Food & Drink

The Best Brunches in New York City

Published On 04/14/2014 Published On 04/14/2014
Queens Comfort Brunch Chicken and Waffles
Bitches Who Brunch

Brunch will forever be a hotly debated topic, particularly in New York City where an estimated wait time is 46 moons plus a donation of your first-born child, and a real-life nightmare known as "club brunch" leads to belligerent people terrorizing the streets at 5pm. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still places in the city to enjoy some great pancakes and a handful of mimosas. In fact, many of the city’s best brunch spots don’t even require a wait. For good drinks and classic dishes (or unique riffs on standards) without the long lines, this is where you should be brunching.

Courtesy of Queens Comfort

Queens Comfort

Astoria

Queens Comfort is like your college freshman brunch dream come true -- except instead of microwavable Annie's mac & cheese topped with poorly defrosted frozen peas, you’re getting fried mac & cheese balls with Sriracha (aka Atomic Fire Balls), deep fried French toast balls, and breakfast lasagna Benedict. While the stunt comfort food mashups do the trick, the real star is a slightly less-stunty breakfast sandwich -- otherwise known as the Egg McRuffin: an open-faced fried egg sandwich topped with béchamel, cheddar, and smoked bacon on an English muffin.

Flickr/Buvette

Buvette

West Village

It’s hard to think about brunch in New York and not think about Buvette’s steamed eggs with prosciutto. Made with the bistro’s espresso machine wand, the eggs are absurdly light and fluffy and topped with olive oil and pepper, followed by a rainstorm of grated Parmesan, then served with slices of thin-cut prosciutto on top of crunchy toast. Couple that with a small and intimate French cafe-like interior and you’ve got a pretty strong conder for a date, should a brunch date be something you’d like to subject yourself to. Yes, there will be waits here -- but these will not be Prune-level waits.

Lindsay Talley

The Cecil

Harlem

If you haven’t already eaten at this Afro-Asian-American restaurant in Harlem, you’re seriously missing out -- and brunch is the perfect place to start. The Cecil’s doing riffs on brunch classics that you won’t find on any other brunch menu in New York, like Asian pork fritters, duck confit waffles, grilled roti pizza with fried egg, and gingerbread pancakes, in addition to a number of excellent, shareable snacks like salmon fritters and spicy crispy ginger squid.

Flickr/cgc76

Veselka

East Village

Think of Veselka as you go-to when you wake up in desperate need of a hug. The Ukrainian diner is quite possibly the most comforting place in Lower Manhattan, where you can slide into a chair or a corner booth bench, and order up an omelette with a side of latkas and pierogi, a cup of coffee, and some orange juice. While the proper brunch menu only runs ‘til 4pm -- with dishes like salmon latka eggs Benedict and a lamb burger -- breakfast and lunch items are available all day... so technically you could eat brunch at 4am.

Five Leaves

Greenpoint

I’ve already made it clear that a long wait for brunch is a huge detractor, no question, but there’s something about Five Leaves that can’t be denied on a weekend morning. It’s a combination of the ricotta pancakes (a large but airy stack topped with bananas and berries and a beautiful ice cream scoop size of honeycomb butter), the option of outdoor seating in the warmer months, and the fact that, even though it's consistently hyped and ranked high on “best brunch” lists, it delivers every time.

Russ & Daughters Cafe

Russ & Daughters Cafe

Lower East Side

Take everything you love about the original Russ & Daughters store and add tables, chairs, and new dishes that incorporate old favorites you used to purchase on their own at R&D (halvah ice cream! Babka French toast!). Top that off with the likes of knishes, latkes, and, of course, the much-Instagrammed boards (your choice of R & D’s famed smoked fish alongside a bagel, bialy, or rye or pumpernickel bread and the normal fixings).

Courtesy of Le Coq Rico

Le Coq Rico

Flatiron

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to find truly great croissants in NYC -- the kind that are buttery and flaky and soft enough to give you the fleeting feeling of being in Paris when you’re on the G train -- but the fresh-baked bread and pastries (including croissants) at Antoine Westermann’s ode to whole bird are just perfect. As are the egg options (also available at lunch and dinner), particularly the en meurette with bacon and mushroom in red wine reduction. Sweet crepes with jam and chocolate sauce are also worthy of France, and because Le Coq Rico is chicken-focused, you’d be remiss not to order the quarter size of the 90-day raised brune landaise.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

The Commodore

Williamsburg

Put yourself in your Saturday morning shoes of being obnoxiously hungover, and then picture a hefty plate of crispy fried chicken and biscuits with honey butter and hot sauce alongside a Bloody Mary, or even better, a Shiner. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more compact, a chicken biscuit or egg biscuit sandwich. The Commodore offers the no-frills comfort food brunch that can cure the scariest of weekend mornings, with absolutely none of the pretense that usually accompanies this holy meeting of the meals. Stick around after the meal for more cheap beers at the bar.

The Clocktower

Flatiron

The Clocktower is not the place to roll in with a baseball cap and last night’s makeup. The upscale British restaurants inside the EDITION Hotel is certainly a fancier brunch experience, but that doesn’t mean you should write it off, especially because it offers one of the city’s best full English breakfasts with two eggs, toast, garlic & herb pork sausage, bacon, and black pudding. If for whatever reason you desire less food, you can opt for the equally great smoked salmon royale Benedict.

Asian Jewels Seafood Restaurant

Flushing

There are countless great options for dim sum in Chinatown (Nom Wah, Ping’s, and Joy Luck Palace among them), but the absolute best dim sum will always been in Queens -- particularly at Asian Jewels, which consistently offers authentic, fresh food and ridiculously fast cart service. Classic dim sum favorites are all here -- har gau, pork buns, spare ribs, and chicken feet -- alongside larger mains (beef, chicken, and seafood, as well as noodle dishes). This is arguably the best brunch in New York above all else, and it’s more than worth the trip out to Flushing.

Marcus Nilsson

Estela

Nolita

Prices are high for brunch at this tiny Houston St favorite known for its beautifully executed small plates -- but allow yourself to splurge, make a reservation, and order one of the breakfast sandwiches, like the egg, pancetta, and avocado, or the rich “blood cake”: toast with blood pig sausage, onion marmalade, and a sunny-side up egg. If you go with a group, be sure to share a bunch of things -- the famed burrata is there, so don’t miss that, but also be sure to order the brunch-only slab bacon with dijon, potato, and egg.

Tilda All Day

Tilda All Day

Clinton Hill

This airy, modern coffee shop in Clinton Hill does just about everything well, from its locally sourced coffee (from Parlor Coffee) to its affordable menu of elevated brunch eats that change seasonally -- think fruit and lardo toast, Welsh rarebit, beef broth with bone marrow dumplings, and gravlox alongside an excellent egg sandwich with cheddar and smoked paprika tomato spread on a poppy seed bun (add bacon). Don’t miss the fresh-baked pastries at the counter.

House of Small Wonder

Williamsburg

A secret-garden like cafe with lots of light, wood floors, and plants, House of Small does a number of great brunch standards (croque-madame and croissant French toast among them), but the real standouts are the Japanese offerings (it’s owned by the same people as Zenkichi, who also opened up the two restaurants in Berlin). There’s a limited availability of the sashimi zuke don -- with the fish of the day, sweet mushrooms, and egg over rice -- so be sure to get there early, but if they’re all sold out, opt for the equally great tsukune don (Japanese chicken meatball with egg over rice), or the Japanese hamburg steak with melted Gruyère, also over rice.

Andrew Zimmer/Thrillist

Upland

Flatiron

Upland is the kind of place that always offers a consistently great meal, so much so that you can return countless times and never grow tired of it. The brunch is no exception, with options like a roasted porchetta and egg sandwich, smoked salmon pizza, and baccala with fried egg. The menu also features the much-lauded cheeseburger (also available at lunch) with Pat LaFrieda grass-fed brisket-chuck blend, American cheese, peppadew peppers, and avocado.

Ivan Ramen

Lower East Side

Ivan Orkin knows his way around a bowl of ramen, as proven both by his Slurp Shop in Gotham West Market, and his proper restaurant on the Lower East Side. But it’s at the latter that you’ll find a dedicated brunch menu, which, in addition to things like rice porridge and Tokyo kaiser roll dip (touted as “the Japanese bodega breakfast sandwich”) offers an insane breakfast ramen, made with dashi-cheddar broth, bacon, scallion omelette, and thick, whole wheat ramen noodles.  

Lucy Meilus/Thrillist

Charlie Bird

SoHo

After three years of just doing lunch on the weekends, Charlie Bird has finally launched a proper brunch, full of beautifully plated but approachable Italian food (much of it accented with flowers). The menu offers small plates like smoked steelhead trout and fig focaccia, as well as several crudos, and large plates like quinoa pancakes, an enormous frittata, and dinner-menu favorites (cacio e pepe, crispy half chicken, octopus). Be sure to order a mimosa, made with clementine juice, and take a seat outside on the enormous outdoor patio for some excellent people-watching. 

Mayfield

Crown Heights

Seasonal American brunch food without the pretense can be found at this Crown Heights gem known for its excellent burger. Order said burger a fried egg on top (and some bacon), or choose from a number of egg options -- like poached eggs with tasso ham and grit cakes -- or classics like brioche French toast and shrimp & grits.

The Rabbithole

The Rabbithole

Williamsburg

A Williamsburg neighborhood fave, Rabbithole does brunch basics better than almost anyone. French toast is stuffed with strawberry mascarpone and French-style soft omelettes come in a variety of savory and sweet options. The go-to here? The eggs Benedict, which comes with one of the best homemade biscuits in the entire city (a fluffy herbed number), along with spiced bacon, and hollandaise. Enjoy your meal outside in the garden among the ivy (yes, it’s that quaint).

Sugar Freak

Astoria

For an authentic New Orleans brunch, head to this aggressively named Southern spot in Astoria, which offers over 10 varieties of serious po-boys (the blackened shrimp is a must-try) and several kinds of muffuletta sandwiches, in addition some more over-the-top options sure to soak up any leftover booze from the night before, like chicken fried chicken topped with mac & cheese and more cheese, deep-fried boudin sausage balls, and beignet sliders (eggs, pimento cheese, and praline bacon). Should you want to indulge more, there’s a $15 unlimited mimosa add-on.

The Penrose

Upper East Side

You’re coming here to drink, specifically from an extensive brunch-exclusive menu list (that includes four different kinds of Bloody Marys, including a beet variation), but the food is equally good, with several egg options -- like a bacon, egg & fried oyster sandwich on brioche -- plus fried chicken & waffles and a burger with fried egg on top.

Sign up here for our daily NYC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun New York has to offer.

Lucy Meilus is Thrillist’s New York editor and has vivid nightmares about club brunching. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Queens Comfort 4009 30th Ave, Astoria, NY 11103 (Astoria)

Bacon-jalapeño-potato nuggets and spaghetti squash burgers make up just some of the creative (to say the least) items at this Queens joint that's doling out comfort foods you never knew you liked. All the fatty and fried carbs you know and love are on the menu, but it's the "why didn't I think of that?" touches -- like Sriracha aioli and Cocoa Puffs on donuts -- that pack the two-hour brunch waits. Oh, and the BYOB deal might be a little enticing, too.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Buvette 42 Grove St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. The Cecil 210 West 118th St, New York, NY 10026 (Harlem)

The Cecil is a brasserie in Harlem that serves African food mixed with Asian and American flavors. If it sounds cool, that's because it is. Inspired by Executive Chef Joseph "JJ" Johnson's travels, the menu is always changing, but past hits include oxtail dumplings, gumbo, and a jumbo shrimp burger. There's also a wok bar where you can customize your entire entree.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Veselka 144 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Five Leaves 18 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222 (Greenpoint)

This chic Greenpoint eatery offers up gourmet, healthy food with Aussie flair. Set up in a cozy nook adjacent to McCarren Park, Five Leaves is a solid choice for weekday breakfast or after work drinks. While its digs may be pint-sized, on the weekends Brooklyn brunchers regularly line up down the block for top-notch fare (such as truffle fries, ricotta pancakes, and Moroccan scrambles).

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Russ & Daughters Cafe 127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Le Coq Rico 30 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003 (Flatiron)

Le Coq Rico is the sister restaurant to Michelin-starred Chef Antoine Westermann's Montmartre bistro of the same name. Like its Parisian predecessor, this upscale Flatiron spot focuses entirely on birds. Specifically whole birds, like rooster, hen, squab, duck, and guinea fowl, which are raised for 90-120 days -- longer than the industry standard. The result is noticeably tender and more flavorful than any other poultry you'll find in New York. While it's clear what the star is here, Le Coq Rico's fresh-baked breads and pastries at brunch are Paris-level good.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. The Commodore 366 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

The Commodore is a Southern/tropical-themed dive bar in Williamsburg. Open late, hipsters flock to its incredible fried chicken sandwiches, burgers, biscuits, and seriously dope grilled cheese. Its cocktails are also top-notch: get the eponymous Commodore, which is a Pina Colada gone buck-wild with an extra shot of amaretto thrown in there for good measure.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. The Clocktower 5 Madison Ave, New York City, NY 10010 (Flatiron)

Located within the EDITION hotel, this restaurant from Chef Jason Atherton and restaurateur Stephen Starr plates high-end British-American fare in a classically designed space. Diners can schmooze in one of three dining rooms decked with golden-framed vintage photos, with the opportunity for a pre- or post-meal game of pool at a purple-felt pool table. And about that meal: you'll be choosing from entrees as decadent as bone-in strip steaks and côte de boeuf.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Asian Jewels Seafood Restaurant 13330 39th Ave, Flushing, NY 11354 (Queens)

There are countless great options for dim sum in Chinatown, but the absolute best dim sum will always been in Queens -- particularly at Asian Jewels, which consistently offers authentic, fresh food and ridiculously fast cart service. Classic dim sum favorites are all here -- har gau, pork buns, spare ribs, and chicken feet -- alongside larger mains (beef, chicken, seafood, and noodle dishes). Saturday and Sundays attract the masses, so come as early as possible.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Estela 47 E Houston St, New York, NY 10003 (Nolita)

From sommelier Thomas Carter, Chef Ignacio Mattos (formerly of Isa), and Mark Connell (Botanica), Estela is a tiny Houston St walk-up focusing on carefully constructed small plates like burrata with radishes, raw scallops with fennel, and beef tartare. Part-bar, part-restaurant, Estela is also known for a serious wine list.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. Tilda All Day 930 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11238

As its name implies, this airy Clinton Hill cafe is open all day -- well, at least from 7:30am to 5pm (8am-5pm on weekends). The menu is all about seasonal brunch fare and features anything from egg sandwiches, smoked fish plates, fried chicken, and French toast. Its long weekday hours make it a hit among the freelance crowd, and on weekends, it turns into a quintessential brunch hot spot. Don't miss the daily pastry selection at the counter.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
13. House of Small Wonder 77 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249

This secret garden-like cafe in Williamsburg sits under a greenhouse roof and feels like an intimate restaurant in Europe instead of where it actually is -- off the main drag of Bedford Ave. The daytime spot (it closes before the dinner rush every day) serves French-inspired brunch and lunch all day (croque madame and croissant French toast are two menu mainstays), but the real standouts are the Japanese offerings. There's a limited availability of sashimi zuke don -- with the fish of the day, sweet mushrooms, and egg over rice -- so be sure to get there early before they're all sold out.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
14. Upland 345 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010 (Murray Hill)

Stephen Starr, a Philly-based restaurateur who entered the New York scene with splashy hits like Morimoto and Buddakan, is behind this airy brasserie on Park Avenue South that takes its name from the California town where chef Justin Smillie grew up. The menu, which rallies around the seasonal themes of California cuisine, features oval-shaped pizzas topped with vegetables and flavorful cheeses; pasta dishes ranging from the traditional cacio e pepe to the entirely unique chicken liver estrella; grilled, smoked, and roasted meat and seafood plates; and a fairly affordable wine list.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
15. Ivan Ramen 25 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

There’s so much more than noodles to be had at Ivan Orkin’s NYC flagship, especially at lunch when fusion sandwiches like the Herbie’s International (Chinese-style roast pork and Tokyo duck sauce on a toasted miso garlic hero) and pork meatballs make an appearance. But don’t get us wrong, there’s a reason “ramen” is the name of the game: noodle guru Ivan Orkin has fused his Long Island upbringing and Tokyo training with age-old ramen traditions to make original and delicious dishes right here at home. The weekend brunch features a combination of whole-wheat noodles, cheddar broth, crispy bacon and scallion omelet ramen.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
16. Charlie Bird 5 King St, New York, NY 10012 (Soho)

Charlie Bird is a quintessential date spot that serves Italian-influenced small and large dishes in a hip hop-accented space. The menu's strong suit is the handmade pastas, but the fish, meat, and vegetable plates, like tripe toast and suckling pork shoulder, are good for sharing. The SoHo restaurant -- which includes two floors and a seasonal patio -- features boombox paintings on the walls, neon signs, and retro yellow leather banquettes.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
17. Mayfield 688 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238

This casual restaurant in Crown Heights is an everyday staple for upscale but unpretentious American food. It's the type of place you go when you're craving a burger, a solid cocktail, or just the company of your neighbors. The seasonal menu is always changing but expect trendy and satisfying plates like fried oysters, kale salad, and a loaded gem of a burger. Mayfield's brunch is a hit for its egg dishes, sweet bites (brioche French toast, how you doin'?), and that aforementioned burger.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
18. Rabbithole 352 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249 (Williamsburg)

A Williamsburg neighborhood fave, Rabbithole is an all-day restaurant and cafe that's a go-to for any meal. A casual cafe in the front caters to the on-the-go crowd with house-baked pastries and Stumptown coffee before transitioning to a bar in the evening with six artisanal beers on tap and a solid whiskey selection. Meanwhile, the more upscale dining room and garden is a brunch hotspot that doles out classy and refined basics like eggs Benedict, French toast, and soft omelettes.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
19. Sugar Freak 36-18 30th Ave, Astoria, NY 11103 (Astoria)

At Sugar Freak in Astoria, they bring the best of the South right to you, with a menu full of authentic Cajun-Creole cuisine. The extensive po'-boy menu -- including chicken fried french fries, mac & cheese, and fried chicken & shrimp varieties -- is tantalizing. The restaurant is all about Southern hospitality, decorated with quilted patchwork pillows, exposed brick, sponge-painted paper towel holders, and salt and pepper shakers that come in mason jars.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
20. The Penrose 1590 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028 (Upper East Side)

The sister spot to The Wren, this Upper East Side gastropub brings a touch of cool hipness to the mid-eighties. Upscale but laid-back, The Penrose is the perfect place to let a drinks date slide into dinner. The sit-down dining room-slash-bar serves up comfort food small plates, burgers, and sandwiches. As for drinks, the bar's got a wide range of old-fashioned cocktails, and an impressive beer and whiskey selection. Oh, and the boozy brunch is a must -- there are four kinds of Bloody Marys.

Clickbait