When writing my first of the “24 hours” series, I had a difficult time picking where to suggest that one should go to breakfast. The lovely problem about New York City is there’s probably 20 amazing restaurants within a 5 block radius of where you are at any given moment. So, if I were to give you my top 10 breakfast joints, this is what they would be in no particular order (and as soon as I type this I’ll think of 10 more that I forgot):
1) Floridita- This place is not charming by any means. It is big, brightly lit and kind of sterile, and the waitresses take some time to warm up to you. In fact, we often try to figure out whether our usual waitress is joyously telling her Spanish speaking colleagues that we are back or talking about how much she hates us. All of this plus Cuban music and smells wafting from Dinosaur BBQ is what gives Floridita it’s charm. First, you HAVE to get a “cafe con leche”. You will probably need more than one of these because it’s basically liquid gold. I would follow that with a breakfast sandwich and a side of Mangu (mashed plantains). Be sure to get the pickled onions with the Mangu. It’s a perfect balance of savory, sweet and sour. This place is a schlep to get to for anyone who doesn’t live in West Harlem, but it is worth it for the coffee alone and you can walk or bike down the Hudson river after and work of those Cuban calories!
2) Cafe Cluny- This place is the tiniest bit snooty and overpriced, but still oh so wonderful. It’s an adorable little french bistro with perfect bright morning light that makes you feel like you want to sit and read the New York Times while sipping a coffee. You are pretty safe ordering anything on the menu though my favorites are the avocado toast with a poached egg and the grapefruit brûlée.
3) The Smile- If I were a restaurant, this is the restaurant I would be. Is that a thing? This hole-in-the-wall breakfast spot is somewhat inconspicuously located on Bond street between Lafayette and Bowery. I can’t mention The Smile without saying that my friend Cristina introduced me to it. She’d kill me otherwise (not literally but almost). The Smile has the perfect mix of rustic charm and hipster ruggedness. The wait staff is generally clad in some sort of vintage mom jeans or not-too-cool culottes with baby bangs and circle frame glasses that you get the feeling didn’t come from Warby Parker. I haven’t had anything on the menu that wasn’t good, but my most recent favorite was the scrambled eggs with sourdough toast and extra cheese and avocado.
4) Absolute Bagels- Absolute Bagels is absolutely my favorite bagel place in New York City (see what I did there?). It isn’t fancy or chic and you won’t find a million variations on cream cheese, but it’s flipping good. All you need is a cinnamon raisin bagel toasted with butter which will be perfectly melted onto your bagel. There’s not a lot of room to sit and eat, and even if there were, you wouldn’t want to. Take your bagel across the street to the little park between avenues or walk to Riverside park.
5) Veselka- I had never been here until I met my boo who lives two blocks from Veselka and is also a loud and proud Ukrainian (Dobri den Ro Ro. See? I’m practicing!). It has the charm and grit of a New York diner with an Eastern European twist. Get some potato pancakes, and pierogies with apple sauce and sour cream and you’ll be living on a carb cloud of happiness. If you ask me though, you can add dill to anything and it’ll be tasty, so they really can’t go wrong.
6) Jack’s Wife Freda- Disclaimer: don’t try to go here during normal brunch hours. Either get there early on the weekend or during the week if you are able, otherwise, you’ll be waiting forever and when you do sit down you’ll be very squished at a tiny table. I prefer the Lafayette location but both are wonderful. All the food is great but my favorite things are grapefruit and yogurt with the toasted baguette on the side. I’ve also heard a lot about the rosewater waffles, and really what could be bad about something that has rosewater in it.
7) Juliette- I love this restaurant because I feel like I’m eating in a greenhouse, but also because the food is good. The Eggs Forestiere is one thing that I like a lot. I am also dying to try the banana stuffed french toast. The other great thing about Juliette is it has a rooftop area which is quaint and quiet due to it’s super hip Brooklyn location (is Williamsburg hip anymore?)
8) Iris Cafe- This is sort of like the Brooklyn Heights version of The Smile. It is a tiny place on a quiet street with a homegrown vibe. I haven’t been here in a few years (that’s what happens when you break up with someone who lives in a different neighborhood), but I still dream of the avocado toast with poached eggs on top.
9) Irving Farm- This is more of a coffee shop than a breakfast place but they do have really great food in addition to their coffee. I’m going to sound like a gross caricature when I say that the almond milk latte is pure heaven in a paper cup. The scrambled eggs with avocado and slow roasted tomatoes on a bagel are also delish. If you go in the warmer months you might be able to snag a seat on the front patio and watch all the crazy Upper West Siders.
10) The Flame- it’s nearly impossible for me to pick a favorite diner in a city of amazing diners. Like you like your mother’s cooking, I like The Flame because it basically WAS my mother’s cooking. It’s diner food so you can’t expect a gourmet meal, but it never changes in a world where the only constant is change. As a kid, I would tell my mom I wanted “eggies in a bowl”, which she would translate into adult-speak for Pedro the waiter. One time I went to the flame with family friends who were babysitting me and I asked for “eggies in a bowl”. They didn’t know what that was and neither did Pedro as he had only ever heard my moms translated version of the order. It was a very distressing time for me but I’ve moved past it. The moral of the story is, don’t try to order “eggies in a bowl”. They are called poached eggs.
Whew, that was a lot of pressure but I think I accurately reflected most of my favorite New York City breakfast spots. Where are your favorite places to go? Let me know in the comments below, or in a Facebook message, or in a text message, or take me there this weekend!