The 100 Best Brunch Spots in America: 1 – 25
More than just coffee, cantaloupe, and copious amounts of Bloody Marys, brunch has become a true contender for the most important meal of the day. Sure, breakfast has its merits, but for years it’s been resting on oatmeal-encrusted laurels. It never saw brunch coming — and how can it compete? Brunch is a more social, leisurely, and indulgent meal than its early morning counterpart. It’s a long and relaxing pursuit made with good company in public while breakfast is often dealt with in expeditious silence. How often do we rush out the door, shoving a toast point or banana in our mouth? How often still do we meander through a morning in groggy isolation, only engaging in interpersonal contact to demand a skinny half-caf something or other? This is what breakfast does to us. Breakfast is eaten out of obligation, brunch is a meal we make into an occasion.
It’s that celebratory air, perhaps, that causes us to wait in line for hours without complaint. After all, what’s 45 minutes of standing when there’s an eggs Benedict on the other end? In this spirit of celebration, we culled the country to find the 100 brunch spots we can call the best. The criteria, you ask? Excellent food, for starters. Bonus points if it’s really unique. A truly great brunch place must be beloved by the locals, and you’ll usually see a line. We leaned heavily in favor of independently owned places, of course. And finally, atmosphere counts. Whether it’s uber cool architecture, a table-side cotton candy machine, or a world-class gospel choir — we like a little culture with our mimosas, thank you very much. (By K. Tighe, Alexander Moysaenko, Cynthia Salaysay, Janelle Schroeder, Casey Carroll, Christina Badal, and Taylor Williams)
At this deservedly worshiped altar to bread, you can’t go wrong with anything baked and doughy. It’s no wonder that brunch, that anticipated time when carbs are king, is what put this Lower East Side spot on the culinary map. In fact, due to popular demand (aka Yelp threats from fork-wielding foodies), the blueberry pancakes were actually put on the dinner menu. Indeed, this stack of fluffy, maple butter-coated goodness may very well be Platonic ideal of berry-studded flapjack. The buttermilk biscuit sandwich stuffed with scrambled eggs and melted cheddar and finished with a dollop of piquant tomato jam, is also a revelation. But whatever you do (or rather, eat), don’t forget to order a side of the unbeatable, sweet-and-savory sugar-cured bacon.2. Stubb’s Bar-B-Q (Austin, TX)
Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds used to stop at Stubb’s and “play for their supper,” so you know it’s gotta be good. In addition to Stubb’s live gospel music, a world-renowned buffet — featuring such items as Southern-style grits, migas, fried catfish, and Stubb’s famous BBQ brisket — make this place our favorite southern brunch spot. A “make your own” Bloody Mary bar completes this too-good-to-be true picture. The heavens have opened on Stubb’s gospel brunch. Get your groove on.
3. Bottega Louie (Los Angeles, CA)
The chef recommends you start with dessert. Would you prefer your Prosecco served with muddled oranges, cherries, and lemon, or would you rather it came with white peach purée? Just-green tomato juice for the young one? We apologize — it seems the chef forgot to put the cippolini onions in your pancetta and burrata scramble. A complimentary order of lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry syrup should be out shortly.
4. Mission Beach Café (San Francisco, CA)
This restaurant, with its Frank Lloyd Wright-esque décor, is known for its sophisticated look. It’s also known for short lines and breakfasts that taste as fresh and clean as the space their served in. The go-to item is short ribs with sweet potato-apple hash. The Benedicts — such as the wild mushroom version with truffle mornay sauce — have been dressed to the nines. Wash it all down with Blue Bottle Coffee and watch the street parade go by through the gleaming windows.
5. Bongo Room (Chicago, IL)
Don’t be too disappointed because there are in fact, no bongos here. But better than bongos is the menu of ever-changing flavors of French toast and pancakes. Flavors have included pumpkin spice, with browned butter and dark brown sugar cream mousse topped with sweetened glazed toasted pecans, as well as caramelized apple and toasted walnut, complete with warm praline cream. Dessert has migrated to this spot, with two locations in Chicago, because they also boast banana Oreo and red velvet pancakes, and chocolate tower French toast.
6. Fido (Nashville, TN)
Named after the dog who discovered coffee, as legend has it, this Nashville gem is softening the line between coffee house and restaurant by combining the two. This funky spot is considered the heart and soul of Hillsboro Village, drawing in a mixture of Vandy students, music execs, and even soccer moms! Coffee is a specialty here, of course. The beans are roasted daily across town at its sister store, Bongo Java Roasting Company. While you’re sipping on a cup of joe, chow down on the Village burrito, jam-packed with flank steak, spinach, eggs, and feta cheese. The Egg McFido, a bagel piled high with scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese, is said to be the best “morning after” remedy.
7. Gaia Bistro (Denver, CO)
This Denver crêperie brunch palace housed in, well, a converted house has both the straight-laced and the snowboarding stoners alike breathing heavy for organic buckwheat spinach-artichoke heart-Swiss crêpe, duck sausage on a baguette with cabbage and apple butter, sage sausage, pumpkin bread, $4 French-press pot, roasted poblano stuffed with house-smoked ham, eggs, and brie, grilled squash-eggplant-tomato-cucumber-zucchini sandwich with cilantro-mint pesto. Is anyone else feeling dizzy? Excuse, us, we need to catch a flight to Denver now…
8. Diner (Brooklyn, NY)
You might notice the floor is a little off-kilter at this campy, DIY refurbished dining car. The brunch dishes here, which feature creative takes on familiar fare, have a little bit of an odd slant, too. But in both cases, these eccentricities work perfectly: the space feels homey and unaffected, and the offerings are exciting and, most important, just plain delicious. Thick grilled slab bacon seems an unlikely compliment to yogurt, maple syrup, grapefruit, and thyme, but the combination is an ingenious, eye-popping mix of flavors and textures. Similarly, your everyday buttermilk pancakes are given new life with liltingly sweet parsnips and honeyed Marscapone cheese. Since the menu changes daily, you’ll want to come back and discover what else this impressive Williamsburg joint has to offer.
9. M. Henry (Chicago, IL)
This Chicago eatery bakes, stacks, brews, and caters brunches and lunches to all the northsiders who thought they’d never be allowed to get their butternut squash and applewood-smoked bacon quiche (and a side of cranberry-cognac chicken sausage) drizzled with red wine syrup. Mmm…Henry. And he’s got a sister!
10. Foreign Cinema (San Francisco, CA)
A theatrical space bathed in foggy light and high ceilings, Foreign Cinema is a perfect place for Bloody Marys on holiday mornings. The go-to place for a Chez Panisse-style brunch in the city, there are no misses in its offerings. The locally sourced changing menu offers chanterelle and nettle tortas, homemade pop tarts filled with real fruit, and an oyster bar. Everything is impeccable. The servers, walking the tightrope between officious and breezy, can deftly handle both the hungover yuppies and uptight mothers without missing a beat.
11. Nickel Diner (Los Angeles, CA)
Maple bacon donut. Maple bacon donut. Maple bacon donut. This magic item can, and will, induce a Homer-like trance when eaten. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, this creation comes temptingly glazed and topped with large crumbles of crispy bacon. For those feeling a little healthier, the tofu scramble with roasted garlic, spinach, beans, and goat cheese will satisfy the health-conscious. Deep in the heart of downtown LA, everything is served with a healthy dose of rough-n-ready love from the wait staff.
12. Sabrina’s Café (Philadelphia, PA)
If music-themed menu items are your thing, Sabrina’s will be your favorite brunch spot. The Hangin’ Tough breakfast special is a throwback to one of the original boy bands, and includes roasted corn Johnny cakes stuffed with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, bacon, asparagus, and roasted red pepper cream cheese. If you’re of the younger generation, go with Bieber’s Buttermilk Baby Cakes. That’s buttermilk pancakes topped with apple-ginger pound cake crumbles with dried figs and roasted walnuts, honey-cinnamon-maple butter, and peach-orange glaze.
13. Sarabeth’s (New York, NY)
“Yeah, yeah,” you might be thinking, “Everybody and their mom probably goes to that overrated joint.” Well, everybody and their mom probably does — but this mini-chain ain’t famous for nothing. With just a single bite of those lemon and ricotta pancakes, all cynicism will vanish into thin air — kind of like that short stack you just scarfed down. Popeye Eggs come with a one-two punch of bicep-building spinach and black forest ham, and the thick, fluffy frittata is chock-full of veggies, gruyere, and bacon. To go with your eggs, choose the crumbly, oven-warmed scone, a perfect platform for Sarabeth’s unrivaled preserves.
14. The Front Porch Cafe (Miami Beach, FL)
The hangovers are as popular as the granola pancake at this Ocean Drive hot spot. Dig into an array of huge breakfasts, like their omelettes stuffed with fresh veggies and jack cheese, French toast with bananas and walnuts, or those decadent granola pancakes bigger than your head. Located on the quieter end of Ocean drive, it’s a local hot spot and the best place to fuel your tank before hitting up the scorching sands of south beach. Viva Miami!
15. The Publican (Chicago, IL)
This Sunday brunch-only place was featured on the famous Food Network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Want to know what it was for? Pork rinds. Don’t be fooled, this casual but warm establishment focuses on an eclectic menu that puts pork on a pedestal. Aside from the pork rinds, try the house’s version of eggs Benedict, featuring red wine poached eggs, prosciutto, sourdough bread, and a béarnaise sauce.
16. Rosebud’s (Atlanta, GA)
Who said brunch was just for the weekends? Start early and end late with Rosebud’s brunch Friday, Saturday, Sunday, AND Monday night! But beware: brunchers at Rosebud’s go hard, sinking their teeth into delights like The Big Nasty — a portly sandwich piled high with fried chicken, scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, and cheddar. Wash it all down with a Poor Man’s Bloody Mary and you’ll be brunching in true Atlantan style.
17. Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar (New Orleans, LA)
Not even Hurricane Katrina could keep the locals away from this hot spot! Juices flow at Surrey’s — fresh-squeezed organic juice and wheat grass selections from the famous juice bar. On the sustenance side of life, choose from an array of local organic resources for your morning squeeze. The fresh Gulf seafood and the local Creole country sausage leave their mark in most dishes. Surrey’s can also be seen in the first 15 minutes of the movie Failure to Launch and was recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
18. Millie’s (Richmond, VA)
This diner in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood — site of Patrick Henry’s famous speech on liberty — has been paying its respects to history, spinning a huge collection of old 45s in the jukebox and slinging special brunch plates (like the Cajun Mess, with Andouille sausage, crawfish, corn, peppers, tomatoes, and cheddar) for twenty-two years. Give us a grilled eggplant and brie sandwich or give us death.
19. Carman’s Country Kitchen (Philadelphia, PA)
This place has a lot of rules. Don’t go with more than 4 people, don’t bring someone who’s offended by nudity, and don’t bring anyone who’s picky. The reasons? It’s tiny, there is some questionable artwork on the walls, and it’s a limited menu of four to six items, and you’ll never what the daily selections will be. Do expect a variety of savory and sweet options like zucchini pancakes, fried chicken, and shrimp and grits. And an additional table in the back of a pickup truck in the summer.
20. Northern Spy Food Co. (New York, NY)
Unless you’re at a greasy spoon, you’d be hard-pressed to beat these prices in Manhattan. What’s more, you’ll be treated to imaginative, refined fare with a rustic edge and local, sustainable ingredients. Try the chicken and egg sandwich, made with crispy thigh meat, crackling chimichurri, and a perfect poached egg, and you’ll wonder how this unassuming East Village eatery hasn’t joined the ranks of brunch heavy-hitters like Balthazar and Sarabeth’s. It’s also home to the oft-copied but never topped kale salad, an elegant mixture of summer squash, almonds, clothbound cheddar, and pecorino. By the end of the meal, you’ll probably be loathe to leave this brunch-y heaven. Just order an apple cider shandy or Fuji apple mimosa so you can linger a little while longer.
21. Gastrobus (Los Angeles, CA)
We have a new exercise regimen. First, you get up at 7:30 on Sunday. Put on your running clothes. Then, sprint around LA until you see a huge yellow truck. Once you find it, follow it to the Los Feliz Farmers Market. Jog in place for a while, maybe do a few push-ups. Be the first in line when it opens shop at 9 a.m. and starts doling out dishes made from just-bought organic produce, like a cauliflower-leek-fresh herb-cotija omelette or an avocado and celery salad with wheat berries. Promptly stuff your gullet. Pay for cab fare with the money you saved on brunch. Repeat weekly.
22. Brenda’s French Soul Food Café (San Francisco, CA)
Brenda’s could prop its reputation on its beignets alone. Get simply gluttonous with warm, deep-fried dough pockets of Ghirardelli chocolate or spicy crayfish, and the long wait to get into the cozy place will be only a distant memory. The rest of the food is solid too — fried catfish Benedict, shrimp and grits, and other New Orleans-style favorites. But no matter what, the scrumptious flavor of the beignets will continue to haunt you long after leaving.
23. Ann Sather (Chicago, IL)
Oh, those sweet Swedes and their meatballs. And pancakes with lingonberries. And their poached salmon with honey dill sauce and pickled beets. And their…creamy, magmafied twin cinnamon buns that fill out your gut before you’ve even been served your brunch? Sail over to any of the four locations (all owned by 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney) while you make space for potato sausage and cold fruit soup.
24. The Park (Los Angeles, CA)
When’s the last time you went amateur picnicking? Ants in your juice, grass on your sandwich, no way to smoke the Michel Cordon Bleu trout, right? Did the wild mushrooms you picked for the gruyere and spinach frittata taste funky? We bet the chicken salad wasn’t even curried and your partner forgot the mango-yogurt dressing. Perhaps you should just consider becoming a part-time ranger (weekends, 10am–2pm) so such atrocities are never again repeated.
25. Fly Trap (Ferndale, MI)
The owners admit they were a little worried about naming their place after a dirty insect, but the name’s done just fine for this diner that refers to their menu as “blunch” because all items are available all day. With a Daily Buzz — a list of specials that includes a milkshake and mini muffin of the day — the menu is an eclectic collection. It’s not often that you see macaroni and cheese next to a bowl of lemongrass Pho in a place labeled a finer diner. Oh and lastly, this place doesn’t have a liquor license. And we don’t even care.