Meet the Chefs Dishing Up Queer Hospitality st MeMe's Diner
If we could describe this place with a Pepé Le Pew accent, we would -- it deserves it. The French bistro romances you hard with breakfast items like espresso-steamed eggs with prosciutto, waffles, and buttery croissants. Oui, oui!
Some (most?) trendy SoHo breakfast spots aren’t worth the hype and/or want to make you claw your own eyes out. Don’t let that keep you from Jack’s Wife Freda: the Mediterranean-meets-Jewish fare like rosewater waffles with Lebanese yogurt and duck prosciutto/egg-pressed sandwich are so good you can block out all the douchiness around you.
For those days when you want something cheap, satisfying, and fast (so, um, pretty much every day), swing by Spoon. Their chocolate croissants, scones, and even the ham, egg & cheese breakfast burrito are all under $3, and can be eaten as you walk/sprint to the office.
Whoever said having perogies for breakfast is a terrible idea has clearly never had perogies for breakfast. But if it was you, remember, those doughy pillows of heaven are just a warmup for giant plates of Ukrainian-style blintzes anyway.
You can’t help but think of works like “incredible” and edible” when you hear the word “egg” (thanks, American Egg Board!). Luckily, this Williamsburg joint lives up to all the jingle-hype by way of pork sausage biscuits and a gravy and duck hash. And eggs, too, probably.
Every time I walk into Tompkins on a Saturday, I look around and think, “Wow, everyone in this line is so hungover, yet still willing to endure this massive line for a bagel” -- myself included. That’s a true testament to how good this place is. Whether it’s the French toast bagel with cream cheese, or a chicken sausage, egg, and cheese, your day will vastly improve after you inhale all of the warm, bready goodness.
When you see people in the movies having breakfast in NYC, it probably looks like this. While that can sometimes be a big fat red flag, Lafayette is the exception. Your lemon pancakes, salmon Benedict and brie omelet will come with a great side of people watching, however -- especially if you opt for al fresco seating.
One of the few reasons you’ll voluntarily go to Murray Hill, Penelope has been doing breakfast right for more than a decade by keeping it classic and seasonal -- which is probably why you should go get the “Punkin’ Waffles” with cranberries and baked cinnamon apples right now.
Riddle time: what do you get when you hand-roll circular dough, soak it in honey-boiled water, throw it in a wood-fired oven, then top it with things like maple-baked ham, fried eggs, and horseradish cream cheese? The bagels here, and a killer Instagram shot.
If you’re Jewish, prepare to nosh your face off with truly excellent versions of everything your grandma pretended she was good at cooking like knishes, matzoh ball soup, and pastrami-cured salmon. If you’re not Jewish, still prepare to nosh your face off (just know that nosh means eat).
There's something just so incredibly bad-ass about this place, and not just because it made a cameo on Californication. The no-fuss diner is also the ultimate spot to grab a stool solo and down plates of banana pancakes covered in bacon so tasty you’ll want to write a love letter to it.
This is your ultimate “I just want a killer bacon, egg & cheese, with none of the bullshit” stop. They take those bagel sandwiches up a notch with, you guessed it, “spreads” like pimento cheese, black bean chipotle hummus, and wasabi tobiko.
Granted the wait at this place is so notoriously long there’s actually a section on the website called “About the Wait,” but these are inarguably the best pancakes in the city. They switch up the actual cakes pretty regularly, but serve them all with their own homemade maple butter.
Breakfast at NoMad is best done in two very different circumstances: for business meeting purposes, or solo. Whichever the situation, the crab Benedict or chicken and egg hash will undoubtedly make it go smoothly.
If NYC was the Wild West, this would be the saloon you would mosey up to for some of the best Southern-style breakfast plates (with a side of booze) this side of the Mason-Dixon line. The only difficult decision you’ll have here, aside from what to pick on the jukebox, is whether to go for the Virginia country breakfast (cheddar grits, buttermilk biscuit, Virginia ham-covered eggs) or eggs Tulum (a kick-ass breakfast burrito).
1. Buvette42 Grove St, New York
2. Jack's Wife Freda224 Lafayette St, New York
3. Tbsp & Spoon17 W 20th St, New York
4. Veselka144 2nd Ave, New York
5. egg109 N 3rd St, Brooklyn
6. Tompkins Square Bagels165 Avenue A, New York
7. Lafayette380 Lafayette St, New York
8. Penelope159 Lexington Ave, New York
9. Black Seed170 Elizabeth St, New York
10. Russ & Daughters Cafe127 Orchard St, New York
11. La Bonbonniere28 8th Ave, New York
12. Spreads441 Park Ave S, New York
13. Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant4 Clinton St, New York
14. The NoMad1170 Broadway, New York
15. Great Jones Cafe54 Great Jones St, New York
This charming West Village spot (with a second location in Paris’ 9th arrondissement) offers a number of classic dishes like croque-monsieur and coq au vin alongside some great French wines, but its known primarily for its standout brunch -- namely, espresso wand-steamed scrambled eggs topped with prosciutto and shaved Parmesan.
Jack's Wife Freda is a trendy, all-day eatery located smack dab in the middle of SoHo and specializing in stylish, bistro plates with Middle Eastern flair (shakshuka, kebabs, and roasted veggie sides, among others). Like the dishes themselves, the space is colorful and quaint; imagine your friendly neighborhood diner, but if it were run by Wes Anderson. Brunch and dinner are both solid bets, but expect to wait a bit to be seated -- there's a reason this restaurant is one of the most Instagrammed in NYC.
This Flatiron spot is home to one of the best weekend brunches in the city, but be warned: they don’t take reservations. The menu features all of the breakfast essentials, like huevos rancheros, build-your-own omelettes, and buttermilk pancakes topped with whipped cream. During the week, Tbsp + Spoon’s counter-serve pastries and sandwiches make it a reliable spot for a casual coffee or lunch date.
Since 1954, New Yorkers have depended on Veselka’s cabbage soup as the cure for a hangover. And where else can you get some of the city’s best banana pancakes alongside pierogies and a cheeseburger? Nowhere. On the pierogi front, it doesn’t matter what filling you choose, each fork-tender pocket feels like it came straight out of baba’s kitchen and tastes like a Polish heaven.
Both food and atmosphere at this Williamsburg joint are Southern-inspired, which means a simple, comfort-informed atmosphere with elevated comfort food-fare. Between the line for seating and the cooking time post-order, it'll take 45-plus minutes to get that brioche French toast, stewed tomatoes, or famous Eggs Rothko (Grafton cheddar-topped egg-in-a-hole) in your belly, but at least you can pass the seated portion doodling with crayons on the waxed paper tablecloths.
Right by Tompkins Square Park, this Alphabet City bagel shop has a ton of unique homemade cream cheeses (bacon scallion, chocolate chip cookie dough, birthday cake, chipotle avocado, etc). The plump and chewy bagels range in flavor from plain, sesame, and poppy to French toast, pumpkin, and spelt. The line typically goes out the door on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and note: it's cash-only.
Chef Andrew Carmellini's upscale bakery and cafe serves traditional French fare like Croque Madame and escargot in a bright, airy and elegant dining setting. The wine list offers a varied collection of French bottles, and the servers are extremely knowledgeable, so ask for a recommendation if you're unsure of what to order. Lafayette is also one of the greatest spots for people-watching, especially if you opt for al fresco seating.
Equal parts cafe, bakery, and wine bar, Penelope has been doling out some of the city's best chicken pot pies, house-baked pastries, and homey comfort foods like mac 'n cheese and roast sweet potatoes since 2003. The seating in this country-casual spot is packed but not elbow-to-elbow, and the vibe is Montauk-on-a-summer-afternoon, which for you means comfy goodness at an even comfier price.
Black Seed subscribes to the Montreal school of bagel-making, meaning its bagels, which are smaller than the quintessential New York ones, are rolled by hand, boiled in honey water, then baked in a wood-fired oven. Sandwiches made with a variety of smoked fishes and speciality spreads -- like the house-cured beet lox number with horseradish cream cheese -- continuously draw weekend crowds in search of their morning bagel fix.
Around the corner from the iconic Lower East Side appetizing shop of the same name, Russ & Daughters Cafe serves everything you love about the original (pastrami-cured salmon, whitefish salad on a bagel, caviar) in a sit-down luncheonette space. Cafe-specific dishes like babka French toast and halvah ice cream cater to the brunch crowd, as do Jewish classics like knishes, latkes, and matzoh ball soup. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, R&D Cafe is proof that Jewish noshes are the perfect anytime food.
La Bonbonniere is a satisfying greasy spoon diner in the West Village that stands out in a neighborhood of upscale brunch spots for its standard and reliable comfort food. The mile-long menu of all-day American fare includes staples like burgers, French toast, waffles, and triple-decker sandwiches. Most meals cost around $10, and it’s cash-only.
Born out of the owner's desire for organic, gourmet sandwiches set at reasonable prices, this easy-going cafe in Midtown quickly became a hub for breakfast and lunch. Spreads takes the sandwich game up a notch with -- you guessed it -- a variety of house-made condiments and fixings, such as pimento cheese, black bean chipotle hummus, and wasabi tobiko.
What began as a wholesale bakery is now an all-day restaurant with a rolodex of accolades for its pancakes and a brunch scene that never tires. It's hard to say what makes the pancakes here so good, but it's likely a combination of the texture -- light and fluffy on the inside, crispy and golden on the outside -- and the warm maple butter that puts syrup to shame. Weekend mornings are known to have hour-long waits, so your best bet is to show up a half-hour before the first seating at 9am, or stop by to put your name down about an hour before you want to be seated. You'll get a text 10 minutes before your table is ready. If all else fails, you can order the pancakes (and other house signatures like brioche French toast and buttermilk fried chicken) at Clinton St.'s dinner service.
Housed in a historic arts building, The NoMad hotel is a stylish, Parisian-inspired luxury hotel with hardwood floors and handmade rugs. Inside the hotel is a bi-level library, an opulent lounge with a mahogany bar, and an upscale restaurant. Around the corner from the hotel is the much-lauded NoMad Bar (10 W 28th St), serving refined cocktails and upscale pub fare in a hip, lively space.
New Orleans-style food comes to NoHo via Great Jones Cafe. Established in 1983, and specializing in Cajun and Creole eats like blackened catfish and shrimp jumbo, this bustling honky-tonk spot always has music blasting from the jukebox. The ceiling is decorated with Christmas lights, and the beams in the middle of the restaurant look like candy canes, providing a cheery and lively dining atmosphere year round.