple and cassava among them) and heftier dishes like chestnut-brown “black curry” pork. There’s enough variety here to encourage multiple trips, with a truly vast number of flavor and texture profiles on display. Even the condiments, often overlooked on a buffet, take star turns here — add the coconut and onion sambals to everything.
1. Rebelle (218 Bowery, 917-639-3880)
Taking a cue from its name, Daniel Eddy, Patrick Cappiello, and Branden McRill’s sleek French bistro initially eschewed the weekend meal altogether, advertising “weekend lunch” instead. They’ve since surrendered, though Rebelle’s brunch offerings feature several star players from their dinner menu: fluke crudo laced with brown butter, capers, and lemon; beef tartare with snappy sunchokes and bracing horseradish, and a superlative plank of roast chicken and sorrel leaves, which gets a lift from lemon preserves. There’s no French toast to be found, but devoted brunchers will appreciate the eggs Eddy fries and stuffs between brioche halves, producing messy, $16 breakfast sandwiches stacked with a gonzo combination of house-made duck sausage, Swiss chard, and Comté. The chef also drops a soft-poached egg into shallow bowls of deftly cooked lobster and cabbage (prepared eggless at dinner), and goes the sunny-side-up route for shareable plates of hanger steak with potatoes and bordelaise sauce. Adding to the daytime excess, Rebelle employs a cocktail cart for tableside Bloody Marys, Caesars, and Bulls. Choose your tomato mix, booze (vodka, gin, or mezcal), and a pickle from the Pickle Guys, like green bean and brussels sprout, which the roving mixologist will skewer and set over your drink with fanfare.