Brunch is a meal that New Yorkers have made their own. It’s become a weekend institution that sees friends and families gather to enjoy good food and each others’ company. If you’re visiting New York City plan it into your itinerary.
As the term suggests, brunch draws elements from both breakfast and lunch. Most people meet for brunch late in the morning but sittings in a several New York restaurants continue well into the afternoon.
Even residents of a city that never sleeps—if we are to believe those famous lyrics of New York, New York, that iconic song popularised by Frank Sinatra—need the occasional lie in, so meeting to dine early on a Saturday or Sunday simply wouldn’t do.
Brunch is a weekend institution
That’s when brunch comes into its own, “because you don’t have to wake up early,” says Surita, who works during the week as a receptionist in a busy mid-town restaurant. “I feel brunch is mainly enjoyed during the spring and the summer when you’re hungover or after a busy week. You get to sit outside and enjoy Bloody Marys and whatnot” she says and names Barkogi (957 2nd Avenue; tel. 212-308-8810), a compact Korean fusion restaurant and bar, as her favourite brunch venue. The waffles come highly recommended.
Thousands of New Yorkers pour into restaurants, particularly on Sundays, to meet over brunch. Of course, not everybody does it every week, but like a good friend it’s always there when needed.
Greenwich Village is a perennially popular brunch destination. Negril Village (70 West 3rd Street; tel. 212-477-2804) is an upbeat Caribbean restaurant that opens at noon and serves dishes such as curry goat stew and a unique take on the club sandwich, prepared with spicy Jamaican jerk.
Brunch over in Brooklyn
Ask around and you’ll soon uncover a multitude of tips for brunch across New York’s five boroughs. Among them is Montana’s Trail House (44 Troutman Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn; tel. 917-966-1666), a laid-back, rustic-chic spot that serves seasonal cocktails plus dishes cooked with produce from local farms. Allswell (124 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn; tel. 347-799-2743) in a casual venue, a gastropub offering brunch until 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday.
Crispy bacon and fluffy, sugar-dusted pancakes drizzled with maple syrup is a popular, traditional North American breakfast treat that many diners also enjoy dipping into during brunch.
The country’s Tex-Mex cuisine means you can find dishes such as huevos rancheros, eggs served with a spicy tomato-based salsa on a tortilla. Brunch menus tend to be diverse. You’re as likely to see home-style granola and freshly prepared salads as you are tender roast meats.
Poring over the menu while sipping on a cocktail or slurping a freshly brewed coffee is part of the experience; nobody wants to be rushed into making a decision on a weekend. Brunch is a meal that’s best enjoyed in a relaxed mood and is something that shouldn’t be rushed. It sets the tone for a day of leisure and helps people ready themselves for the week ahead.
British origins of brunch
Brunch, like baseball, may well be seen as a quintessentially American activity but there’s evidence both had their origins on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Great Britain. Back in 1895 the term was used in an article published in Punch magazine to describe a Sunday meal for “Saturday-night carousers”.
Party-goers in the modern age continue to embrace brunch. Why? Some might say it’s because the booze flows freely. Enjoying a glass of bubbly or the kick of a cocktail is part of the experience.
For those who’ve partied into the wee hours or simply overindulged the previous night, brunch offers a means of recover and, often, a hair of the dog. Of course, whether or not drinking alcohol really is the best cure for a hangover is a debate that continues to simmer, often as a topic of brunch conversation. The theory is regularly put to the test.
Brunch at the Waldorf Astoria
One of the best known and most celebrated of the many Sunday brunch venues in New York City is the Waldorf Astoria (301 Park Avenue; tel. 212-872-1275). The first seating is at 10am and the last is at 2pm, in the hotel’s elegant Peacock Alley restaurant, beneath the gleaming Art Deco grandeur of the famous lobby, where a pianist performs on Cole Porter’s grand piano.
The buffet’s vast spread encompasses a raw bar with oysters and clams plus a selection of caviar. In addition to the usual brunch favourites, classic dishes such as succulent Beef Wellington, lasagne and roast pork feature.
As you might expect, Waldorf Salad is available. There’s also seasonal fruits plus a chocolate fountain, into which berries can be dipped after skewering them on a wooden stick. Anyone with room remaining might be tempted by a honey-dipped roasted marshmallow.
Wherever you go to New York and whatever you choose to do, experiencing brunch is much a part of visiting watching a baseball game at Yankee Stadium or shopping in Macy’s.
Find out more about the attractions of New York City on the official NYC Go website.
For more about the USA beyond New York see the Visit the USA site.