Even if you wake up at 9, the New York weekend doesn't start until 11:00 brunch. The City has a brunch culture that borders on religious: lines mass, glasses clink, and millions skip breakfast in favor of a noontime feast with friends. As a summer intern - a tourist with a rent payment, really - it was both a duty and a privilege to assimilate. When in Rome, right?
With that in I mind, I spent the past 10 weeks roaming Manhattan and Brooklyn in search of the city's best brunches. Since I was 20 in all 50 states this summer, none of the following were rated according to any "bottomless" criteria, but as far as I'm concerned, the food is what counts. That may change next year; for now, here's my end-of-summer guide to the best brunches in New York City:
1. Almond (Flatiron, Manhattan)
This French bistro in the shadow of the Flatiron building boasts an outdoor patio, great espresso, and a food menu recommended to me by Michelin Guide interns. You pay a pretty penny for the quality (~$30/person, even sober), but a trip to Almond is worth it. My recommendation: the Duck Confit Hash. It's the breakfast meat you never expected to love, prepared brilliantly and plated with poise. Check out my full review here for more.
2. The Wren (Bowery, Manhattan)
The Wren is equal parts neighborhood tavern and Victorian treasure trove: a truly unique little restaurant you'd never expect to have one of the best budget brunches on the Island. Early in the summer, I ate a surreal sausage sandwich and took in a Euro Cup game from a corner perch. If it weren't for my insistence on finding new restaurants, I'd have called The Wren my weekend roost. Check out my full review here for more.
3. Tartine (West Village, Manhattan)
This petite neighborhood bistro makes an impression eons bigger than its cozy footprint. From the moment I sat down, Tartine impressed me: the food, the service, the wonderful smell of fresh French coffee. My Eggs Norvegienne were easily one of the highlights of the summer. My only gripe with Tartine is its size. It would be truly difficult to take a group here, especially considering the restaurant is cash only. Mais c'est la vie. If you're one in a petite ensemble, you'll find Tartine a true delight. Check out my full review here for more.
4. Buttermilk Channel (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)
Tucked deep into Brooklyn's Gowanus neighborhood lies "Buttermilk Channel", a uniquely Southern brunch experience offering upscale takes on classic American comfort food. Go for the pun name alone, but stay for the inventive cuisine and refreshing decor. Buttermilk distinguishes itself by being one of the few "new American" (read: hipster) spots to not get lost in self-importance. The food is delicious, the prices are reasonable, and for every hipster sin (thin fonts on faux-yellowed menus; calling appetizers "snacks"), there are a million other things to love. Escape Williamsburg, wander the neighborhoods, and make your way to Buttermilk Channel - you won't regret it. Check out my full review here for more.
5. MudSpot (St. Marks Place, Manhattan)
MudSpot, the restaurant nameplate of the beloved MUD coffee truck, is a true East Village experience. Tucked into a claustrophobic St Mark's storefront, "Mud" serves up hearty brunch favorites to anyone willing to brave the tight quarters. This was my first brunch in New York City, and the food alone kicked my summer off to a great start. My recommendation: try the Huevos Rancheros with a full cup of the Spot's famous coffee. With any luck, you'll get stuck on MUD. Check out my full review here for more.
6. Petite Abeille (Chelsea, Manhattan)
In a world full of #aesthetic plating and $50 entrees, simple brunches can often be better. Petite Abeille, a hole-in-the-wall Belgian diner in Manhattan's Chelsea diner, stands in stark contrast to its neighbors: it's affordable, it's unpretentious, and ohmygod is it good. While I thoroughly enjoyed my food, a questionable side-dish pairing was just enough to put it lower in the list. That being said: if you're of age, Petite Abeille's Belgian beer list is apparently one of the better in the city. I'll happily revisit next summer. Check out my full review here for more.
7. Smorgasburg (Prospect Park, Brooklyn)
I'm going to be very frank: you should go to Smorgasburg exactly once. With that intro and it's placement on this list, I'll let you decipher my opinion. If context clues aren't your strong suit, check out my full review here for more. In other words: BuzzFeed lied.
Honorable Mention: Cafe Mogador (East Village, Manhattan)
My last full weekend in the city, I treated myself to a truly indulgent brunch at the Zagat-rated Cafe Mogador. The food? Incredible. The line? Excruciating. I didn't have time for a full review, but here's my two-breath summary: get there early or be prepared to wait. Either way, the reward for your efforts is a complete sensory experience bordering on tantric. It's hard to believe, but these Moroccan favorites taste better than they look. If you're in the neighborhood, good God, man - you have to go.
Tried anything on the list? Or did I miss your favorite spot? Let me know in the comments below. Until then, happy brunching!