In most places the term “brunch” is used only of special occasions or certain rare meals throughout the year. A bridal party might have a special brunch before the wedding later that evening. Business associates might enjoy brunch together on a Saturday morning in combination with a meeting. Families celebrate Mother’s Day over a Sunday brunch, or Easter before an Easter egg hunt. But nowhere else outside the City (at least that I’ve visited) has transformed brunch into a weekend pastime the way New York has.
First of all, Melissa and I aren’t brunch aficionados, and don’t elevate the location of our brunch to a major weekly decision the way many New Yorkers do. We enjoy the occasional brunch, usually with friends or when family is in town, but we are probably below average in New York in terms of our brunch consumption. For many people brunch is a hobby or pseudo-organized leisure activity. Brunch locales are plotted weeks in advance, and their calendars are always filled in the 11 am – 1 pm time frame on Saturday and Sunday; entire weekend schedules are built around brunch. The New York magazines dedicate regular features to highlight the best brunch restaurants throughout the city. Entire blogs, such as iheartbrunch.com, are dedicated to brunch in the New York. Walking down the street, it is obvious that virtually every restaurant of every size and style and type of cuisine offers some form of brunch – it is just a way of life in New York.
Such variety, especially in New York, only leads to confusion about where to enjoy brunch. There are plenty of “classic” brunch places featuring a variety of continental foods such as French toast of all different types, pancakes, eggs benedict, omelets of seemingly infinite composition, small steaks, crepes, and a variety of crab and lobster based salads, washed down by a juice or even a drink such as a Bloody Mary or Mimosa. But if you’d rather try ethnic cuisine, the choices are also vast. Numerous dim sum places are scattered throughout Chinatown, in addition to standard Chinese restaurants such as The Oriental Garden, which offers items such as shrimp balls and crispy vegetable rolls. There are brunches with Indian food such as Chennai and Surya West, along with French food at L’Express, and Cambodian food at the appropriately named Cambodian Cuisine.
If you’re in the mood for traditional brunch, my personal recommendation would be the Cook Shop in Chelsea, where I enjoyed the delicious beef brisket with two poached eggs. Melissa and I also really like the Blue Water Grill, with its beautiful setting in an old bank in Union Square. Our favorite dishes are the eggs benedict and the New Yorker benedict. Melissa enjoys Friend of a Farmer in Irving Place (I’ve never been), and we’ve also had good experience at Schiller’s on Rivington Street in the Lower East Side. Other well-reviewed traditional brunches include Five Points and Clinton Street Baking Company, though we’ve never visited either place.
But the reality is that, as with most things in New York, you are bound to find something that suits your fancy. Just walk anywhere in the East or West Village and you’re sure to find a great brunch perfectly suited to your taste and budget. If you want very high end fare, you can shell out $95 for an all you can eat buffet in the Waldorf-Astoria called Peacock Alley. In the same vein, you might try the Carlyle restaurant at the Carlyle Hotel, where it is quite possible you’ll spot a celebrity or two. If you’re in the mood for off-beat, avant garde brunch, the well-reviewed Prune might be the place for you, with their sausage-oyster combos and liver plates.
So whether you cuddle up in a warm, cozy dining room such as Friend of a Farmer in the cold of winter, or enjoy the perfect temperatures of Fall by eating outside at a place like Sarabeth’s, enjoying brunch is a quintessential New York experience. With offerings of all styles at all prices throughout Manhattan (Brooklyn has a variety of great brunch restaurants as well), there is a brunch for everyone in the Big Apple.