Brunch and Beyond: Mother’s Day in NYC

Gillian Osswald

The recipe for a successful Mother’s Day is simple: something to eat, something to do and, most important, a great mom to celebrate. If you can supply the latter, New York City is brimming with ways to fill May 14 with mom-centric festivities. We recommend including the meal NYC does best: brunch. You’re sure to find menus and venues here to suit the most discerning mom’s taste. The City also hosts a variety of activities to help you and Mom burn off that brunch: shopping, fairs, art exhibits, even garden parties. To show Mom a great time, check out our pairings of where to eat and what to do on her day.

Courtesy, Hôtel Plaza Athéneé

For the traditional mom
Whether you’re introducing Mom to the City for the first time or simply want to treat her to some well-deserved five-star service, a luxury hotel is your go-to. Take afternoon tea at the illustrious Plaza Hotel Palm Court or the St. Regis, or spring for a buffet brunch at the Hôtel Plaza Athéneé, where a special Mother’s Day meal includes rib eye and pork loin carving stations. Once you’ve had your fill, travel uptown to the New York Botanical Garden for an idyllic Mother’s Day Weekend Garden Party. Enjoy live music, crafts and croquet, or let Mom savor a little peace and quiet in the blooming gardens.

Cosme. Courtesy, Araceli Paz

For the foodie mom
Moms who are connoisseurs of cuisine won’t need convincing to try Cosme for brunch. This Flatiron eatery earned a spot on the 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and for good reason: chef Enrique Olvera serves up beautifully plated, Mexican-inspired fare. On the brunch menu, aim for the uni tostada, duck enmolades (enchiladas) or the shareable lamb barbacoa—which comes with peppers, salsa and tortillas so you can make your own tacos. Afterward, head to the Ace Hotel for the Foodie Book Fair. This annual event celebrates, naturally, all things food. Sunday’s events include workshops, a Food52-sponsored roundtable discussion and a food-magazine showcase.

For the adventurous mom
For a nontraditional celebration, start with a low-key bite at the ironically titled Mother’s Ruin. This Nolita lounge specializes in craft cocktails, but its brunch menu is certainly worth a taste. Check out the Frenchie (challah French toast with poached pears and chai whipped cream) or the anything-but-basic bacon, egg and cheese with basil and sambal. Follow this by signing on for the Mother’s Day Scavenger Hunt. You and Mom can put your heads together to solve clues and navigate the City with mental and physical challenges. A NYC-themed prize package awaits the winners; teaming up with your mom should be prize enough for you.

Flora Bar. Photo: Johnny Miller

For the artsy mom
NYC makes it easy to tailor Mother’s Day to an art lover’s taste. Plenty of museum restaurants merit a visit regardless of whether you’re seeing their attached galleries. The Met Breuer’s Flora Bar fits that bill, its sleek, concrete interior setting the stage for an elegant yet unstuffy Mother’s Day meal. Osetra caviar, lobster dumplings and tuna tartare are highlights of the seafood-centric menu. The café’s location within the Breuer makes for an easy transition from contemporary American cuisine to contemporary art. The focus here is on the 20th and 21st centuries, such as a current exhibition that features Brazilian modern artist Lygia Pape.

Courtesy, The Little Beet Table

For the health-minded mom
If your mom lives in Lululemon or just loves to exercise, launch into Mother’s Day with an early morning tai chi session in Riverside Park. This free class, sponsored by Summer on the Hudson, will give you an energy boost—not to mention a view of the Hudson River. Afterward, you can refuel with a vegetable-focused, gluten-free meal at the Little Beet Table. Chef Franklin Becker’s menu is stocked with flavorful, rustic dishes that won’t negate your morning workout. Look for the sweet potato toast with sunny-side-up eggs and lemon ricotta; lobster benedict; and banana bread with homemade hazelnut butter.

Central Park Zoo. Photo: Joe Buglewicz

For the mom with little kids
Technically, kids are an essential part of Mother’s Day, and NYC offers many ways to celebrate the day with little ones in tow. At the Central Park Zoo, parents and kids (ages 3–10) can attend a family party featuring a scavenger hunt, an animal meet and greet and Mother’s Day­–themed arts and crafts. When the kids start to envy the feeding sea lions, take the family for a bite at Marta. This Danny Meyer outpost in the Redbury New York hotel is polished but also spacious and lively, perfect for wiggly kiddos still developing their inside voices. The pizza-centric menu has something for palates of all ages.

Agave. Courtesy, Front of House

For the cocktail-enthusiast mom
Toast to Mom with a margarita or several at Agave. This West Village restaurant offers a mom-friendly version of the City’s favorite weekend pastime: bottomless brunch. It’s energetic without being rowdy, and its white tablecloths keep a sense of decorum in case diners get a tad sloppy. Soak up your frozen margs with hearty Southwestern dishes like huevos rancheros or the chicken-and-chorizo-packed sunrise fiesta burrito. If you’ve paced yourselves, it will be a smooth move from brunch to the Rosé All Day wine class at Le Grand Triage. This sommelier-guided tasting will shed light on how rosé is made and how to select the perfect bottle. Bookend the day with a toast to Mom’s new wine skills.


National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Photo: Phil Kline

For the music-loving mom
For a brunch with some soul, head up to Sylvia’s Soul Food Restaurant. At this Harlem mainstay, Sunday brunch is served up with a side of live gospel music. Try the Southern fried chicken with eggs, and wash it down with Grandma Julia’s fruit punch. You won’t have to go far to explore more neighborhood sounds; just a short walk away you’ll find the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Listen in on a free afternoon jam session with trumpeter Emile Turner, and then tour the gallery to view the current exhibitionset, Ralph Ellison: A Man and His Records.

Saks Fifth Avenue. Photo: Alex Lopez

For the shopaholic mom
Mother’s Day is the perfect excuse to take Mom shopping—as if you really needed one. Head to Saks Fifth Avenue flagship, home to 10 floors of designer apparel, shoes and accessories. Then stop for a convenient recharge at Café SFA, strategically located next to the shoe floor. Choose from soup, sandwich and salad combos or opt for more substantial plates like risotto or New York strip to carry you through the lengthiest of shopping expeditions. After brunch, Mom can decide whether to enjoy the views from the café’s terrace with a glass of Veuve Clicquot or get right back to the hunt.

For the mom who taught you to manage your budget
While there’s no shortage of highbrow brunch options in the City, there are also plenty of menus with prices any penny-pinching mom will love. The Hamilton, an Upper West Side whiskey bar by night and cozy brunch spot by day, hits that mark. Any entree, like shakshuka or eggs benedict, will set you back only $10. Walk it off on an afternoon stroll through neighboring Morningside Park. The park is home to the historic Alfred Lincoln Seligman Fountain and a public art installation from the Studio Museum in Harlem. End your self-guided, totally free tour along adjacent Morningside Drive for a skyline view that extends down to Midtown.