French Toast -- Pastis (brioche) or Neptune Room/Jane (creme brulee battered). They are very generous with the fruit compote there. Balthazar (brioche) and Blue Ribbon Bakery (challah) are good, too, but Pastis and Jane are better, IMO. Five Points does a nice one but it is often stuffed with something (banana with creme anglaise, pumpkin, etc.) and sometimes the stuffing overwhelms the dish. Other hounds like it at Flea Market Cafe, The Smith, Westville East, Craftbar, Good, Extra Virgin, City Bakery, and Landmarc (Tribeca).
Donuts, etc.: I like the buttermilk beignets at Cookshop, and the churros at Five Points (get them with mexican hot chocolate). The donuts and ricotta fritters at Stanton Social are also quite good but on the heavy side. If you get one, I'd say the donuts. They're small donut holes, IIRC. Jane has excellent donuts as well. Still haven't tried Prune's or Five Points' donuts.
Waffles -- Balthazar (sour cream and nuts). Good Enough to Eat also has bacon IN their waffles, but I like the bacon more than the waffles there. If you see them on the menu at Clinton St. though, skip them, they are missing something, which is a shame. Amy Ruth's or Alias would be my pick for fried chicken and waffles. This dish is also offered at Back Forty, haven't tried it yet. Other hounds like the waffles at Petite Abeille.
Pancakes -- Clinton Street Baking Company is second to none! I love their maple butter and fresh Maine blueberries. Although Prune does a good rendition of a giant, oven-baked dutch pancake. Five Points and Sarabeth's both do a lemon ricotta pancake, if your tastes swing that way. So does Shopsin's but I think it's off the menu and Kenny grumbles if you ask for it. But if you're at Shopsin's anyway, get the slutty cakes, mac and cheese pancakes, or, my personal favorite, the bacon and egg pancakes. The silver dollar pancakes at Stanton Social are also quite good -- try one of the more unusual ones, like chocolate. Morandi does excellent crepes. Other hounds like The Little Owl, Spotted Pig, Perry St., Alice's Tea Cup, Fairway Cafe.
Eggs benedict -- For a new take on eggs benedict, go to Blue Ribbon Bakery for the Blue Benedict with Serrano Ham, Jarlsberg, Tomato. Both Neptune Room and Devin Tavern have very good lobster benedicts. The Smith and Jane both do interesting twists on eggs benedict, swapping out the English muffin for potato waffles, corn cakes, etc.
Omelets -- I like the oyster omelet at Morandi. I'm not a huge omelet person but the cheddar/apple one at Good Enough to Eat is good, as is are the ones at Popover Cafe (partial to the cranberry, bacon, cheddar one).
Other egg dishes -- Classic NY breakfast: eggs scrambled with lox at Barney Greengrass! More traditional? Eggs in a puff pasty at Nice Matin or Goldie Lox at Sarabeth's, or nestled a breakfast sandwich at Clinton Street Baking company, on their famous buttermilk biscuits and melty cheese and crispy bacon and excellent tomato jam. How about the truffled egg toast at 'ino? The skillet eggs at Cookshop are also quite good if you like your eggs sunny side up. I believe they are local NY state eggs. I'm not a huge fan of the baked egg dishes at Five Points.
Bread baskets -- Balthazar's Le Panier (love their fruit foccacia and their chocolate bread - Pastis gets the same basket, too). Blue Ribbon Bakery's is also quite good (challah!) but you might have to ask for their famous bacon bread. On the UWS, Nice Matin, Ouest (it was so good I wanted them to wrap it so I could take it home). I still need to try the bread basket at Five Points.
Drinks - Norma's, actually has fantastic, freshly squeezed OJ and free refills, basically the only thing I liked there. Jane has very good lemonade. Little Owl also has good lemonade. And there are some great custom juice blends out there: Five Points' Morning Refresher, Prune's Prune Juice, or Sarabeth's Five Flowers Juice.
Bloody Marys -- I'm not a fan but my boyfriend likes 'em at Great Jones Cafe (spicy). Prune has the crazy blood mary menu list for your nontraditional Bloodys -- a lot of people like the Chicago style one with a bunch of different pickled veggies. We haven't been to Essex yet but I hear they are good there too. RIP Bloodys at Tasting Room or Devin Tavern (fresh tomato and fresh horshradish.)
Bacon -- Cookshop has this amazing house-made, double-smoked, Berkshire pork bacon that's included with one of the entrees. This might be my favorite bacon in town. It's different from their regular bacon. I also like Balthazar (thin-cut and juicy), Good Enough to Eat (thick cut and a little tough but good). Clinton St. Baking Company also has pretty good bacon, as does Morandi (it's boar bacon apparently).
Big country breakfast (biscuits, gravy, eggs, etc.): I've had good ones at The Neptune Room The Smith, Perilla, and Alias.
Sandwiches: Prune make a mean deep-fried Monte Cristo sandwich. Blue Ribbon Bakery does a great duck club sandwich with homemade waffle chips. See also aforementioned breakfast sandwich at Clinton Street Baking Co., and have heard good things about breakfast sandwich at Frankie's Sputino 17 down the street.
Other, quirky items: Shopsin's has basically everything on the menu available during their operating hours (Tuesday - Saturday from 9am to 3pm) so you can easily get soup, salads, sandwiches, other cookied dishes for brunch. If you go to Aquagrill, you can have any of the over two dozen varieties of oysters on their menu. Alias on the Lower East Side has goedda which everyone needs to try at least once in their life. Oh, and fried chicken and waffles. At Prune, I like the coddled eggs and salad dish, as well as the sausages and oysters platter. At Blue Ribbon Bakery, a lot of their lunchy/appetizer items are available; we usually spring for the bone marrow. I am also fond of the sliders or burger at Little Owl, and the duck burger at Perilla.
Weekday brunch and breakfast spots:
Early weekend (Saturday, Sunday) spots for breakfast and brunch:
Patisserie Claude (croissants, opens at 7am?)
Cafe Mogador (opens at 9am)
Caffè Emilia (8am)
Sarabeth's (3 of their locations open at 8am)
Grey Dog (opens at 7am)
Balthazar (serves continental breakfast from 8am to 10am, turns into brunch after 10am)
Barney Greengrass (opens at 8am)
See also http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/584297
Good for big groups:
- Pastis (communal table)
- The Neptune Room (communal table)
- Freemans (they have a private room)
- Jane (private room downstairs)
- Morandi (also quite large, and a nice space)
- 'inoteca (downstairs room)
- Five Points (space for larger parties is in back -- there's a tables and a booth)
- Blue Ribbon Bakery (they can seat bigger groups downstairs)
- Cookshop (they have booths and tables that can seat 6)
- Stanton Social (have an upstairs bar/lounge area that can be used, too) -- also on the pricey side, and it's all small plates
- The Smith
- Spitzer's Corner (no reservations, though)
- Tia Pol
Dovetail, Telepan, Compass, David Burke & Donatella, Ouest, Perry St., Cafe Boulud, BLT Market.
The Stanton Social does this well: breakfast bruschetta, huevos rancheros, pierogi, french onion soup dumplings, sliders, fish tacos, pizzetas, and latkes.
See also: Morandi, ino, Public, Prune, Belcourt, Veselka, Pylos, Tia Pol, Double Crown, Boqueria, Aquavit, Fatty Crab, Turkish Kitchen, Calle Ocho, Momofuku Ssam Bar.
RIP to brunch at EU, Devin Tavern, Florent, the Tasting Room, and Eleven Madison Park. And please stay away from Norma's!
Best brunches in NY