I never thought I liked Eggs Benedict. Poached eggs, to me, look like small wiggly aliens, and Hollandaise sauce is not my cup of tea. I learned, writing this list over the last month or so, that this is not a theory, I truly dislike it. But I sacrificed my stomach for the sake of journalism, and though the experiment didn’t help me understand why people love this dish so much, I did manage to dig up some of the city's most low-key brunch gems. These spots offer interesting culinary fare in addition to tried and true standards, along with affordable prices, brief or nonexistent wait times, and of course, drink specials, many of which are bottomless. Here are my favorite underrated brunches; as always, leave yours in the comments.
(Cassidy Dawn Graves / Gothamist)
THE HAMILTON: This cozy and often-empty Upper West Side whiskey bar offers a surprisingly affordable brunch, with fairly traditional entrees in the $11-15 range (aside from the $22 steak and eggs, but that’s to be expected.) This seems unexceptional, but each dish comes with a mimosa, bellini, or bloody Mary. Or coffee, technically, but that’s only if you don’t want to get your money’s worth. You’re better off getting that as an add-on. Choose from a classics Eggs Benedict, savory Shakshuka, hearty burger, or their fluffy and berry-topped Dutch pancake, among other options. I’d recommend choosing something with home fries, as theirs come perfectly crisp alongside a good dollop of sauteed peppers and onions. Plus, you can tell people you’re “heading uptown for Hamilton” and maybe they won’t question what you mean.
The Hamilton is located at 998 Amsterdam Avenue between 109th and 110th Streets on the Upper West Side. (212-866-7200, thehamiltonuws.com).
THE PHUNKY ELEPHANT: With a name that recalls early Black Eyed Peas discography, some might be wary (or, eager, depending on your musical taste) to step into this Staten Island gastropub. Either way, this spot offers a mean brunch that won’t be mean to your wallet. For $18.95 plus tax, you’ll be served an entree and not one but two entire drinks: choose from mimosa, bloody Mary, bellini, screwdriver, or sangria. They certainly don’t mess around when it comes to affordably plying your liver in the early hours, but that doesn’t mean they’re skimping on the foodstuff. In addition to more classic fare, they’ve got a Brie-bacon-marmalade grilled cheese, locally-baked chocolate bread French toast, a “loaded baked potato omelet,” and more.
The Phunky Elephant is located at 1271 Bay Street at Scarboro Avenue in Staten Island. (718-448-4282, thephunkyelephant.com).
HUDSON VIEW RESTAURANT: Hailed as one of the only actual diners in the neighborhood, Hudson View offers a lengthy menu that attempts to please all. Sometimes such a broad-strokes approach can lead to mediocrity, but these guys seem to be doing alright, especially in the breakfast and brunch food department—they’ve got a massive Hungry Man breakfast for around twelve bucks, and their challah French toast is huge, thick, and soft. These food choices are available all the time, but on weekends they’ve got mimosas and bloodys. Though there's a delivery option, quality there is dicey, so it's best to conduct this brunch experience in-person. Which is fine, since you can’t get alcohol delivered anyway.
Hudson View Restaurant is located at 770 West 181st Street at Fort Washington Avenue in Washington Heights. (212-781-0301).
EVA JEAN'S: Eva Jean’s is a fairly new addition to Bed-Stuy. It’s primed to attract gentrifiers, but its unassuming residential location doesn’t exactly draw big crowds. This is good news for you, who can order up without feeling like you might still be on a packed train car that somehow started serving food. Though it's a bit on the pricier side, in exchange you’ll get a pleasant ambiance and delicious bites like a fontina/mushroom/spinach Toad in a Hole, a hearty warm quinoa bowl, a chicken chorizo scramble, or a sweet “Pancrepe,” along with speciality cocktails.
Eva Jean’s is located at 30 Kosciuszko Street at Spencer Court in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. (718-638-3151)
COMMUNITY FOOD & JUICE: Unfortunately, unlike the bulk of spots on this list, uptown spot Community Food & Juice does tend to get packed—but, hey, you can’t have a Community with no one around! In any case, people come here for a reason—this joint serves up a hefty breakfast selection, offering everything from a biscuit sausage sandwich and BLT-plus-egg, to a tofu scramble, and something called “Bowl of Beets" (it's literally a bowl of beets). Best of all, you can spice up your typical brunch drink order with their bourbon blueberry basil lemonade or strawberry-rhubarb margarita.
Community Food & Juice is located at 2983 Broadway between 111th and 112th Streets in Morningside Heights. (212-665-2800, communityrestaurant.com).
INDIAN ROAD CAFE: This uptown restaurant has a local focus, with much of their ingredients coming from the mid-Hudson Valley or Catskills. Also present are organic and cage-free eggs, vegan sausage, tofu scramble, and gluten-free bread options. On the less healthy side, they offer six Benedict options, including BBQ pulled pork and creamed spinach. Plus, they often add parmesan to their eggs and potatoes, which is a refreshingly cheesy touch I highly recommend. Take one of these luscious entrees and slap $14 more on to earn bottomless mimosas. If that’s not your style, there's a long list of individual brunch cocktails, including a Negroni. Why not?
Indian Road Cafe is located at 600 W 218th Street at Indian Road in Inwood. (212-942-7451, indianroadcafe.com)
(Cassidy Dawn Graves / Gothamist)
TINA'S PLACE: Tina’s is not swanky by any means. It’s a small diner that’s been in Bushwick for decades. With odd hours of 3:30 a.m. to 4 pm, the joint's not for the particularly early-to-bed, late-to-rise folks, unless you're so late to bed you can make the morning shift. For those of you who do keep to grown-up hours, you'll get to enjoy a wholesome environment that feels like you’re in some faraway town full of super cheap breakfast food.
Indeed, the meals here are so affordable, you can order two items for the price of one dish at a fancier spot. Create your own lumberjack breakfast by getting a short stack of perfectly-browned pancakes and the two eggs with toast, home fries, and the optional addition of bacon or sausage. With bottomless coffee, all that will run you about $12. And if you’re an active monster and come before 11 a.m., your coffee is included.
Tina’s Place is located at 1002 Flushing Avenue at Wilson Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn. (718-821-9595).
SPARROW TAVERN: I've noticed that bars that offer brunch somehow end up being less populated than (but still just as tasty and affordable as) straight-up restaurants. I’m not going to attempt to explain the logic behind this or claim that this is fact, but in a world of expensive metropolitan dining, it’s a crumb of hope to hold on to. Astoria’s Sparrow Tavern is another spot to support this theory. Take a gander (and a bite) at their croissant French toast, thick-cut French fries (sensing a pattern?), and multifaceted drink selection, including two bloody Mary choices (one with smoked chipotle pepper) and a rum maple egg cream, an adult spin on the classic beverage with spiced rum and McClure’s maple syrup.
Sparrow Tavern is located at 24-01 29th Street at 24th Avenue in Astoria, Queens. (718-606-2260, thesparrowtavern.com).
SAN MARZANO: This East Village pasta bar has a formal weekend brunch, serving up scrambles, omelettes, paninis, granola, banana french toast, and a ricotta-nutella fried dough creation for under $10 each, in addition to $4 mimosas. For $10 plus a food order, those babies'll be bottomless. But for those of us with unconventional work schedules, San Marzano offers a gift on the regular: their $9 pasta, $15 sangria pitcher (which will net you ~3 glasses per person, if shared with another), which is the non-brunch brunch you’ve been waiting for.
San Marzano is located at 117 2nd Avenue between E 7th and 6th Streets in the East Village. (212-777-3600, www.sanmarzanonyc.com).
JUNGLE CAFE: Brunch can be difficult for vegans, but for those of you prefer to keep your breakfasts cruelty-free, hop on over to Greenpoint’s Jungle Cafe. They offer a Sunday brunch that rivals them all, just by virtue of being a buffet. Each week sports a new theme, but the cafe has some consistent brunch-y staples, like a tofu scramble and gluten-free pancakes that can come with blueberries or strawberry sauce. The price depends on the consumption, but at $9.99 per pound, it’s a frugal big eater’s happy place. Lazy folks can catch this deal until 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Jungle Cafe is located at 996 Manhattan Avenue at Huron Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. (347-987-4981, junglecafenyc.com).
TABLE D'HOTE: This hidden Upper East Side gem isn’t necessarily as cheap as some of the other places on this list. But what it loses in economy is saves in ambiance, plus you get complimentary muffins before your meal. Though the eatery's name means “restaurant meal at a fixed price with few, if any, choices” you'll actually have plenty of autonomy here. If you’re feelin’ seafaring and in the mood for something particularly rich (no, I don’t mean the people who live in the neighborhood) I would recommend the seared salmon; there’s also a chicken paillard if you still want to throw all brunch norms to the wind, but aren't interested in eating creatures from the sea. Plus, they have Croque Madames, which are the perfect eggy, bready substitute for the tired old Benedict.
Table d’Hote is located at 44 East 92nd Street at Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side. (212-348-8125, tabledhote.info).
(Cassidy Dawn Graves / Gothamist)
BELLI OSTERIA Belli Osteria is a charming and shockingly crowd-less Italian spot located naught but a step or two from the Clinton-Washington C station. This place is adorable—the restaurant’s personable owner was telling me enthusiastically about how their high-tech ovens work, and how he’d like to have a “Meet the Farmers” night where he brings some of the people who he buys from in alongside a corresponding prix fixe menu, and maybe even offer live music. Italian as they may be, their brunch menu is more diverse: expect huevos rancheros (they’re generous with the guac!), fluffy frittatas for both veggie-lovers and carnivores, goat cheese and chive omelettes, and a caramelized French toast, to name a few.
Their bottomless special will run you $23.95 for an entree, coffee, and 90 minutes of unlimited blood orange mimosas or bloody Marys. Portions here aren’t huge, so feel free to order some dessert to top your afternoon off: I’d recommend the sundae, made from ricotta-caramel gelato, flourless chocolate cake, and caramel sauce, served in an oversized martini glass. Stuff yourself while enjoying the natural light streaming in from the big windows; soon it will be nearly dark by the time brunch hours end.
Belli Osteria is located at 860 Fulton Street at Clinton Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. (347-799-1230, bellibrooklyn.com).
SWEET SCIENCE: Sweet Sciene is also a bar, but their kitchen is nearly always up n’ running—I have vague memories of consuming a kale caesar chicken sandwich in the dead of night here. Thankfully, bar plus kitchen often equals brunch, and that's certainly the case here. Their selection-filled menu (with entrees in the $8-15 range) includes an acclaimed oxtail hash, lobster and biscuits, French toast in a red wine reduction, shrimp and grits, berry-topped chicken and waffles, and “The Biggie Breakfast,” which comes piled high with hangar steak, cheesy scrambled eggs, home fries, side salad, and a Big-a-Lini: grape juice and champagne. If you’re looking for more typical brunch fare (poached eggs, omelettes, or sandwiches/salads for the non-breakfast inclined) they’ve got you covered too. And for those of you more focused on the sippable stuff, note that Sweet Science serves three different bloodys as well as a selection of sweet frozen drinks.
Sweet Science is located at 135 Graham Avenue between Johnson Avenue and Boerum Street in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (347-763-0872, sweetsciencebklyn.com).
HOME/MADE: Red Hook local wine bar-turned-brunch-fave Home/Made was closed for a while thanks to Superstorm Sandy, and wiled away some rehab time serving brunch in a nearby pop-up warehouse location fittingly filled with Ikea furniture. After some renovations, they’ve returned to their Van Brunt Street digs, which are a bit more tucked-away than some of the trendier and more crowded restaurants in the area. Home/Made seems to eschew the Benedict and err on the side of the scramble: think fontina and wild mushrooms, smoked salmon and dill, and truffled eggs with parmesan, all served with potatoes and grilled bread, and a citrus-dipped brioche French toast comes with sautéed apples, pears, and dried cherries, putting the typical strawberry/banana routine to shame. Most entrees are around $12; try splitting one with a couple $4 side dishes like chicken & apple sausage or sticky pecan buns for more variety at an affordable price.
Home/Made is located at 293 Van Brunt Street between King and Pioneer Streets in Red Hook. (347-223-4135, homemadebklyn.com).
THE QUEENS KICKSHAW: The Queens Kickshaw is a prime spot for cheeselovers and vegetarians (but not vegans, sorry guys) alike—the main attraction is cheese, and there’s nary a meat option in sight. For a special brunch meal, try this Astoria spot's gouda grilled cheese (technically considered a “starter”) with black bean hummus, guava jam, and pickled jalapeños, or their mac n’ cheese, served with an egg (so it's definitely appropriate to eat this early). There's also a prix fixe special that runs $20 for entree, drip coffee, and cocktail, but if you can't make it in during the weekend, you can turn it into a daytime work space and score cheese-y eats, or order late-night delivery to sate your inevitable moonlight cheese cravings.
The Queens Kickshaw is located at 40-17 Broadway between 41st Street and Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens. (718-777-0913, thequeenskickshaw.com).
EL CAMION CANTINA: Sometimes you just want to spend a hungover morning scarfing down cheap Mexican food and slurping margs. El Camion has your back, and for the low price of $10, give or take a few. Their brunch selection is mighty, with many egg-centric options like the huevos diablos (on habanero corn muffins with chipotle hollandaise, a favorite of many), chicken chilaquiles, breakfast burritos, and the Brussels sprout and broccoli rabe-filled huevos camion.
Each entree comes with coffee or a drink, and you can always order more on top of that. Booze selections include blood orange or tamarind margaritas and spicy bloody marys, hailed by my bloody connoisseur friend as one of the best in the city. Unfortunately, you might find some NYU students eating alongside you here; if you find their collegiate talk tiresome, you might get them to leave if you tell them their debt will disappear if they exit this restaurant ASAP. Desperate times! I should know, my loan payments just kicked in.
El Camion Cantina is located at 194 Avenue A between 12th and 13th Streets in the East Village. (212-533-5436, elcamioncantina.com).
Cassidy Dawn Graves is a writer, event producer, and performer whose ancestors may have been eaten in the Donner Party. Follow her here.