NYC

The Kind-Of-Healthy Brunch Guide

PHOTO: Noah Devereaux

As much as Scott Disick’s ringing Instagram endorsement of Fit Tea might try to convince you otherwise, there is really nothing black and white about eating healthy. It means different things for different humans, and when it comes to brunch, that’s especially the case. Healthy brunching is a sliding scale: at one end you’re eating something fuchsia-colored and topped with chocolate chunks and doing an excellent job pretending it’s not 100% sugar, and at the other end you’re eating a bowl of quinoa and green things that haven’t even been cooked in that much oil (maybe).

With that in mind, we present 13 brunch spots on all points of that scale, represented with a rating of one leaf 🌱(you can find at least a couple things that are not bad for you) to five leaves 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱 (it’s basically impossible not to eat something at least mildly healthy here).

Check out the rest of our Guide To Being A Little Healthier, presented in partnership with Bai (a drink that helps us be a little healthier).

the spots

12 Chairs

Williamsburg
342 Wythe Ave.

An extremely controversial issue facing our society today: is hummus healthy? After many hours arguing about this in our office, we still haven't reached a consensus. If you don’t feel like grappling with your own feelings on this topic, just go the safe route at the Mediterranean spot 12 Chairs and get a salad or an Israeli breakfast. They have a Soho location too, but the Brooklyn spot is much more of a place we like to hang out, especially during the day - it’s light and bright and filled with plants. More plants = more healthy.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱

6.2
MAP

If you’re going to eat at Dimes, you have to be ok with the distinct feeling that there’s a party happening here that you were most certainly not invited to. But once you move past that, you’ll find a big menu that hits every category of healthy brunch things that are both very nice to look at and very nice to put in your mouth: fancy toasts, acai bowls, grain bowls, egg stuff. Gang’s all here, and in better form than you’ll find at a lot other places.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱

At Two Hands Restaurant, there is no mention of “magic” or “raw” or “healing” on their menu, and you probably won’t need your iPhone to figure out what you just ordered. The mostly-pretty-healthy food tastes great, and also doesn’t make you feel like you should be eating it at a wellness retreat. There’s stuff like savory sweet potato waffles, a big bowl filled with vegetables and hummus and eggs, and yes, their avocado toast. Just don’t come here in a rush - brunch waits can be a bit absurd on weekends.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱🌱🌱

More Australians, more healthy brunch food you actually want to eat. Bluestone Lane has quickly grown into a mini-chain/empire, and that’s because they know exactly what they’re doing with their flat whites and avocado toast and granola and egg bowls. There are locations all over, but if you’re looking for a full-blown brunch, head for their original West Village location.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱

7.8
MAP

You’re meeting a friend for brunch in Williamsburg. This person is coming from some kind of complicated new workout class that involves the words high intensity intervals. You’re coming from your bed, after four hours of sleep and too many tequila shots. Your answer is Sunday In Brooklyn, a new spot with a menu that runs the gamut from very healthy (spicy kale and grain bowl for your ClassPass-happy friend) to very not healthy (egg and sausage and crispy potato sandwich for you). After a couple of their mezcal Bloody Marys your hangover might even wear off enough for you to appreciate the attractive space, too.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱

Lighthouse

Williamsburg
145 Borinquen Pl
8.8
MAP

If you ascribe to the idea that if it’s green, it’s healthy, you’re covered here. Lighthouse serves a green omelet that looks like something you’d find in a Dr. Seuss book and tastes way better. Or, if you’re with someone else who’s hell-bent on health, you can direct them to the Big Salad or shakshuka while you go to town on a burger. Regardless, everything at Lighthouse tastes fresh and it’s an excellent place to hide from ridiculous brunch mayhem elsewhere - it’s always laid-back.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱

Cafe Henrie is a small little spot on the LES that’s painted pink and covered with eccentric signs, but despite those things it’s only mildly pretentious. There are a couple of grain bowls, a couple of salads, plus your requisite avocado toast, acai bowl, and eggs. All of it is pretty good, but all of it also quite small. Which means that you might/will probably need to double up. Which kind of might defeat the purpose of trying to be healthy? Bottom line: if you need a light brunch on the LES, keep it in mind.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱🌱

7.4
MAP

Another controversial item: shakshuka. It’s just baked eggs in tomato sauce, which can’t be that bad for you. Right? That all depends on whether you also eat the challah bread that comes with it. The good news is that at Jack’s Wife Freda, you have plenty of other options that fall on the even-healthier side (big grain bowls, mustard-seed-encrusted tofu), or...the other side (waffles, duck prosciutto panini). Go to the West Village location or sign yourself away to a soul-crushing wait at the original Soho spot.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱🌱

The Smile

NOHO
26 Bond St.
7.9
MAP

By this point in our very scientific assessment, we’ve figured it out. You want healthy-ish food, you go to a Mediterranean place. That’s a generalization, but a useful one nonetheless. And it holds up for brunch, too. If you want to feel decently cool while you eat your decently healthy shakshukas and grain salads, The Smile is always a good bet.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱🌱

Remember 2012? When Wellness wasn’t an industry and you could go on believing that all vegan food was the healthiest? Life was simpler then, and now we’ve all pretty much come to terms with the concept that just because it’s vegan, it does not mean you can house a plate of strawberry french toast with vanilla almond cream and call it healthy. While Candle 79 might be a very good vegan spot, you could only call most of their brunch food healthy if you closed one eye, squinted, and only ate a sixth of what was on your plate. But hey, if you’re still in denial - or you just want a really tasty brunch on the Upper East - come here.

Healthy Rating: 🌱

7.6
MAP

Community bills itself as a restaurant serving healthy comfort food. And that’s true to the extent that you believe anything made with organic ingredients is healthy. We like any excuse to eat biscuit sandwiches, huevos rancheros, and pancakes while feeling like we’re making good choices. But if you have more willpower, there are also more straight-up healthier options (salads, vegetable frittatas, tofu scrambles) on this very big menu. If you live near Morningside Heights, you’re lucky to have this place - it’s an especially good bet for brunch.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱🌱

Egg Shop

Nolita
151 Elizabeth St.
7.6
MAP

We know you might be shocked to hear this, but Egg Shop serves a lot of eggs. Topped with all kinds of things, in bowls and on sandwiches. As long as you’re happy to eat them, you can choose pretty much any kind of healthy-ish adventure you want here - from quinoa and raw carrots to carnitas and fried tortillas. Plus, ordering something called a “warrior one” or a “spandex” counts for at least a half of a leaf.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱🌱🌱

Cafe Gitane

Nolita
242 Mott St.
7.1
MAP

You know how French people only eat baguettes and cheese and still manage to be way skinnier than all of us? We like Cafe Gitane because it helps us pretend, even just for a couple hours, that we’re one of those people. It’s why we end up ordering the prosciutto on baguette, or baked feta, or goat cheese. But if you have a better grasp on reality, this Moroccan/French spot has healthier things like salads, simple proteins, and lighter egg dishes. And avocado toast - they were actually one of the first restaurants in NYC to serve it.

Healthy Rating: 🌱🌱🌱

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