The Best Brunches in New York
By Kathryn Foley
In a city famous for never going to sleep, it’s hardly a surprise that not everyone would make it in time for an early breakfast. Brunch on the other hand is a much more manageable, and a potentially more enjoyable pursuit. Whichever neighbourhood you find yourself in, it’s almost guaranteed you’re never more than 100m from a good cup of coffee, a delicious dish to break your fast with, and a mimosa - if cocktails in the morning are your vibe. But separating the authentic flavours of NY’s diverse communities whose roots hail from all over the globe from any old brunch can be a challenge - so here are five of the best brunches in NYC to enjoy.
Whether you know it as El Barrio or Spanish Harlem, this vibrant neighbourhood who’s diversity and authentic cultural expression can be seen everywhere from the brightly coloured murals splashed across its walls to the sidewalk food carts cooking up a Puerto Rican storm. Just take a stroll through the area and you can discover the diverse heritage of the community through its street art and community projects, whose roots hail from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Latin America. Close your eyes and for a second the smells wafting out from Mexican bakeries and food carts will have you believing you’re in CDMX, but to really get a feel for the cultural collision which is what we all love most about the neighbourhood, there’s nowhere better than stopping by Cafe Con Leche.
This eatery is a community landmark serving up a fusion of Latin and Caribbean flavours, known as Criollas. Try Los Chilaquiles de Maria, tortilla chips with green salsa, cheese and eggs; pabellón criollo, a hearty Venezuelan dish of shredded beef, fried plantain, rice and beans and arepa, a regional corn cake which is a staple in Colombia and Venezuela or Bandeja paisa, a Colombian dish of steak, eggs, avos, chorizo and plantain - you certainly won’t go hungry after this feast!
The epitome of Old (school) Brooklyn, Prospect Heights sits right in the heart of the borough and has been home to an ethnically and culturally diverse community for generations. Eating out is taken seriously here, and you’ll find a myriad of eateries serving modern, authentic food and thoroughly NY style food - cutting edge without any pretentious hipster vibes. For a long and lazy brunch, the go to spot in the area is Stone Park Cafe, and with good reason. Feast on short rib hash and eggs, tempura oyster frittata, pan seared bluefish cakes, a classic NY bagel with house smoked salmon or a stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes. With a menu revolving around locally sourced and in season ingredients, and one which brings together techniques and flavours from the area’s multi-cultural roots, you’ll always find something new and incredibly delicious to indulge in.
Astoria’s rich history of immigration has lead to a diverse and delicious culinary legacy, but it’s known in particular for it’s Greek flavours. From baklava hand made the traditional way aka dripping with honey, to succulent, slow roasted lamb kleftiko infused with lemon, you’ll want to stay for more than just brunch. But to start the day, make a beeline for Ovelia, a stylish Hellenic eatery where rustic taverna vibes have been ditched in favour of a sleek white interior and a menu of classic Greek dishes which have been given a contemporary twist to suit the brunch crowd. Think baklava inspired pancakes, sprinkled with pistachios and walnuts and drizzled (or drenched, depending on your style) with Greek honey, lahmajoun, an Eastern Mediterranean inspired pizza and omelettes stuffed with creamy feta. And the best bit? All brunch dishes are accompanied by a mimosa or bloody mary on the house!
The area has long had a large Polish population, and you’ll find delis and bakeries selling traditional delicacies alongside newer (and trendier) coffee shops and bars catering to a new creative crowd. Despite being bordered by rapidly gentrifying Williamsburg, Greenpoint has managed to stay relatively under the radar; and you’ll find the slower pace of life here is the perfect accompaniment to a slow brunch. Much like its architecture, an eclectic mix of classic NY brownstones and repurposed warehouses, the cuisine here takes classic American dishes and gives them a contemporary Brooklyn makeover. A fitting brunch spot is Anella’s, where you’ll find everyones favourite brunch plates like brioche French toast with home made jam and mascarpone, as well as delicious twists on American classics like their fried jalapeño biscuit with jalapeño honey butter and a bourbon glazed pork belly sandwich.
Good traditions stand will stand the test of time, and since the Cantonese tradition of yum cha, which simply means ‘drink tea’ has supposedly been around for over 1000 years, we think that makes it a good one. So ditch the smashed avo on toast in pursuit of dim sum from one the banquet halls of Manhattan’s Chinatown, from Jing Fong to be exact. To anyone who’s not familiar with this weekend family tradition, the whole process can seem a little chaotic, and probably somewhat confusing. Yes, you’ll quite possibly be seated by a hostess who’s clutching a walkie talkie next to a family you’ve never laid eyes on before, and you may not have a clue what most of the dishes are, but such is life if you want to indulge in authentic dim sum.
Jing Fong is a classic Cantonese restaurant where bamboo baskets of dim sum are served by waitresses from a cart, so sit back, sip your tea and forgo the menu, instead waiting for the food to come to you. The iconic dim sum dishes you’ll want to try are pork siu ma, juicy open topped dumplings stuffed to the brim with ground pork and mushrooms; ngau cheung, barbecued beef folded in between delicate layers of rice noodles and topped with a sweet and sticky soy sauce; and if you're feeling adventurous, try the braised chicken feet which are smothered in a garlicky sauce.