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.
As long as it’s nice outside when you get brunch at Wayla on the Lower East Side, you should try to sit in their backyard. It’s what we imagine one of the patios in a prince’s vacation home to look like - full of outdoor rugs, huge wicker chairs, and little bird cages with candles in them. The daytime menu involves things like a crab meat omelette, some “after school noodles,” and Thai-style fried chicken with sweet chili sauce. We like the pork belly set a lot (it’s sort of like Wayla’s take on a full English breakfast), and it comes with sticky rice, papaya salad, thick cut bacon, two fried eggs, and housemade pork sausage - which is on the dinner menu, and is equally great at brunch.
If you like the idea of posting up at an old-school lunch counter without having to abandon the luxuries of 2019 (like advanced medical research and rideshare apps, for example), you should go eat at Golden Diner. This is a walk-in only spot by the Manhattan Bridge that serves diner classics like matzoh ball soup and breakfast platters, as well as things like a great chicken katsu club sandwich and avocado toast with Thai basil and turmeric. The food here is simple and exactly the sort of cheesy, eggy stuff you might want on a weekend morning.
Pastis closed in 2014, but now it’s back open just a few blocks from the original location. It’s a little bit bigger now, but it has the same tiled walls, dim lighting, and red banquettes - so if you want to put on a pair of Manolo Blahniks and pretend it’s the early 2000s, this is a great place to do it. It gets busy, and you won’t forget that you’re in the Meatpacking District, but the French bistro food is great, and sometimes you just want to get some people watching done while you eat a plate of eggs Norwegian. Make a reservation to be safe, and sit on the front patio if it’s nice out.
Bourke Street Bakery started out in Australia, and now its first US location in Nomad. It’s counter-service, and when you walk inside, you’ll see stacks upon stacks of pastries you’ll want to consume. We suggest the croissants, the muffins, the chocolate tart, the bacon danish, and pretty much anything else you might see here. There are also some sandwiches like an excellent BEC, and there are a bunch of tables to the side where you can have a quick solo meal or a brunch meeting with a friend when you want to eat some exceptional baked goods and try to figure out what you did last night.
Miss Ada recently opened its back patio for the summer, and that’s a piece of information you should stare at for as long as it usually takes you to commit something to memory. The partially-covered space in Fort Greene has a bunch of hanging plants and brick walls with big murals of people drinking wine, and it’s one of our favorite places to eat outside in Brooklyn. It’s especially nice at brunch, when this Middle Eastern spot serves some excellent dishes from its dinner menu, like sweet whipped ricotta that could be an appetizer or dessert, as well as brunch-specific things, like french toast with labne mousse and shakshuka with pita right off the grill. They only do brunch on Sundays, and it’s usually not even worth trying to come without a reservation, so plan ahead. The chocolate babka and harissa Bloody Marys are worth it.
Sonnyboy is a new Australian cafe on the Lower East Side from the people behind another attractive place to drink oat milk, Banter. It’s casual enough in here that you could show up by yourself after running a 5K - but this would also be a great place to meet some friends and talk about how a 5K is the last thing you ever want to do. The brunch food ranges in both lunchy-ness and healthiness levels, with everything from a green bowl with quinoa to a breakfast sandwich with a thick sausage patty, melted cheddar, and chili jam.
Hunky Dory is an all-day restaurant in Crown Heights named after a classic David Bowie album, and at brunch it has things like coddled duck eggs, kabocha squash oatmeal, and yogurt with fruit quinoa. There are also some silver dollar pancakes with whipped yogurt and crumbled bacon, and you can get an order with just two of them if you want to feel like a giant eating human food. But the best thing here is the big breakfast sandwich with caramelized onions and soft scrambled eggs (make sure to add the optional sausage). Bring a few friends and share some things in the bright back dining room, or just sit at the bar, read a book, and have a cocktail while you eat brunch by yourself.
At Nonono’s Japanese brunch, you can choose between a ramen or a rice bowl set, both of which come with a sashimi salad and chawanmushi and cost $26. The vegetable curry rice bowl is worth getting even if you have a policy against vegetables before noon on the weekends, and you can get other things a la carte - like a really good mackerel sandwich, or some strawberry toast. This place takes reservations, but it’s also big enough that you’ll probably be all right without one.
Gertie is the kind of place where you should get brunch when you’re generally in a good mood. This all-day spot in Williamsburg has huge windows, high ceilings, colorful murals, and lots of natural light. The crowds look far too put-together to be hungover, and you order at the counter before sitting, so it’s not an ideal situation if waits or lines cause you anxiety. But even if you come here in a less than ideal mood, you’ll start to feel better once the food arrives. The menu has various sandwiches, like a DIY egg and cheese bialy and an open-faced veggie melt with spicy cauliflower, and you definitely want the patty reuben, which is basically a juicy cheeseburger with special sauce and sauerkraut on grilled rye bread.
If it’s your turn to plan a group brunch for your friends and you’re looking for people to throw around words like “fun” and “cool” after you all finish eating, Oxomoco is an excellent choice. This upscale Mexican place in Greenpoint was one of our favorite new restaurants of 2018, and at brunch, you can get some of the dinner menu’s highlights, like shrimp ceviche tostadas and a tlayuda that tastes a little like buttered popcorn. They take brunch reservations, and we’d suggest making one at least a week in advance - but they also serve lunch every day, in case you can’t get in on a Saturday or Sunday.
Go to the gates of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, look left, and you’ll find a warehouse with nothing in it except a bagel palace. This is a new food hall that will eventually have other vendors, but currently only has a huge Russ & Daughters. It’s the largest of all the Russ & Daughters locations, and it has a big glass wall where you can watch them smoke whitefish, bake fresh babka, and boil bagels. More importantly, there’s also a counter where you can order pastries, bagel sandwiches, and other specialties - plus some seating if you want to stick around. Prepare to wait in line if you show up around 10:30 (they open at 8am every day).
More bagels you should be eating in Brooklyn. Shelsky’s already has a pretty well-known appetizing store/deli on Court Street, and this Park Slope bagel place is their second spot. It’s counter-service, and while there’s nowhere to sit down, the bagels are good enough that you won’t mind eating them standing up (or bringing them wherever you’re headed, if you can wait that long). They’re chewier and slightly puffier than the ones you get at Russ & Daughters, and they make excellent breakfast sandwiches when topped with things like gravlax, pastrami-cured lox, and pork roll.
Brunch by yourself doesn’t need to mean a burger at a bar or a BEC in your Ninja Turtles pajamas. It could also mean delicious open-faced sandwiches on dense, crunchy rye bread at Smor. This Nordic spot in the East Village only has about 12 seats, and the one-room space doesn’t even have a bathroom, so it’s best for a quick meal or takeout. We like the all of the smorrebrod (open-faced sandwiches), but our favorite thing here is the roast beef sandwich, which comes with a lot of meat, remoulade, and aioli on a pressed burger bun.