Weekends are for trying new things. But if you aren’t sure what to do, here are some ideas: Buy a cat. Or learn Mandarin. Or go to a vintage store, acquire some ’80s fashions, then ride the Staten Island Ferry and pretend you’re Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. Or, you know, try a new brunch spot. Here are some places that are worth checking out. Bring some friends. They’ll assume (correctly) that you’re a very cool person.
New To The Brunch Hit List (as of 8/3): Bocce, Bistro Pierre Lapin, Kopitiam, The Golden Hour.
If you’re trying to strategize a brunch that will work for both north and south-bound commutes, Bocce, right at the top of Union Square, is a good choice. There’s lots of open-air seating, you can reserve a table, and while there is a single, small bocce court, this place could more accurately be named Surprisingly Good Pizzas And Small Plates (at brunch, they serve their entire dinner menu as well as a breakfast calzone and a lemon ricotta dutch baby). It closes for the season in November, so just plan to check it out before then.
Bistro Pierre Lapin is a slightly fancy French restaurant on a quiet street in the West Village where you can eat things like a croque madame or a comte omelette at brunch. The brunch sandwiches and egg dishes are mostly under $20, but other options are closer to the $30 range, so keep it in mind for an enjoyable special occasion brunch.
After closing its original location, this Malaysian spot is back in a new space on East Broadway. It’s very casual in here (you order at a counter and get a number), so it feels more suitable for a last-minute brunch with one or two other people than a big group get-together you’ve been planning for a while. They have a bunch of breakfast options that are available all day, like Malaysian-style French toast and nasi lemak (with fried anchovies, coconut rice, and a hard boiled egg) - and there’s also a selection of cakes and sweet rice balls that might change your stance on ordering brunch dessert, provided you were against it in the first place.
The Golden Hour is a seasonal restaurant with entirely outdoor seating at the bottom of the High Line Hotel in Chelsea. They make perfectly good things like eggs benedict and brioche French toast, but you’re really here because you want to be surrounded by plants and sunshine while you eat, and/or because you have your dog with you. Just don’t skip out on the side of potatoes - they’re crispy and salty and one of the better things you can spend $6 on in this neighborhood.
Olmsted’s brunch is a little like Willy Wonka’s factory. It’s magical and slightly inexplicable, and there are important life lessons to take away from it (mainly that eating BEC egg rolls is something you’ll need to do again soon). The interior is nice-but-not-formal, with more greenery than most of the streets in Manhattan, and there’s also a great backyard space with quails and a bathtub full of fish. Everything from the drinks (carrot mimosas) to the mains (duck two ways with scrambled duck egg, duck sausage, and maple pita) are unusual and, so far, there’s nothing here that we wouldn’t recommend trying.
Like Bocce, Bombay Bread Bar is geographically convenient if you have people coming from a few different directions. This is a fun place to get a little rowdy with your friends and share plates of Indian food for breakfast, and with the exception of the bacon and cheddar fried egg pizza, their brunch is basically the dinner menu with eggs on top. If it’s nice out, sit on the sidewalk.
The best diner is usually the one closest to you. Meme’s, however, is an exception to that rule. This little Prospect Heights spot is the diner you should travel for. It feels like a neighborhood hangout, but instead of the usual diner things like an omelette or a short stack, you’ll eat milk and cereal with yogurt panna cotta, frito migas, or a fried chicken biscuit with spicy maple syrup. In our experience, there is no wrong order here, except for one that doesn’t involve a piece of Vietnamese Iced Coffee Cake at the end. Just get here early or expect to wait - this place is small, and it isn’t a secret.
Claro’s excellent Oaxacan food warrants a visit any time. But the minute it’s nice enough to eat outside in their backyard, cancel all other plans and get here immediately. Claro makes all of their tortillas, sausages, and cheeses in-house, and their recently-launched brunch has everything from chilaquiles to traditional Mexican cake (called marquesote) and a bunch of tequila and mezcal cocktails. Also important: they take brunch reservations - although that doesn’t guarantee you get a spot in the backyard.
Brunch at Fausto in Park Slope involves eating not-quite-heavy Italian food in a nice wicker chair or a tan leather booth. They have a solid lineup of breakfast things, like lemon ricotta pancakes and a poached egg with duck, as well as lunchier options like orecchiette that comes with braised pork and a bunch of parmesan on top. The sleek space makes it a bit nicer than your typical neighborhood brunch spot, so use it for a celebratory brunch, or just the thing that’ll keep you from watching sad, acoustic Youtube covers at your desk all week.
Evelina is a new-ish Mediterranean restaurant in the part of Brooklyn that has tons of good neighborhood brunch spots. But Evelina is particularly worth checking out if you’re looking for an attractive space that’s a big step up from your go-to hangover brunch place. They serve nice cocktails, duck confit, pasta, and other things that are good for people who are tired of eating eggs on weekends.
The type of food they serve at Chez Ma Tante is tough to pin down. At dinner they have things like pierogies and roast chicken, and at brunch, you can get falafel, a hot dog, an excellent caesar salad, or an egg sandwich. You can also get what are probably our favorite new pancakes in the city. They come crispy and topped with butter, and you should order them. Stop by for a low-key brunch in a cozy space in Greenpoint.