Brunch with a Twist

Special Dining Feature
Photography by
Evan Sung
Bye–bye boring brunch. Leave it to NYC chefs to recreate the most leisurely of meals.

Chalk Point Kitchen’s eggs Benedict with asparagus, paired with a bacon-garnished Bloody Mary.

These days, brunch in new york is a culinary bright spot, including everything from reinvented Benedicts and hashes to unique cocktails foamy with egg whites and seasonal garnishes. Thanks to creative chefs committed to fresh, local and multicultural ingredients, this midday, often-on-a-weekend meal runs the gamut of farm-to-table, seasonal, small plates, Italian and more.

Whatever your tastes, these seven restaurants—all with brunch-dedicated chefs and owners—have tweaked the meal that for many is their favorite of the week. What’s more, all these spots take reservations for brunch—a nice way to keep your trip on schedule.

Chalk Point Kitchen’s quinoa waffles with a pomegranate tonic.

Scrapple and More

Chef Adriana Maldonado has infused her Austin, Texas, roots in the brunch menu at Playa Betty’s (320 Amsterdam Ave, 212.712.0777). The spacious and popular Upper West Side spot offers breakfast Dharma bowls with a mix of fresh grains, eggs, protein, beans and vegetables of your choosing. Another bright spot: brandade (a salt-cod dish) baked in a crispy bacon-lined cup topped with baked egg and buttermilk sauce. Homemade scrapple and a variety of giant egg sandwiches are other great choices. Cocktails are decidedly Tex-Mex. Micheladas and mescal Bloody Marys flow freely here. Or, for a twist on juice, try the frozen Paloma, a grapefruit tequila slushy with sea salt and pink peppercorn on the glass rim. Says Wilson, “Brunch used to be a way to revive after a hard night out. Now chefs are working with lighter ingredients for guests to enjoy. But the Bloody Mary, thankfully, has endured.”

The Carlyle Restaurant’s brunch menu includes steak frites.

Italian Pancakes & Great Bellinis

Step into the special atrium dining room in the historic Rockefeller town houses, home to Il Gattopardo (13-15 W. 54th St., 212.246.0412) and you’ll find yourself in one of the most elegant yet inviting spots Gotham has to offer. It’s the perfect setting to relax and fortify before embracing some Midtown sightseeing.

Salerno, Italy-born Executive Chef Vito Gnazzo offers an Italian take on classic brunch items, including the frittatina del giorno and ricotta pancakes. Or try the spaghetti alla carbonara, with egg yolk, pecorino cheese guanciale and black pepper, and a wine from Il Gattopardo’s extensive list. Particularly popular at brunch is the sparkling Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve NV served by the glass or bottle. Bloody Marys, Mimosas and what some call New York’s best Bellinis are also on hand.

Trout with deviled eggs at The Carlyle Restaurant.

A Classic Hotel Experience

Downmarket hotel brunches, with their all-you-can-eat steam tables are most assuredly a thing of the past. Case in point: The Carlyle Restaurant (35 E. 76th St., 212.744.1600) in the famed Carlyle Hotel. The sophisticated country house dining room, impeccable service and a creative menu make it a treat for both travelers and locals. The menu is prix fix, including appetizer, entrée and dessert. Known for its seafood, don’t miss the Carlyle lobster bisque to start, or perhaps the chef-selected oyster platter. Entrées include braised short ribs hash with poached eggs, steak frites and wild striped bass. Desserts are varied, from gluten-free to totally indulgent. All goes nicely with the included glass of prosecco.

At Il Gattopardo, try a frittatina with a three-olive Bloody Mary.

Cozy Pub

Nothing is more convivial for brunch (or any meal) than an intimate pub setting, and The East Pole (133 E. 65th St., 212.249.2222) takes that premise and runs with it. The cozy, two-story, map-and-nautical-themed restaurant, tucked away in an historic brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, is bright and welcoming inside. The pub-inspired menus are a cut above the usual pub fare: Start with the Scotch egg, a British favorite. You’ll soon know why East Pole is known for it when you dig into this hard-boiled egg nestled in a round of lightly breaded and flash-fried ground pork. (Great with a pale ale or cider from East Pole’s list of small-batch artisanal offerings.) Along with plenty of egg dishes, entrées include the Maine lobster sandwich and cheeseburger with duck-fat fries. Sangria, spicy Bloody Marys, blood-orange Mimosas and Bellinis round out the alcoholic drink choices. Fresh juice concoctions, such as kale, cucumber, apple, celery and cayenne, and the coconut water and berry smoothie are delicious alternatives.

Il Gattopardo’s ricotta pancakes and a Mimosa.

Mediterranean Feast

Housed in the former Knitting Factory music venue, Estella (47 E. Houston St., 212.219.7693) is the creation of award-winning Uruguayan chef Ignacio Mattos and restaurateur Thomas Carter. Mattos takes his Mediterranean-inspired small plates into the brunch realm with creations such as lamb ribs with charmoula and honey, or eggs with beans, harissa and mojama. On a recent Sunday visit, the Serrano ham and ricotta dumplings with mushrooms and pecorino sardo were dominating the tables. The hip downtown crowd also loves the cocktails. One example: the Pompelmo Sour made with gin, Amaro Montenegro, grapefruit syrup, lemon and egg whites. Reservations are a must in this one-room, brick-walled cozy spot.

Buttermilk Channel’s short ribs hash and hearty Bloody Mary.

Country Kitchen in SoHo

“The New York City brunch tradition is becoming healthier as well as environmentally and socially responsible,” says restaurateur Matt Levine, owner of Chalk Point Kitchen (527 Broome St., 212.390.0327). This SoHo favorite has a constantly changing menu, but some recent favorites include avocado hash, gluten-free quinoa waffles and spicy kimchi eggs Benedict. Bloody Marys adorned with bacon are a house favorite. An even longer list of special cocktails, including lots of fizz, froth and juice, are available downstairs at The Handy Liquor Bar (same owners as Chalk Point Kitchen). This can be a plus, as Chalk Point is so popular, you may have to wait a bit for your table even with a reservation.

Buttermilk Channel’s legendary pecan-pie French toast.

Brooklyn’s Best Brunch

This popular Brooklyn spot takes brunch to a new level with items such as pecan-pie French toast and fried pork chop and cheddar waffle. Living up to its name, the menu at Buttermilk Channel (524 Court St., Carroll Gardens, 718.852.8490), of course, includes buttermilk pancakes and biscuits. But the restaurant is actually named after the nearby mile-long tidal strait between Brooklyn and Governors Island. Less brunchy but also comforting are the ABC grilled cheese (apples, bacon and cheddar) and the Rancho Gordo bean stew. Unusual cocktails, such as the celery-and peppercorn-infused vodka garnished with a freshly shucked oyster, are sure to be eye–openers.