It would probably be easier to list the Upper West Side restaurants that do not serve brunch than those that do. As every aficionado knows, however, not all bloody Marys and eggs Benedicts are alike, and sometimes more unusual dishes such as borscht, cachapa con salmon, or the intriguingly named pie floater are what is called for. Below we picked a dozen restaurants serving the most delectable, most tempting brunches in the neighborhood.
541 Amsterdam Ave (at 87th Street)
You cannot talk about brunch on the Upper West Side without mentioning Barney Greengrass. The self-declared “Sturgeon King” is a bona fide institution, having opened in 1908; it has been in its current location since 1929. In addition to a full deli counter selling New York classics ranging from whitefish to pastrami to knishes, it encompasses a sit-down restaurant. The ambience is that of a time-honored diner, but you do not come here for the decor. You come here for the scrambled eggs with a side of sable, the home-made cheeses blintzes served with sour cream, the bagels piled high with cream cheese and lox, the borscht the color of a strawberry milkshake, the chopped herring, and the hand-made halvah.
507 Columbus Avenue (between 84th and 85th Streets)
Vegans like to brunch too, which is why vegan restaurant Blossom offers a brunch menu for weekends, with many items gluten-free and even nut-free as well. In lieu of eggs, Blossom scrambles tofu for its Country Breakfast, which includes soy sausage, apple chutney, and plenty of veggies, and its versions of huevos rancheros and a breakfast burrito. Renditions of eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine substitute marinated tofu for eggs; the former includes soy ham, grilled asparagus, and rosemary potatoes as well, while the latter swaps out the soy ham for sautéed spinach. French toast is served with tempeh bacon, bananas, and berries, while pancakes come with berries and coconut cream. And because Blossom has an outdoor seating area, you can savor your brunch alfresco.
226 West 79th Street (between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway)
Kangaroo pie, anyone? Named after two intrepid explorers who tried (but failed) to cross Australia in the mid-19th century, Burke & Wills specializes in cuisine from the Land Down Under, which explains the inclusion of kangaroo pie, pie floater (a thick pea-and-bacon soup), and pavlova on its brunch menu. It may also explain why its Burger with the Lot includes pineapple and pickled beets along with tomato, bacon, cheese, onion, and a fried egg as toppings. More-familiar items are on the menu too, including avocado toast (though this version includes yuzu), steak and eggs, and eggs Benedict with lox. You can mix and match the elements of a bloody Mary (tequila instead of vodka, skewers with shrimp and bacon). Options for teetotalers include house drinks named after famed Australians Kylie Minogue and Paul Hogan.
201 West 83rd Street (between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway)
With floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto 83rd Street, bistro tables and chairs, and gleaming glass-and-brass pastry cases filled with luscious cakes, pies, tortes, and tarts, Cafe Lalo transports you to Paris without your having to hop on a plane. While one of its cannolis, an anise toast, or a bowl of seasonal berries accompanied by a cappuccino or a macchiato would be a more than satisfactory brunch, Cafe Lalo also has an “international brunch” menu. The British option is steamed eggs with fresh herbs and a cranberry scone with Devon cream and fruit preserve; Swiss is yogurt with seasonal fruit and your choice of organic muesli or granola; Tuscan Sunrise is a baked frittata with grilled zucchini and Swiss cheese, served with a Mediterranean salad. Belgian waffles, a vegetable-packed quiche, and fresh-baked Danish are among the other selections. The list of tea, coffee, milk, and syrup options is exhaustive, and you can spike your espresso and cappuccino with anything from amaretto to Tia Maria. Perhaps best of all: Cafe Lalo serves brunch not just on weekends but seven days a week.
45 West 81st Street (the Excelsior Hotel, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue)
Sangria-lovers, rejoice: Your order of a brunch entrée at “nuevo latino” eatery Calle Ocho entitles you to limitless sangria, with eight flavors to choose from. (The Havana Banana, which includes coconut rum, crème de banana, coconut, and lychees, sounds especially delightful, but then again, so does the Spanish Harlem, with dark rum, cinnamon, peach, and mandarin orange.) Choosing which sangria to start with is not your only pleasurable challenge; deciding on your meal is just as difficult. Cachapa con salmon is sweet-corn pancakes with adobo seared salmon and scrambled eggs, served with cucumber salsita, avocado, pickled onions, and lemon-caper cream; tostada de coco rallado is a Puerto Rican take on French toast, with the eggy bread dipped in coquito (a coconut-based alcoholic drink similar to eggnog), served with roasted coconut, fresh berries, maple syrup, and whipped cream; chilaquiles vegetarianos teams corn tortillas with grilled vegetables in green tomatillo sauce and queso cotija. Time your brunch right, and you will definitely be able to skip dinner (though probably not a nap!).
520 Columbus Avenue (at 85th Street)
Good Enough to Eat serves brunch like Mom used to make—if Mom had apprenticed in the kitchen of the Four Seasons, made everything from scratch, and sourced as many ingredients as possible from local farmers and merchants. Fluffy four-grain pancakes served with strawberry butter and maple syrup, French toast made from homemade pumpkin bread and topped with pear-and-cranberry compote, waffles filled with double-smoked bacon, and ziti baked with four types of cheese are just a few of the delights that await. And we would be remiss if we failed to mention the mimosa bar, where you can opt to have champagne mixed with pineapple, grapefruit, pomegranate, cranberry, or orange juice or peach or pear puree.
509 Amsterdam Avenue (between 84th and 85th Streets)
Although the Jacob who founded Jacob’s Pickles grew up in Queens, his restaurant has a distinct Southern down-home flavor. So the brunch menu includes various types of hand-made pickles—not just pickled cucumbers but also tomatoes, beets, carrots, green beans, and eggs, plus fried pickles. If you do not want to start your day with pickles, you can opt for grit-crusted fried green tomatoes, biscuits and gravy, deviled eggs, chicken and pancakes, or fried chicken with hot sauce on a made-from-scratch biscuit (served with pickles, of course). Those are just a few of the options. Brunch classics such as omelets and oatmeal are also available, along with salads, egg sandwiches (served on biscuits), and shrimp-and-bacon grits. And while Jacob’s Pickles prides itself on its wide selection of American microbrews, it has a full bar as well; its interpretation of the bloody Mary, the Bloody B.L.T., includes bacon and a jalapeño pickled egg.
551 Amsterdam Avenue (between 86th and 87th Streets)
At Kirsh, you do not simply order French toast; you specify the type of French toast you want: chocolate peanut butter, perhaps, or bacon, Swiss, and egg, or cinnamon and pear, to name just three. Of course, French toast—made with freshly baked bread—is not the only brunch dish available. Kirsh dishes up a full English breakfast complete with eggs, sausage, bacon, and grilled tomatoes, with black beans subbing for baked beans. Other highlights are the quiche of the day and tomato soup with goat cheese and puffed pastry. To wash it down, your options include hot drinks made with a house blend of coffee roasted in upstate New York, fruit smoothies, and a selection of “wake me up cocktails”; the hot cider with pinot noir sounds like an especially pleasant way to ease into a Sunday.
One West 67th Street (at Central Park West)
Though it is called “Jazz Brunch at Des Artistes,” you are just as likely to hear live bossa nova or swing while you enjoy weekend brunch at this Italian restaurant. With its crisp snow-white tablecloths and recently restored 1930s murals by Howard Chandler Christy, the Leopard evokes a bygone elegance, just as many of its dishes evoke a leisurely meal in Cinque Terre. The eggs Benedict, for instance, are made with prosciutto di San Daniele; uova fritte are sunny-side-up eggs served with Italian sweet sausage and sautéed broccoli rabe; gnudi, ricotta-and-basil ravioli, homemade spaghetti alla chitarra with tomato-and-basil sauce, and traditional Neapolitan meatloaf served over mashed potatoes are among the other options.
20 West 72nd Street (between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue)
Awash in wood and brick, with tables small and large, banquettes, and bar seating, the Ribbon describes itself as “the epitome of Upper West Side dining.” For weekend brunch that means starters such as fried oysters with pickled jalapeños, banana-pecan loaf with cream-cheese filling, and pickled peppers with olive-oil mayo. Main dishes include eggs Benedict with your choice of prosciutto cotto or smoked salmon, rotisserie chicken soup with spaetzle, green chilies, and a poached egg, and an upscale take on the humble breakfast sandwich, with house-made pork apple sausage, avocado, grilled onions, cheddar, and butter lettuce buttressing the fried egg.
423 Amsterdam Avenue (between 80th and 81st Streets)
Sarabeth’s began as a petite shop selling Sarabeth Levine’s baked goods and preserves. Today there are more than a dozen restaurants worldwide along with a thriving retail business. The UWS location, which has sidewalk seating in clement weather, is the original restaurant, and its weekend brunch menu reflects Sarabeth’s long-time emphasis on farm-fresh fruit and other wholesome ingredients. Egg dishes, which include a spinach and goat cheese omelet, crab cake eggs Benedict, and braised short-rib hash with fried eggs, jalapeño, and tomatillo salsa, come with your choice of English, corn, bran, banana, pumpkin, or cranberry corn muffin, croissant, scone, or toast. Those who like to start their day with something sweet will enjoy the coconut waffle served with fresh mango and toasted coconut, the lemon-and-ricotta pancakes with blackberries and strawberries, and the apple-cinnamon French toast with bananas and raisins. Of course, you could simply make a meal of the basket of muffins and preserves.
1900 Broadway (at 63rd Street)
Those who believe brunch should be the heartiest meal of the weekend will appreciate the breadth of the Smith’s menu. Of course, various omelets, egg scrambles, salads, and griddle favorites are available (the buttermilk waffles are served with blueberry compote and citrus mascarpone). But there is also a raw bar, with oysters, clams, and lobster; a pastrami grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough rye served with a fried egg; and a breakfast pot pie with bacon, sausage, and baby portobello mushrooms under a cheddar biscuit top served with sunny-side-up eggs. House-made sodas include cucumber ginger beer and Concord grape with rosemary, and cocktails include a version of a Barnstormer that bears no resemblance to the original; this one teams bourbon, Aperol, and Italian bitters with grapefruit and prosecco.