New York City has made brunch an experience all its own. Here it’s more than bloody marys and bottomless mimosas. We’re highlighting the must-have dishes at 10 restaurants—some classic, others that go off script, all worth waking up slightly early for. There’s never been a better time in NYC to indulge in this sociable weekend ritual than at this very moment.
Balthazar was built to last, as handsome as the day it was born in 1997. So, what better place to have classic eggs Benedict? A nicely toasted English muffin is the platform for slabs of smoky Canadian bacon, poached eggs with runny yolks and lemony hollandaise sprinkled with paprika. Soft potatoes tangled with caramelized onions buttress the faultless dish. A well-heeled overflow crowd takes up tables on weekends; it’s easier to slip in for breakfast on weekdays (served until 11:30am) when eggs Benedict is also on the menu.
Enormous windows and high ceilings make this contemporary Italian café in Soho especially shine at brunch. Start with a cup of strong coffee and a warm, luscious sticky bun to pull apart and share. Then move on to the pasqualina, a double-crusted savory pie filled with dark leafy greens, creamy ricotta cheese and whole eggs baked inside. The healthy, labor-intensive pie, served at room temperature, is traditionally for special occasions (like Easter), but you can have it here any weekend.
Greenpointers mob this airy bistro at brunch. It’s also a draw for patrons farther afield since it’s well run and the food is consistently stellar. Take, for example, the egg and sausage sandwich: a crusty bun encloses a delicious sausage patty, stretchy Gruyère cheese and a delicate yellow handkerchief of omelet brushed with garlicky aioli. That aioli also accompanies an off-the-hook side of golden deep-fried potatoes infused with garlic shards and bay leaves.
All feels right with the world when savoring a mouthful of charred, crunchy peasant bread, creamy, cloudlike burrata, young olive oil and just-picked herbs in salsa verde. This dreamy creation by chef Ignacio Mattos is a staple at Estela, available at dinner as well as at brunch. His unique menu thumbs its nose at convention, with other atypical brunch delectables like lamb ribs with charmoula and honey and ricotta dumplings with mushrooms and pecorino.
Despite the name, there is no farm at this Brooklyn address although the verdant back patio is a particularly pleasant place to enjoy the season’s bounty. The brunch menu offers less-traditional choices, including a thinly pounded, battered and fried chicken schnitzel over greens dressed in lemon vinaigrette. Draping the schnitzel is a runny egg and grated pecorino, making it even more satisfying. Mimosas are also seasonal, with the sparkling wine mixed with blood orange juice or tart apple cider.
Ten years on, Five Leaves is still effortlessly hip, a casual corner joint that’s always jammed, especially at brunch. No reservations are taken so be prepared to go early or wait for a table. The effort is worth it for the epic ricotta pancakes. Three fluffy discs are topped with banana slices, scattered with strawberries and crowned with a melting mound of honeycomb butter. A little pitcher of pure maple syrup is served on the side. Good news if you strike out on the weekend: the pancakes are also reprised on weekdays.
The Michelin-starred Olmsted is so happening it’s difficult to waltz in without a reservation, including at brunch. Greg Baxtrom’s playful yet complex menu ranges from Austrian doughnuts filled with rhubarb jelly to crisp duck sausage with scrambled duck egg. The egg rolls are a must—fried taquito-like cylinders encasing bacon, soft eggs and sharp cheddar, served piping hot in a cute fast-food container. Walk-ins start lining up before 11:30am and parties are allowed to wait in the lovely back garden.
Expat Southerners and Southerners at heart will find comfort at the cozy and wonderfully named Pies ‘n’ Thighs. At brunch, bite into deep-fried chicken cutlet on a buttermilk biscuit sweet with honey and tangy with hot sauce. The chicken is juicy, the crust thin, peppery and salty, plus not greasy. Miraculously, they do it right every time. The menu also offers all manner of good eggs, hash and short stacks, but the chicken is really where it’s at.
A mind-blowing sight is a stack of malted pancakes nearly as tall as a three-layer cake. The spheres are light and cushiony but they require a team effort to consume. Chocolate-hued maple syrup cascades across the cakes like glazed frosting, with hazelnuts blended in to add a nutty note. There is no sogginess, and the sweet, buttery flavor elevates them from a mere Instagram stunt. The rustic, woodsy space has an open kitchen and is fitting for relaxation on a Sunday, although brunch is served every day.
This urbane space with California-Mediterranean flair is regularly rated as one of the best brunch spots in Midtown. Quiche Lorraine might sound like an antiquated thing to order here, but from chef Justin Smillie’s kitchen it’s a revelation. The springy wedge of egg custard is as light and creamy as a soufflé, studded with Gruyère cheese and smoked bacon, browned on top and showered with finely chopped chives. The buttery crust is firm and fantastic. Baby mixed greens dressed with balanced hits of vinegar and salt are served alongside.