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Ah, brunch. Here in Gotham this midday meal is as beloved a weekly ritual as the Sunday New York Times. But, as with all rituals, there is a proper way to do brunch.
Your recipe for the perfect New York brunch goes something like this: a sprinkling of ambiance mixed with a dash of patience (brunch is generally an early afternoon affair, and there is often a wait). Fold in an egg or two, and don’t forget a cup (or more) of coffee and your breakfast cocktail of choice.
It’s this last portion that can run up the bill, but we’ve scouted some of the best brunch spots in town, those brimming with enough atmosphere to keep you happy, even if the wait is long, and inexpensive enough to keep your wallet happy.
Each of our five picks folds one brunch beverage into the meal price. If you want more than one — which is not frowned upon in this town — you’re on your own…
1. Virage (118 Second Avenue, 212-253-0425) is everything you might expect from the eclectic East Village, right down to the exposed brick wall adorned with vintage European posters. Then there’s the self-described French/Italian/Middle Eastern menu, which stretches into shades of Spanish and Mexican too.
Amid the traditional benedicts and frittatas you’ll find such delicacies as a Moroccan breakfast of baked eggs with tahini sauce. The low price of $14.25 includes coffee or tea, a breakfast cocktail, and a basket of homemade breads, and leaves money left over for that decadent nutella-stuffed brioche as dessert. If only you can find the room in your stomach.
2. Cornelia Street Café (29 Cornelia Street, 212-989-9319) proves there’s one thing New York does better than brunch: the long-shot upstart turned neighborhood mainstay. This local favorite is both — oh, and did we mention the art scene? Yep, this cozy haunt is actually a West Village trifecta: What started as a teensy café is now a beautiful restaurant and bar that helped launch the likes of Suzanne Vega.
But we’re here to talk about brunch… The pre fixe gets you your coffee, beverage, and entrée, along with a baked good from another New York favorite, the nearby Amy’s Bread (three words: warm chocolate bread!). It also gets you your little piece of New York history. Now that’s worth $18, right?
3. The Smith (55 Third Avenue, 212-420-9800) is an airy, modern hotspot with tinges of nostalgia that can be seen in the black and white tiled floor and tasted in the down home comfort food (with a modern twist). Think gooey cheddar grits, crumbly biscuits and gravy, and let’s not overlook the vanilla bean French toast with caramelized bananas.
Another thing you shouldn’t miss: a trip downstairs, where a photo booth is not the only throwback you’ll see — it’s a rare restaurant in this day and age that sports black-and-white burlesque behind tiny peepholes. Note to Cheapo: the complimentary tipple (with meals $14 to $15) is included with Sunday brunch only.
4. Isabella’s (359 Columbus Avenue, 212-724-2100) is a 20-something year-old New York classic where the uptown girls and boys go to see and be seen. At this bright and breezy spot, with its patio overlooking the American Museum of Natural History, you’ll savor simple but delicious country fare, like the bacon, egg, and cheese salad, or one of their four bennys on offer (hello filet mignon benedict). On Sundays the $12 to $15 price includes coffee or tea and your choice of breakfast beverage.
5. Penelope (159 Lexington Avenue, 212-481-3800) is a small, homey space guaranteed to have an inevitable wait, but trust us; It’s worth it. With its kitchen-facing bar and its pastry case of tempting treats, the staff serves food to match the comfy setting. It’s equally inevitable that dishes named after people — like Mabel’s homemade granola or Ellie’s spinach pie — are served up with a whole lotta love.
You can have any of this yumminess (including the irresistible pumpkin waffles with baked apples) for $14, which includes your choice of coffee/tea and juice or an apple cider mimosa. It should be noted that Doreen’s sake bloody mary is sold separately, but that doesn’t mean we love her (whoever she is) and her eponymous drink any less.
Do you have any other favorite New York City brunch spots to add? Tell us in the comments below!