This is what happens when you have one too many Yerba Buena spicy margaritas at brunch…
Dear NYC brunch,
Oh, how sweet you are, especially Tutu’s Nutella-stuffed French toast or Beauty & Essex’s red velvet waffles, although savory too, such as a $17 cheeseburger and bottomless drink special at Epstein’s Bar. The Cuban sandwich at Yerba Buena, the pulled duck hash at The Blind Pig, and the Spanish chorizo- ladden sweet plantain omelet at Cafe Cortadito are all reasons to factor brunch into a weekend afternoon.
Although it isn’t just the food, but also the drinks. Or, more aptly, the day drinks. The feeling (and mimosas) in your blood as the sun shines through the window onto your plate of Pies n’ Thighs chicken and waffles or pecan butter crunch donuts makes you feel alive; the early time leading you to believe that anything is possible.
Adventures are most certainly had. One too many spicy margaritas and you may find yourself doing (really bad) yoga on the sidewalk, as shown above, or challenging a stranger to an arm wrestling competition — loser buys next round, of course. Venue hopping can take you to other boroughs, to bowling lanes and arcade games and rooftop pools, sunglasses covering droopy Champagne eyes, drinking in the view and the liquid in your glass.
Often, 12 o’clock brunch continues past sunset, although at that point the dinner menus have come out and there may be someone in your party dancing on a couch, or asleep on the bar.
I recently tried to explain NYC brunch culture to a Lithuanian Airbnb guest of mine, and why no trip to the city would be complete without a dip into Calle Ocho‘s meat-rich Latin Benedict or a sip of Sotto 13‘s DIY Prosecco table on a Sunday afternoon.
“So you all get together after breakfast time to eat and drink? We do that too but we just call it going out.”
“No, it’s different!”
She didn’t understand.
Aside for the obvious budget-friendly unlimited booze add-on that’s often offered, it’s hard to explain the magic of NYC brunch in words. It’s a feeling, a bringing together of community, a mojito-fueled therapy session, a time to re-hash the previous night’s escapades, a place to make new connections, a way to live out your Sex and the City fantasies, a day of discovery, a regular occasion where you know you’ll see your favorite people in the world and make lasting memories over food and drink.
Most importantly, for visitors to the city, NYC brunch is a true cultural experience. I can’t remember the last weekend I was in town that I didn’t wake up to an artfully-crafted Bloody Mary set before me. I’d recommend adding this important (yes, I used the word important to describe brunch) experience to your New York itinerary.
To help you decide where to go, here are some of my favorite venues and what to order (to be considered along with the examples mentioned above). Warning: I’m partial to Latin food, sugar and not taking the subway above 14th street. Feel free to add your own NYC brunch recommendations in the comments below to grow this list.
- 983 Bushwick’s Living Room (Bushwick): Chilaquiles with a vodka-laced Blackberry Truffle milkshake
- Essex Restaurant (Lower East Side): Manchengo macaroni and cheese with chorizo and a side of chicken apple sausage — plus 3 brunch drinks — for $24.95
- The Stanton Social (Lower East Side): Caramelized banana pancakes topped with candied pecans, vanilla brown butter and gooey maple syrup with a vodka and Kahlua-infused Vietnamese coffee
- Casa Mezcal (East Village): Huevos Rancheros on corn tortillas doused in mole sauce and paired with a brunch drink (food and drink for $15) or a “Xoco Kiss” made with mezcal, fresh ginger, lime, agave and a bit of Patron Cafe — not to mention live music
- Rabbithole Restaurant (Williamsburg): A lamb burger with yogurt feta sauce with an “Agave Spring” made with tequila, St. Germaine, lime, Angostura bitters and thyme
- Horchata (West Village): The tuna quesadilla — which is actually a torilla-crusted tuna filet with guacamole — while sipping a “Funky Monkey,” homemade horchata, Stoli vodka, Malibu rum and Kahlua served in a cute monkey glass. For $30 they also offer a boozy brunch that includes a meal, guacamole and chips, and two hours of unlimited brunch drinks.