I realized recently that so many of my blog posts are dedicated to my travel musings and the adventures I've had in various countries and continents around the globe, but there is very little written about the place I've lived for ~12 years — New York City. I've called NYC my home for more than a decade, and it's one of the most dynamic metropolises in the world; I should probably talk about it more, shouldn't I?
I've already touched on my love of a certain borough and why I think it's severely underrated. I have also talked about where to go when you want to escape the city, but I haven't yet written about my favorite meal and what I believe to be a must in New York: weekend brunch. You see, brunch in New York is not just a noun, it's a verb. To brunch in New York is an experience that is unlike other cities that offer brunch. Here, they run the gamut from the low-key yet outstanding brunch that you heard about from a friend of a friend, to the crazy, boozy, you're-going-to-suffer-the-next day bottomless mimosa brunch, and then everything in between. I tend to like my brunches more on the low-key side, but no judgment if you want your eggs to come with bottles of champagne and some fist-pumping music. You can actually get that in New York. It's the beauty of this city.
So, where are the best places to have brunch in New York? Well, I don't want to come off as a know-it-all and suggest that everything I list here is the best, buuut my tastebuds tend to be pretty spot on. I also like to judge a place by more than just its food — it's also about the ambiance, the people and the general feeling you have being there.
Without further ado and in no particular order (mostly because it's too hard for me to choose!), here are my favorite brunch places in New York:
Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe
I am a sucker for cute restaurants in the West Village, and Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe fits this description to a tee. I first went to this Australian restaurant with a friend visiting from Montreal on a sunny and slightly chilly Saturday and immediately fell in love with this place. From the hospitable staff (many of whom seemed to also be Australian), to the bright and airy decor, to their delicious avocado toast (known as the "avocado smash") and green baked eggs — all of it was so great and made me wish I lived nearby so that this place could be my neighborhood spot. I'll just have to make it my neighborhood spot regardless of where I am.
LIC Market is one of those low-key yet amazing places I mentioned earlier. Tucked away on an unassuming street in Long Island City, Queens, it is very easy to walk by this place and not think anything of it. Except you shouldn't walk by; you should go in and sit down and order the duck hash or the shirred eggs and then write me and tell me how you liked it. That's what you should do. Even writing this I realized it's been far too long since my last visit to LIC Market, and I need to rectify that problem immediately by taking my own advice, which I will be doing very soon.
I have lost count of the number of times I've been to Jane or the random people I've spotted while eating brunch there (like the time my friends and I saw Whoopi Goldberg eating with Benjamin Bratt and his family). I can't even speak to the decor of Jane because it's all a blur of people and laughter and delicious brunch cocktails. What I can say is that it's a great place for a group of friends, but don't go there on a Sunday around noon without making a reservation (if you go earlier than noon, no brunch cocktails for you — the law says so). I'll also recommend you or a friend indulge in the Vanilla Bean French Toast while someone else get the Portobello Scramble. Just do it.
Quite possibly the cutest-looking place on this list, Penelope is the venue to go for interesting takes on classic brunch dishes. Instead of french toast, why not get Nutella-stuffed french toast? Or, instead of regular ole waffles, you can have pumpkin waffles with apple butter. There are also more protein-filled items on the menu, in case you thought Penelope was just a carb and sugar factory. The one thing that's not ideal about this place — the wait time. Penelope does not take reservations, so you can easily wait an hour to an hour and a half or even two hours for a meal here. My suggestion for brunch: go early in the morning or put your name in at least an hour before you're ready to eat and then roam around the neighborhood until your name is called.
Five Leaves is super hipster, but the food is really good so it gets away with it. Located in burgeoning hipster haven, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, this is another place that can suffer from long wait times, especially when the weather is nice out. Similar to Penelope, that means you should never go to Five Leaves hungry because you'll quickly become hangry. Once you're seated and ready to order, my recommendation would be the Moroccan Scramble, which is scrambled eggs with sausage, chickpeas, avocado and sourdough. If you're not a coffee drinker like me, try the milk and honey. It's pretty self-explanatory and is the perfect beverage when you're in the mood for something warm and cozy.
This place is a new addition to my list, and one that I think I'll be frequenting pretty often. For starters, it's a really charming place. Hidden at the end of an alleyway on the Lower East Side with a bright blue door and a string of lights hanging over the entrance, Freemans is prime photography material and has been captured quite a few times on Instagram (including by me). Once you're inside, the charm doesn't stop. It's like being in someone's home — someone who has a lot of space and antique furniture, has a penchant for taxidermy and makes great brunch dishes, like the baked skillet eggs shakshuka and the buttermilk biscuit sandwich.
M. Wells Dinette at MoMA PS1
Though this is more of a lunch than brunch spot, M. Wells Dinette is still a favorite. Set up like a classroom with a hand-written chalkboard, this place has an ever-evolving menu, all of it really, really good. The chefs are Canadians who brought their Québécois talents south to open this dinette as well as a steakhouse not too far from this restaurant. You can also combine brunch/lunch with a day of art and spend the afternoon exploring MoMA PS1 and its quirky exhibitions.
This isn't so much a restaurant as it is a tiny cafe, and you can probably only go here with one or two other people max, but it's well worth it. Also Australian like Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe, Little Collins is all about the avocado smash. This version is a mixture of avocado and feta cheese smashed on top of toast and topped with chili flakes and pepitas. It is avocado toast heaven. They also supposedly have amazing coffee, if that's your thing. It's a great spot for anyone who finds themselves searching for a great place to eat brunch in Midtown Manhattan.
The Queens Kickshaw
I'm pretty sure everyone who lives in Astoria, Queens or likes visiting Astoria knows about The Queens Kickshaw. This cute coffee venue has some of the same items as my other favorite brunch places, like avocado toast and shakshuka, but where The Queens Kickshaw differs is their grilled cheese sandwiches. The egg with ricotta, thyme and maple hot sauce on brioche is a popular item, but my favorite sandwich is their gouda grilled cheese with black bean hummus, guava jam and pickled jalapeños. It sounds insane and maybe even a little gross, but it's actually the complete opposite.
Last but certainly not least on my list of favorite brunch places: Antibes Bistro on the Lower East Side. I've never been to the real Antibes in France (though I hope to get there one day!), but I feel like this restaurant does the Mediterranean town proud with its uncomplicated, flavorful food and warm, intimate vibe. It's also relatively affordable and a bit of a hidden gem. My favorite brunch dishes are the Mediterranean Breakfast and the scrambled eggs with roasted potatoes and salad, but I bet you could get anything on the menu and it would be fantastic.
There you have it, my favorite brunch places in New York. I'm sure this list will evolve and grow over time, but for now, these are my go-to spots in the city.
Do you have a favorite brunch place in New York?