Brunch can easily cause us to panic. More specifically, the thought of waiting for brunch can cause us to panic. This guide was created to help you make brunch plans without fear of hanger-blackout-yelling at your friends, or at innocent people who get seated before you. (To the perfectly nice couple last weekend: if you’re reading this, we apologize.)
If you want to bypass your brunch panic, make a reservation. Here are a bunch of places where you can do just that.
Going to Olmsted is a good way to impress someone visiting from another city where brunch is synonymous with bottomless mimosas and french toast. The menu at this American restaurant in Prospect Heights is inventive, which means you’ll find things like spanakopita shakshuka, donuts filled with pear butter, and duck two ways. Olmsted takes reservations a month in advance, and you should definitely plan on making one (it gets slammed).
For a great Southern brunch in Harlem, you should make a reservation at Melba’s. This place serves really good crispy fried chicken on top of an eggnog waffle (it doesn’t actually taste like eggnog, but it’s good). Most of the dishes here come with a few sides, and we highly suggest both the mac and cheese and the collard greens.
If you’re someone who gets excited about really good pancakes, it’s very important you go to Chez Ma Tante in Greenpoint and try theirs. This stack is lightly fried, not too sweet, and comes with a ton of butter on top. It’s not unusual for Chez Ma Tante to have a long wait on weekends, but that’s exactly why you’re making a reservation.
There are several life situations that Flora Bar is perfect for: a celebratory brunch with a friend on the UES, a light breakfast with someone before you go to the Met Breuer (it’s at the bottom of the museum), or to eat some excellent tuna tartare with hazelnuts and basil at 11am on a Saturday. When it’s nice out, Flora Bar opens up their giant patio and you should do your part to sit out there. The menu feels a bit more lunch-forward than breakfast-y, and there’s a ton of really good seafood that you should prioritize while you’re here.
Your family is meeting for brunch and you’ve neglected making a reservation until the very last second. This is where Balaboosta - an Israeli restaurant in the West Village - comes in handy. There are a ton of big windows and coastal patterned throw pillows in here, and it’s a comfortable place for a group to spend a few hours. In terms of the menu, it’s pretty typical of most Middle Eastern brunches (shakshuka, chicken shawarma, and a lamb burger), and good for vegetarians.
Sunday in Brooklyn attracts a brunch crowd for three reasons: the food, the space, and the fact that it’s called “Sunday in Brooklyn.” They do things like hazelnut praline pancakes and a breakfast sandwich that could pass for a burger. All that, and this place also looks like the beautiful home you’ll never own in Williamsburg. And, if it’s nice out, you can try to grab a seat on the second-floor patio.
Hearth is a little expensive at dinner, but brunch isn’t too bad. And still, it’s on the nicer end of the brunch spectrum, and it’s a good place to bring your cousin who’s in town for the weekend and assumes that your life is polished, orderly, and full of meals at places like Hearth.
If Loring Place were a person, it would be about 35 years old - sort of grown-up, fairly put-together, and occasionally pretty health-conscious. This is a good spot to come with a few friends who plan on having a full day of activities after brunch. Have some fluke crudo and baked ricotta, and if you feel like having something less healthy, there are plenty of options like donuts, pancakes, and bacon. Just know that, even for brunch, reservations are recommended.
Sauvage has a lot of things you look for in a restaurant. It’s spacious, attractive, there’s outdoor seating, and they have a good burger. This place is a pretty complete package, and it’s great for most brunch situations. Eggs with your mom? Of course. Pancakes with friends? Absolutely. A seared foie gras burger with your nemesis? Why not? The food is French/American, the whole place feels like a nice cafe, and there are plenty of seats outside.
The best thing about this Oaxacan restaurant is the glorious backyard. It’s got a trellis in the middle with plants hanging on it, and sitting back here will make anyone feel as though they were just granted the week off of work. Claro makes all of their tortillas, sausages, and cheese in-house, and we especially like the chilaquiles and traditional Mexican cake (called marquesote). The only bad news: your reservation doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the backyard.
Sometimes brunch is the best time to experience a restaurant if you’re trying to do it on a budget. Meadowsweet is a great example of this. So make a reservation, eat some chilaquiles and a crispy chicken sandwich, and make it out with a much lower bill than you’d have at dinner. It’s called strategy, people.
Pig And Khao is another spot where it’s never too hard to secure a reservation. We like this Filipino/Thai restaurant on the LES best for a rowdy group brunch. Especially when you and your friends are planning on continuing the rowdiness after brunch (and then falling asleep before 8pm). Aside from the excellent family-style dishes, there’s a self-serve, all-you-can-drink deal on Narragansett for $16 (with a two-hour limit).
Llama Inn is great for when you want to have brunch with a few friends spending the day hanging out in Williamsburg. This place is Peruvian, and you won’t find any pancakes or omelets here. Instead, they have ceviche, empanadas, and beef tenderloin with french fries (also, a few egg things). Plus, you can make reservations for the roof.
Esperanto is a Latin restaurant on the Avenue C in the East Village and it feels like a real neighborhood spot. It’s the sort of place where you can grab a table outside and watch people walk their dogs while you drink screw drivers and think about buying a dog. Or, if you want bloody Marys and mimosas, they do a reasonably-priced bottomless brunch.
If you’re at all interested in feeling like you’re in an Italian beach town, you should come to Santina for brunch. This is a somewhat scene-y restaurant right next to the Whitney in Meatpacking. Ask to be seated next to the couple with the most expensive dog, and eavesdrop throughout your shrimp frittata. Reserve a table on the later side to observe the Meatpacking District in full swing. Also - there’s some nice outdoor seating on the roof.
Bar Primi has something called “breakfast spaghetti.” It has kale, pancetta, and an egg. You’re probably going to order it, then take a picture of it, then hate yourself for taking a picture of it, then eat your shame. Go here for consistently good Italian brunch in a bright, attractive space. There are two floors and some outdoor seating, so there’s usually room for a last-minute reservation.
If you’ve ever passed Modern Love while walking through Williamsburg on weekends, you probably noticed that it gets pretty busy. And this is yet another example of the beauty of reservations. Modern Love serves casual vegan comfort food like biscuits and gravy and fried tofu with waffles. The food isn’t necessarily healthy, but it’s the sort of thing both vegans and non-vegans will enjoy. They also serve $8 mimosas, which means you can probably get two and feel like you’ve basically paid for one nice cocktail.
After many years of being a fun place to get brunch, Miss Lily’s is still a fun place to get brunch (and a reservation is still a good idea). Here you’ll find Caribbean brunch and a crowd of young people who probably got kicked out of bars last night. For an extra twenty dollars, you can get unlimited Bloody Mary’s and mimosas.
Make a reservation at Sadelle’s or wait three hours for a table. It’s your choice. Once you’re in, order smoked salmon, babka, and french toast. Watch the employees shout ’hot bagels” as they bring out hot bagels, and think, for a second, that you’ve crashed a breakfast party. This isn’t the worst feeling.
“Quaint” as the West Village may be, it’s an absolute nightmare for brunch. Waits are crazy, hordes of hangry people are everywhere, and getting a table for you and five friends is virtually impossible. How to avoid it? Book a table at Morandi. It’s a comfortable, enjoyable spot with a menu that has something for everyone.
For those times when you want to appear classier and more important than you actually are, Lafayette is the place to get brunch. Reserve a table, order many pastries and soft scrambled eggs, and look down upon the plebeians not seated in your midst.
If you don’t want to spend more on brunch than you do on your groceries for the week, go to Root & Bone and eat their reasonably-priced and delicious Southern food. They have a $25 daytime prix fixe menu that includes biscuits to share, a main, and sides (you can also make it bottomless for $20).
Estela is an excellent, tiny restaurant on Houston Street. Just like at dinner, the small plates are artful and impressive (the egg sandwich is required ordering) - but do know that you’ll need several of them to walk away full. If you’re looking for a special occasion brunch that still feels cool, Estela is one of the best candidates.
The East Pole is the rare restaurant that both you and your oldest relative will probably enjoy. It’s upscale, but not stuffy; a little cool, but not too cool; and serves things like green juice and macro plates alongside duck hash with poached eggs and smoked salmon crostini. It’s kind of a serious spot, so it’s probably not one you’ll frequent every weekend - but when family time calls, you’ll know what to do.
“Where can I go to brunch with my healthy friend where I can also eat something not awful?” is a question that we (unfortunately) field often. And Cookshop is, more often than not, our answer. Your friend can have a grain bowl or greek salad, you can have beignets and a burger - it’ll all be great. This is the kind of place where you can take absolutely anyone - and if they’re not happy, we’ll buy you a pony. We’re that confident.
ABC Cocina is attached to a home furnishing store, and it looks like the loft you assumed you’d be living in by the time you turned 25 (high ceilings, chandeliers, brick walls, etc.). More importantly, this restaurant also makes some good Mexican food. It’s on the pricier side, but maybe you didn’t buy any coffee this week. Or maybe you did, and it’s your damn money and you’ll do what you please with it.