FOOD AND DRINK
Around the World in 11 New York Brunches
Do you agree that brunch can be the most important meal of the (Sun)day? Go beyond eggs benny with cuisines inspired by locales from Morrocco to … Montreal
Springing for a round-the-world flight would be one way to explore the cuisines of the world. Restaurant hopping in New York is another. As a city famed for the global origins of its citizenry, not only can you sample the best of the planet without putting more than a few kilometres on the odometer, you can do it before noon.
We’ve gathered up some of NYC’s best brunch options, which will let you circle the culinary highlights of the world, from Asia to Europe to the Americas, without having to change currency once.
The Southern United States: Jacob’s Pickles
Waves of homogenization aside, the United States retains some regional differences. Add to that the nation’s general cultural melting pot, and you really have cuisines plural when it comes to American food. One of the most recognizable varieties is Southern cooking, with its love of meat and starch, and the widespread belief that anything that can be fried should be fried. New York has seen a recent spate of Dixie-inspired spots, piggybacking on a rediscovered appreciation for comfort food. The eponymous Jacob, whose last name is Hadjigeorgis, may be a kid from Queens, but his brunch nails authentic Southern flavour, from shrimp and bacon grits to baked-from-scratch biscuit breakfast sandwiches. As for that frying? Try the green tomatoes, encased in golden grits, and served with house “picnic sauce,” which mixes pickle brine with a refrigerator’s worth of condiments (ketchup, mayo and mustard … and beyond?).
509 Amsterdam Ave., 212-470-5566
Brunch hours: Monday through Friday 10 a.m to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Canada (Montreal): Mile End
New York’s Great Poutine Scare of Ought Nine [I don’t get this reference - do you?] has come and gone, but Canadian – specifically Montreal – cuisine still has a toehold in the big city. One of the buzziest spots for meat in Brooklyn remains Mile End, which serves comfort food inspired by the Jewish delis of Montreal. Hand-rolled bagels from the local bakery Black Seed bring further Montreal influence to a brunch menu that covers smoked meat, challah french toast and a legendary smoked meat hash. Incidentally, the correct drink pairing with almost any Montreal cuisine is a black cherry soft drink.
97 Hoyt St., Brooklyn, 718-852-7510
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Courtesy Mile End Deli
Pan-Latin America: La Pulperia
The name may reference old-time South American general stores, but the blend of Latin cuisines here is a very modern thing. Brunches get creative with mashups like “el salmon brûlée,” a salmon crudo tricked out with strawberry and ginger leche de tigre(that’s the citrus mixture used in ceviche) and micro greens from bull’s blood beets. Even heartier is the house’s take on eggs benedict, which puts together hollandaise, poached eggs andsangria-braised short ribs with aji amarillo chili peppers.
1626 Second Ave., 212-933-0757
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
China (Hong Kong): RedFarm
New York’s Chinatown is one of the world’s largest and weekend mornings see favorites like Golden Unicorn and Jing Fong attracting big crowds of the faithful for the Cantonese brunch ritual known as dim sum. For an especially tasty (and sometimes whimsical) take on the tradition, try RedFarm, with an uptown and downtown location on the west side of the city. You’ll find stylishly rustic atmospheres (whitewashed walls, mellow wood) and forgiving lighting (terrific for concealing a hangover), as well as a staff that’s patiently pleasant staff. The food combines uber-fresh ingredients with refined technique to create memorable fusion takes on dim sum staples like dumplings. “Pac Man” shrimp dumplings get playful, with a deep-fried sweet potato Pac-Man looking down, mouth agape, on four colorful “ghost” dumpling pouches. The kitchen turns out some 20,000 dumplings a week (lamb, lobster and crispy duck with crab are among the fillings), ensuring freshness. Also noteworthy is a New York take on the egg roll, with juicy Katz’s pastrami as filling.
529 Hudson St., 212-792-9700
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
This Vietnamese-influenced gastropub arrived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, boasting a serious pedigree, with connections to San Francisco’s The Slanted Door. Bricolage recently started serving brunch, which splits the difference between Vietnamese flavours and Western breakfast favourites. Think pork belly hash with fried egg and arugula (the ethically raised pork hails from California’s Niman Ranch), or a five spice fried chicken and waffle with sriracha butter, or a breakfast version of dinner’s hit “banh xeo” crepe. The chefs are a husband-and-wife team, and the atmosphere follows suit: homey, cosy and inviting. Exposed brick and pressed tin add some Brooklyn atmosphere, and there’s a leafy backyard when the weather’s co-operating.
162 Fifth Ave., 718-230-1835
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Between 60-plus years of experience and the 3,000 pierogi it produces every day, you can expect some serious expertise from 24-hour East Village landmark Veselka. Order a combo plate and sample some of the aforementioned pierogi, which are all handmade, carefully balanced between dough and filling. Choose from boiled or fried, and from potato, farmer’s cheese, sauerkraut and mushroom or a savory take on beef, with tender short rib interiors just right for the caramelized onion served on the side. The crunchy potato pancakes are equally famous; try them in a house specialty like the salmon eggs benedict. Still family-owned and operated, Veselka is casual and personable, retaining the feel of a classic New York diner.
144 Second Ave., 212-228-9682
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Restaurateur Jody Williams opened Buvette as a “gastrothèque” in early 2011, combining bistro and café elements with a contemporary commitment to sourcing locally and organically. The results are as charming as the leafy West Village neighbourhood around it. Reservations are not accepted, so you may experience a wait for a petite table, but the kitchen will make it worth your while: croques (madame et monsieur) are exceedingly well executed, as are belgian waffles with raspberries and crème fraîche. The house’s “les oeufs vapeur,” as the menu tags them, are scrambled eggs of a different order. The steamer wand of a coffee machine provides the heat, cooking gently until a fluffy, almost velvety, texture is achieved. It may sound odd, but the results are light and lovely, perfectly complemented by savoury accompaniments that run from goat cheese and sundried cherry tomatoes to smoked salmon and crème fraîche to prosciutto and parm.
42 Grove St., 212-255-3590
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
This spot in the Gramercy Park Hotel comes from hospitality master Danny Meyer, and like his other restaurants (Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe and Blue Smoke among them), it manages to be warm, sophisticated and unpretentious at the same time, from the blue and white checked fabric that peeks out from under white tablecloths to the near-perfect service. The cuisine is a creative riff on Roman cuisine. Croissants get tweaked with pistachio or cranberry and orange, or a very Italian blend of speck and aged provolone. For eggs, don’t miss the play on cacio e pepe pasta, a soft scramble packed with flavour thanks to pecorino cheese and black pepper.
2 Lexington Ave., 212-777-2410
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Europe-via-Britain: The Spotted Pig
English-born chef April Bloomfield became an instant star when she relocated from London to New York in 2003. Her Spotted Pig still packs in serious crowds for seasonal British and Italian inspired delicacies. The atmosphere is as much pub as restaurant (the place was a pioneer in opening up New York to gastropubs). Even after more than a decade in business, The Spotted Pig still enjoys major buzz, and you should expect a good-looking crowd populating the casual and cluttered scene. Do like the Brits and get things started with an early pint of beer, or opt for a Euro-quality latte. The best of Europe is on display for brunch: pork rillettes, lemon ricotta pancakes, and the dutch baby, a lightly charred pancake that you can have sweet (with powdered sugar) or savoury (with thick-cut house bacon). If you’re a burger-for-brunch sort of person, The Spotted Pig serves one of the NYC’s most famous burgers, a chargrilled blend of rich brisket and short rib, topped with roquefort cheese and sided by shoestring fries.
314 W. 11th St., 212-620-0393
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Middle East-via-Israel: Timna
This contemporary creative restauranttakes its name from an ancient city in Yemen, and its kitchen synthesizes influences from the Middle East, North Africa and around the Mediterranean. The results are a modern Israeli hybrid, which goes on tasty display for weekend brunch. Fattoush, hummus, and sabich all make appearances, as doesshakshuka, a legendary “all night” tomato stew, served with poached eggs. The interior follows the kitchen’s lead with blending old and new. Original East Village tenement materials are exposed among stylishly distressed surfaces, with illumination from lamps made from woks and mixing bowls. As a new restaurant (it opened in 2015), the brunch crowds have yet to grow dense, making for a more relaxed scene than much of the rest of downtown offers.
109 St. Marks Pl., 646-964-5181
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Morocco: Cafe Mogador
If Timna is the new kid on the block, Mogador is the old hand, one that has been heading up “best brunch” lists in New York for more than 20 years. The café brings Moroccan spice to breakfast staples. Look for sides of couscous and homemade merguez sausage, and a “Moroccan benedict” that tops poached eggs with traditional hollandaise and an addictive spicy tomato sauce. You can sample a little pan-Mediterranean influence with the halloumi eggs, which put fried Cypriot cheese together with za'atar pita. A second Mogador opened in Brooklyn in 2012, taking some of the brunch pressure off the original location. That said, this is still a popular destination for locals and travellers alike, with a diverse crowd of varying ages and origins. On the other side of the wait, you can expect a relaxed scene, with the welcoming vibe that comes from a family-run operation.
101 St. Marks Pl., 212-677-2226
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.