There’s no better way to kick off a day of Manhattan sightseeing than with one of New York’s famous breakfasts. Want blueberry pancakes, bacon and biscuits, crispy hash browns and your eggs done differently every day of the week? You got it. Here’s our pick of some of NYC’s finest spots for a bumper breakfast blowout…
British restaurateur Keith McNally is the man behind a string of successful restaurants in New York, including the Meatpacking district’s Pastis (opens in a new window) and underground caviar and vodka bar Pravda (opens in a new window). Since 1997, lively Parisian-style brasserie Balthazar (opens in a new window) has been delighting diners with its atmospheric interior – deep red banquette seating, dark woods, huge mirrors – and no-holds-barred French cuisine.
The breakfast experience, which starts at 7.30am, is a little more low-key, though no less delicious. For a rich and authentically French start to the day, opt for the Eggs en Cocotte – eggs, cream and thyme baked in a ramekin and served with soldiers, or the brioche French toast and smoked bacon. A simple croissant, tartine or apple chausson from the adjacent Balthazar Bakery is an option for those looking for something sweeter and lighter, and can always be paired with a mimosa or bellini for a decadent twist.
Balthazar, 80 Spring St (Between Broadway and Crosby)
This down-to-earth standalone Tribeca diner – so down-to-earth it doesn’t even have a website – is a classic diner in the true old-fashioned sense of the word. Housed in a vintage train car, it’s set on a nondescript corner at the junction of Leonard and Varick streets, but once inside it’s like stumbling upon a buzzy little neighbourhood hub.
Take a seat at the counter or one of the squishy pink booths by the window, and watch the lightning fast wait staff go about their business. All your favourite American breakfast menu items are available – pancakes, omelettes, bagels, French toast, baked goods, eggs any way – dished up with as much bottomless coffee as you can drink.
Square Diner, 33 Leonard Street (at Varick Street)
With only a handful of tables, this intimate cafe in the West Village has something of an upscale fleamarket vibe, with pale wooden floors and white brick walls providing a gallery-like backdrop for its tasteful arrangements of vintage trunks, photographs, art and antique mirrors.
Breakfast-wise, not only is Joseph Leonard (opens in a new window) feted for its excellent coffee and inventive egg dishes, but also for its ability to turn brussels sprouts into appealing early morning fare. Order the egg sandwich – a feather-light croissant with eggs, manchego, sprouts, sriracha (a spicy Thai sauce) and optional bacon – and you’ll see just what we mean. Those after a more standard start to the day can fill up on oatmeal or granola, or even plain old toast and jam.
Joseph Leonard, 170 Waverly Place, NYC
Pershing Square (opens in a new window) is a busy American brasserie uniquely situated on 42nd Street underneath the Park Avenue viaduct. Directly across from the main entrance to Grand Central Terminal, it’s just a few minutes walk from Fifth Avenue, Times Square, the Theatre District and the Empire State Building. Due to its location there’s a steady stream of business folk and tourists, yet it still manages to retain a relaxed vibe and you won’t be rushed.
The breakfast menu is extensive and varied – the best in New York if the signs in the window are to be believed. ‘Simple Starts’ include Irish oatmeal with bananas and berries, or a red onion and smoked salmon bagel, while the egg dishes range from simple omelettes to a health conscious plate of poached eggs over lentils and quinoa.
Pershing Square, 90 East 42nd Street (at Park Avenue), NYC
Kitchenette (opens in a new window), an uptown Manhattan country cottage-style diner, is all about homemade comfort food. Inside, the polka-dotted pink and black interior harks back to the 1950s, shelves of brightly lit pastries, cakes and muffins fill the glass cabinets by the door and jars of cookies line the counter.
Great for late risers (it’s served until 4.30pm), breakfast starts and ends with mugs of coffee and jars of fresh orange juice, but the pancakes are the speciality here. For purists, the plain variety are close to perfect but the peach ones are our favourite (with the banana and blueberry running close behind). For those with hearty appetites, try the Lumberjack (pancakes) or Lumberjane (french toast) breakfasts, both served with egg, bacon or turkey sausage. For something less sweet, go for the Cheesy Grits Bowl topped with bacon crumbles and egg, or a build-your-own omelette.
Kitchenette, 1272 Amsterdam Avenue (at West 123rd Street)
by Maxine Sheppard