Best of NYC Brunch (Part 1)

Best Visit to the Countryside via Brunch: Penelope

An airy, homey, country-kitchen feel that serves up masterfully executed classics like eggs, French toast and oatmeal. Their $14 pre-fixe (which comes with an apple cider mimosa or coffee/tea and juice) also features some more unique items like pumpkin waffles with cinnamon-cardamom pecans and baked apples or homemade granola made with coconut, dried figs, dried apricots and dried cranberries. This place scores extra points for carrying San Pelligrino Limonata (my favorite soda).

159 Lexington Ave between 29th and 30th

212-418-3800

Best Brunch To See and Be Seen: Café Gitane

I’m not sure what I love more about this place…the food, the crowd or the location.  Fashionistas, movie stars, hipsters, artists and other interesting characters all comfortably come together in this relaxed, cozy and causal café in the heart of Nolita. The French-Moroccan influenced cuisine offers an inspired alternative to the regular brunch fare. Though you can still get your eggs (baked with basil, tomato and cream) and waffles (made with orange blossom water), there are a variety of other dishes to try that are bursting with exotic flavor. My favorites include:

–       Marinated beets with cinnamon vinaigrette

–       Hearts of palm salad with orange, lemon and endive

–      Avocado, lemon juice, olive oil and chili flakes on seven grain toast

Now that the weather’s getting warm, try to get a table outside and watch the weekend shopping crowd as you enjoy your meal and sip on their imported mint tea, the citron presse or one of their delicious and original cocktails.

242 Mott St. near Prince

212-334-9552

Best “Exotic” Bruch: Café Mogador

There’s no lack of flavor on this menu (or eggs for that matter, so if you don’t eat eggs, I wouldn’t recommend brunching here). The breakfast menu features four far-east influenced egg meals – three of which are suitable for vegetarians: the Moroccan eggs are poached with a spicy tomato sauce that bursts in your mouth. The Middle Eastern eggs are served any style with hummus, tabouli and pita spiced with za’atar. The Foul Madamez are hard boiled eggs with hummus and fava beans. On the brunch menu, there are several options of poached eggs on a English muffin with hollandaise sauce (the Moroccan style eggs make an appearance here as well) and for $12 you can have fresh OJ and tea /coffee. There are also some great sandwich and panini selections to be tried off the lunch menu. Whether you are sitting inside where the feeling is warm yet hip with an understated Moroccan theme, or outside, where you can watch the cool East Village crowd walk by, be sure to share a pot of fresh Moroccan mint tea with your brunchmates.

101 St. Marks Place between Avenue A and 1st

212-67-2226

Best Whimsical Brunch Experience: Alice’s Tea Cup

On the one hand, the over-the-top Alice in Wonderland décor might be a bit too much to digest for most straight men. On the other hand, this leaves a lot of opportunity to pick up women while enjoying the sumptuous food and appearing sensitive.  Their scones are the closest in the city to the soft, buttery and flakey variety found in the U.K. They have a stellar selection of pancakes, crepes and eggs (my favorite is the eggs florentine). But my favorite item here is the rich French toast bread pudding, It’s infused with apricot brandy and topped with fruit coulis and vanilla crème anglaise. For something on the lighter side, I like to go with the swirled oatmeal with brown sugar and raspberry coulis or their tea-infused granola. And of course, they have over 140 varieties of interesting and flavorful teas to pair with your meal. You may need to get your server involved in helping you with your selection.

Chapter I

102 W. 73rd Street near Columbus Ave

212-799-3006

Chapter II

156 E. 64th Street near 2nd Ave

212-486-9200

Chapter III

220 E. 81st Street near 3rd Ave

212-734-4832

Best South American Brunch: Esperanto

This classic alphabet city dig feels like what I would imagine a kitschy diner on the beach in Bahia might feel like – if there is such a thing.  The sliding glass walls bathe the interior with sunlight, though you can enjoy the street-view from the patio during the warmer months. The tables are covered in plastic, flowery tablecloths while various voodoo dolls and South American knickknacks give it festive, eclectic vibe. While the service can be a bit slow, you might not notice if the live Brazilian band is playing. And you definitely won’t mind if you are sipping a Mimosa or Screwdriver that’s included in the $10 brunch special.  If you want a more authentic South American experience, share a pitcher of caipriinha amongst your friends. My regular dish is the huevos rancheros: two eggs over easy served with beans (which a server assures me are vegetarian friendly) and salsa on a crispy tortilla alongside home fries. If you have room for sides, try the pão de queijo. These are fluffly bread balls with cheese baked right into the dough. If you happen to overdo it and feel like taking a walk, check out the various community gardens in the neighborhood. My favorite is La Plaza Cultural (located just south of Esperanto). It may not be the beach, but it certainly is beautiful.

145 Avenue C between 9th and 10th

212-505-6559

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