Secret New York brunch spots
The places to join the brunch bunch in the know
Nights and Weekends, a Brooklyn favourite of Brooklyn novelist Belinda McKeon. Photograph: Garrett Ziegler
Cilantro on the Upper East Side for Spanish- and Mexican-inspired brunches
New Yorkers will bark at tourists who get in their way, but they will gladly wait 45 minutes in a polar vortex for two fried eggs sunny side up. Why? They want to be seen in the hottest joint in town or, better yet, standing outside it. Having consulted their guide books, tourists are likely to end up at the same places too. Rule No. 1: avoid midtown. Rule No. 2: New Yorkers don’t queue, they stand “on” line; the rest of Americans stand “in” line. Rule No. 3: Brunch in New York is a blood sport, wrap up well and wear comfortable shoes.
Fairway Café & Steakhouse
2127 Broadway, between West 74th and 75th Street
This Upper West Side branch of Fairway Market might seem an odd place for brunch, but I arrived here one recent Saturday at noon and there were only two women in front of me – the same two were waiting the week before. It’s cheap too: scrambled eggs ($5), burgers ($13) and omelettes ($7.50). I once saw Yoko Ono rummaging through the vegetable basket in the supermarket downstairs. And, no, it wasn’t performance art. She was probably just hungry.
End of Freeman Alley
Tourists will have a hard time finding this place: so screen-grab the address on Google Maps before leaving your hotel. It’s at the end of a laneway off Rivington Street between the Bowery and Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side. If the idea of a tavern with taxidermy on the walls takes your fancy, this is the place. Try smoked trout ($13), corned beef hash ($13), roast pork sandwich ($14) or five cheese macaroni ($13). It’s a good last-minute option: the majority of the dining room is reserved for walk-in diners.
Ciao for Now
107 West 10th Street
On the edge of the West Village, this family-owned cafe and bakery is just a couple of blocks away from hip brunch spots like Café Cluny, Tavern on Jane and Tartine, but far less hectic. (There is also a branch on 523 East 12th Street in the East Village) Brunch starts at around $11: Try Grandma Linda’s Pancakes, almond brioche French toast or a classic pan omelette or huevos verdes, which come with freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. It’s a homely place and the owners have a wicked sense of humour.
Nights and Weekends
1 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn
It takes about 30 minutes to get here from midtown Manhattan. But the success of the television show Girls sends scores of European hipsters to Greenpoint in Brooklyn, looking for locations from Lena Dunham’s HBO series. This is a favourite of Brooklyn-based novelist Belinda McKeon. It uses only organic and free range eggs and chicken. Three grain porridge ($10), bacon and egg chilaquiles ($13) and the Cuban sandwich with Coca-Cola carnitas ($12) are recommended. As its name suggests, this low-key brunch spot turns into a high-octane bar that stays open until 3am.
1321 First Avenue at East 71st Street
An Upper East Sider who is a regular here says: “I never have to stand in line for lunch and it’s cheaper than a diner.” Of course, that’s all relative and Upper East Side diners can be pricey. There are two other branches on Columbus Avenue at West 83rd Street and 2nd Avenue at East 88th Street. This one has large helpings – not a given in all New York eateries – and offers complimentary Spanish rice. Try the huevos rancheros ($10), waffles with fruit ($9) or crab cakes Benedict ($11). One caveat: It’s three avenue blocks from the nearest subway. Even though a realtor in an episode of Mad Men told Peggy Olson that the 2nd Avenue subway was coming soon, Upper East Siders are still waiting.