When it comes to things to eat and drink on weekends, few rituals are more popular (or controversial) than weekend brunch. Our slightly unorthodox, highly subjective list of picks, below, includes trendy restaurant bars, several ambitious chef-driven restaurants, and, for nostalgia’s sake (and because brunch isn’t only about Bloody Marys and eggs Benedict), one or two classic seven-days-a-week breakfast hangouts.
47 E. Houston St., nr. Mulberry St.; 212-219-7693
In our humble opinion, Ignacio Mattos’s buzzy Nolita bar and restaurant is a much more peaceful, pleasant place to dine on weekend mornings than during the raucous evening hours. Even more important, the spare, carefully edited breakfast menu (blood cake with eggs and marmalade, the exceptional avocado sandwich, the English muffin with whitefish) is a thing of beauty.
35 E. 21st St., nr. Broadway; 212-913-9659
This is another popular, chef-driven establishment that slows down pleasantly during brunch time. Go for the wet, purist bowl of huevos rancheros, the buttery, crumbly fried johnnycakes, and Enrique Olvera’s superb lamb barbacoa tacos, which we like to wash down with the intoxicating house “Bloody Marías,” made with tequila, instead of the usual cheap vodka, and real muddled tomatoes.
Essex Street Market, 120 Essex St., nr. Rivington St.; no phone
Kenny Shopsin and his eclectic, voluble crew are avowed brunch haters, it’s true. But there’s no more sprawling, creative, generally delicious short-order breakfast menu in the city (or possibly the world), and as long as the great man keeps this Essex Market operation open on weekday mornings, he makes the list.
345 Park Ave. South, nr. 26th St.; 212-686-1006
Justin Smillie is a master of high-end hungry-man cooking, which puts brunch squarely in his sweet spot. There are many delicacies to graze on here (yes, the eggs Benedict, the baccala cakes topped with fried eggs), but the dish we keep returning for is the porchetta sandwich, made with ribbons of the chef’s famous Tuscan-style pork, a toasted ciabatta roll, and a single fried farm egg.
6. Joe Jr. Restaurant
167 Third Ave., at 16th St.; 212-473-5150
You can’t guzzle Bloody Marys at this classic dining counter either, but the wizard cooks will whip up a serviceable eggs Benedict in about five seconds, if you ask politely. No less an authority than Wylie Dufresne himself told us once that he likes to visit on weekend mornings, to listen to the vanishing short-order patois of the staff, and enjoy what he considers to be the finest glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice in New York.
49 Canal St., nr. Orchard St.; 212-925-1300
This little taste of L.A. down on eastern Canal Street is perpetually jammed during the brunch-time hours, but the purist West Coast breakfast specialties — the power bowls, the egg tacos, the excellent scrambled-egg-and-avocado sandwich — are worth the wait.
8. Russ & Daughters Café
127 Orchard St., nr. Delancey St.; 212-475-4880
The faux-deli setup is a little twee by downtown fresser standards, it’s true. But if you don’t feel like gobbling your Russ & Daughters bounty (the lox, the sable, the endless delicious varieties of herring) outside on the sidewalk, or in the comfort of your own home, you could do an awful lot worse.
9. Cherche Midi
282 Bowery, at E. Houston St.; 212-226-3055
The grand weekend spread at this Bowery brasserie is our current favorite Keith McNally breakfast, thanks to the roster of lavish egg dishes, like the classic eggs Benedict, and the lobster scrambled eggs, which the kitchen makes with chunks of Maine lobster, a sprinkling of fresh-cut chives, and spoonfuls of crème fraîche.