18 Brunch Spots For Special Occasions
NYC restaurants that feel fancy enough for a special occasion meal involving pancakes and Bloody Marys.
Brunch is basically just breakfast with sugary cocktails. Which makes it even more annoying that, for some reason, picking a brunch place is more stressful than anything you dealt with at work this week. When you just got a promotion, or it’s someone’s birthday, or you won Best Optometrist In Midtown East (for the fourth year in a row), you need a brunch restaurant that feels fancy enough for the occasion. Here are 18 great options around the city.
Brunch at Estela is the sophisticated kind of fancy—more cashmere than diamonds. On weekend afternoons, you’ll see people wearing cozy knitwear in every shade of white eating gorgeous endive salads and velvety ricotta dumplings. Estela’s quarters are tight and cozy, and wine is consumed enthusiastically here. This is your best option if you're eating with an out-of-towner who isn’t easily impressed with the flashier restaurants in the city.
When you want to feel royal for the day, there’s no better place to pretend you live in palatial fake France than La Mercerie. This space is stunning, and you can either stay for a long brunch or just hang out feeling glamorous while you enjoy a warm-from-the-oven pain au chocolat and a perfect latte. If you’re feeling something more on the savory side, the buckwheat crêpe complète is a must. Even things that sound kind of plain, like a warm rice porridge, are wonderful here.
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Your person woke you up this morning and handed you a happy anniversary card. It was immediately obvious that you didn’t recognize the significance of four-month anniversaries, and now you need to make up for it. Brunch at Cosme is a good start. The dark space still feels special occasion-y during the day, and you can share things like lamb barbacoa and a bass tostada while you discuss what your relationship might look like in four more months.
photo credit: Teddy Wolfe
The line to get into Buvette for brunch is notoriously long, but if all you want to do is eat fluffy steamed eggs in an unreasonably charming space, this place is worth the wait. Buvette isn't especially upscale—it mostly just looks like a narrow French cafe filled with old knickknacks. But the homey (and slightly cramped) feel is one of the reasons why you come here. The other reasons are the waffle and croque monsieur.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
Located in the Beekman Hotel, this Daniel Boulud restaurant is inspired by the bistros of Lyon. With its mirrored walls, cigar-colored banquettes, and flowers painted on wall tiles, Le Gratin feels like a stylish bistro, and it's a great choice to celebrate any relationship status-related occasion. Come at brunch and choose from six egg dishes that involve things like black truffle and tomme de Savoie.
Few things feel more like a party than a Sadelle’s Tower. The multi-tiered platter has everything you need to make your ideal smoked fish bagel sandwich. As for the bagels, you can have as many as you want, and all you have to do is flag a staff member when they come out chanting “hot bagels.” Sadelle's has a full menu of non-bagel options too, and it includes the best french toast we’ve ever eaten. Make a reservation, and come with a group.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
No one makes macarons as good as Ladurée, full stop. This Soho cafe can get busy on the weekends, but it's worth braving the crowds for a glamorous brunch—especially if you can snag a seat in that beautiful courtyard. Anything that comes from the pastry case is going to be good, but they’ve also got some solid savory brunch dishes involving eggs in every form. And as always, the setting here is picturesque and lovely.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Upland's dining room with high ceilings, checkered tablecloths, and big leather banquettes is the perfect place for a brunch celebration that’s been on your calendar longer than your dermatologist appointment. The California-inspired menu is solid, and it has some classic brunch options as well as great pizzas, pastas, and vegetable-focused things for the people in your life who wake up too early for this to be the first meal of their day.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
Yes, this place is in the annoyingly buzzy micro-neighborhood known as Dimes Square, but it's significantly fancier than most of its neighbors. Corner Bar makes the most worthwhile egg dishes in New York City, and they’re served in a cute, cozy space that makes you feel like you’ve turned back the clock a few decades. The brunch menu at this spot from the Estela team is small enough that you really can’t go wrong, with options like boudin blanc and sunny-side-up eggs au poivre with hen of the woods mushrooms.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
RH Rooftop Restaurant
RH is named for the fancy furniture store it’s on top of, and the dining room has a lot of the same decor as store, with marble surfaces, a chandelier over every table, and big windows looking out over downtown Manhattan. The food is from the people behind Au Cheval, and we’re big fans of the shaved ribeye sandwich on a garlic bread baguette. They allow you to carry your drinks in the store, so you can walk around with a mimosa and try to guess how much it would cost to upgrade your life with a giant distressed mirror.
photo credit: Emily Andrews
Union Square Cafe
Maybe you just spent six years getting a degree that's only partially paid for. It’s not every day that you get to add an acronym to your name, so your family is in town to celebrate. But your adult brother still eats like a nine-year-old, and your mom wants food “like on Top Chef.” Union Square Cafe will make everyone happy. The two-floor space has great service without feeling stuffy, and the food ranges from donuts and french toast to truffle pasta and rainbow trout. And all of it is great.
photo credit: Le Coucou
Le Coucou is a fancy French restaurant in Soho with white tablecloths and a brunch menu that they call “weekend lunch.” But despite all the candles, chandeliers, and B-list celebrities you'll encounter here, Le Coucou doesn’t feel all that stuffy. Prices are high, but you can eat your lobster and grilled duckling without having to worry about what happens if you spill it.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Maybe it’s your dad’s birthday and he’s bringing his vegetarian friend, or maybe your girlfriend’s grandmother is visiting New York for the first time. Maybe neither of those things are happening, but chances are, Loring Place will still be ideal for a special occasion brunch when you need to account for everyone’s specific needs. They serve everything from a wood-grilled broccoli salad to a great cheeseburger.
Bar Boulud is a nice French restaurant you could bring your grandma to before your yearly tradition of seeing Phantom of the Opera. There will be people who look like they’re dressed for some sort of gala, eating things like pâte and escargots, but you can also sit in a booth in the bar area and eat a burger topped with pork belly and raclette.
At night, you’ll see people at Dirty French popping magnums of champagne. At brunch, those magnums are replaced with Bloody Marys. It’s not quite as much of a scene, but this is still a fun spot to celebrate during the day. The portions are big and the food is rich, and you can expect things like a french dip sandwich with dry-aged beef and hash with duck confit.
The main reason to choose this restaurant for your celebratory brunch is the view. This place is right on the Dumbo waterfront, and you can sit on some cushy chairs as you stare out at the Brooklyn Bridge. The food here doesn’t really fit in one category, but people will enjoy the eggs, pizzas, and kind of healthy stuff. If you have a big group, the indoor dining room is large enough to fit all of your cousins and significant others. Just take turns walking outside to get your photos.
The Osprey isn’t just another overpriced waterfront hotel restaurant. While it is pricey, in a hotel, and on the waterfront, the food here is legitimately good. The brunch menu changes often, but you’ll generally get things like banana french toast and seasonal frittatas with locally sourced ingredients. It’s easy to get a last-minute reservation, even for a big group, so this is a great option to have in your back pocket when you forgot to plan your mom’s birthday brunch.
This Midtown location of a Hong Kong restaurant serves excellent dim sum, but the reason why you come is the setting. After walking through the large doors of the Bloomberg Building and checking in, you’ll make your way into a cathedral-sized dining room with marbled floors, mirrored ceilings, and many, many chandeliers. You're probably going to spend a ton of money at this unapologetically ostentatious place, but you'll also get to eat a luxe, buttery wagyu beef millefeuille.