Breakfast

Food52's 39 Essential Breakfast Spots in NYC

See you in line.

July 23, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Breakfast—by some accounts, the most important part of the day—is a deeply personal affair. My dad, for example, likes exactly three-quarters of a cup of cooked old-fashioned oats, with a pat of cold butter and a pinch of brown sugar. My friend Jaquen doesn't eat breakfast at all. I've had colleagues who swear by the same bakery-bought croissant each day for months. And I'm all over the place: some days, a bagel sandwich; others, cheong fun with the works.

According to Ken Albala in Breakfast: A History, breakfast in the Middle Ages was one of just two eating occasions in a day, comprising "a heavy meal with meat and wine at 11:00 a.m." (Confusingly, he notes, the contemporary term "dinner" is actually from the Latin word disjejeunare, for breaking fast, which was used to refer to the morning meal.)

Whether it's heavy meat and wine you're after, or you're more of a muffin-on-the-run type, New York City has no shortage of early morning selection. Read on for the Food52 team's list of 39 essential breakfast spots in N.Y.C.

Bagels & Schmear (& Lox & Co)


1. Barney Greengrass (Upper West Side)

Where:

541 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

Why:

For the absolute best smoked fish in New York City. For the sturgeon and Nova salmon scramble. For the nostalgia. (It's been open since 1908, and in this location since 1929.) Bring cash.


2. Russ & Daughters (Lower East Side)

Where:

Takeaway shop: 179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
Café: 127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Why:

Russ & Daughters' appetizing shop is home to one of the only lines in New York City actually worth its wait. Swing by the Houston Street location (which has been there since 1914) for sliced smoked or cured fish, caviar, pickled herring, and accoutrement that hold their own. You can also order composed bagels (and bialys) wrapped up for takeaway. Don't sleep on the chocolate babka, black and white cookies, raspberry rugelach, or any of the halvah flavors. For a sit-down experience with a similar menu (plus cocktails! And latkes!), go to the café over on Orchard Street. (Make sure to order the off-menu matzo brei.)


3. Shelsky's of Brooklyn (Brooklyn Heights)

Where:

141 Court St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Why:

"Shelsky's makes the best bagels in NYC and is probably one of the only places serving a scrapple, egg, and cheese," says Cinematographer Dave Katz.


Honorable Mentions

Each of Ess-a-Bagel (Gramercy location: 324 1st Ave, New York, NY 10009; Midtown East location: 831 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10022), Murray's Bagels (West Village location: 500 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011; Chelsea location: 242 8th Ave, New York, NY 10011), and Absolute Bagels (2788 Broadway, New York, NY 10025) are excellent choices for takeaway.


Dim Sum


4. Golden Unicorn (Chinatown)

Where:

18 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

Why:

The dumpling cart at Golden Unicorn is one of the only reasons to wake up before 10 a.m. on a Sunday. Their steamed sticky rice with chicken in lotus leaf completes that list.


5. Sun Hing Lung Co. (Chinatown)

Where:

58 Henry St, New York, NY 10002

Why:

One of the best breakfasts in New York City can be yours for $1.75. Head to Sun Hing Lung Co.—a tiny storefront and tofu factory—order pork cheong fun (aka steamed rice rolls), and go bananas with the complimentary sauces.


6. Tim Ho Wan (East Village)

Where:

85 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

Why:

Once, my boyfriend—who was already full—dropped a Tim Ho Wan baked BBQ pork bun on the sidewalk moments after we saw a rodent scuttle across the same stretch of cement. My boyfriend looked left, then right, and before anyone could stop him, picked up the bun and ate it in one bite.


7. Golden Steamer (Little Italy)

Where:

143A Mott St, New York, NY 10013

Why:

Especially fluffy, near-ephemeral stuffed buns (still warm). You couldn't go wrong with salted egg yolk, or egg custard.


8. Pacificana (Borough Park)

Where:

813 55th St, Brooklyn, NY 11220

Why:

Our Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen swears by the shrimp cheong fun, bean curd wrapped around shrimp and pork, roast BBQ pork buns, and for dessert, the egg custard.

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😍😍😍 DIMSUM ❤️❤️❤️

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9. Joe's Steam Rice Roll (Flushing, SoHo)

Where:

Flushing location: 136-21 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354
SoHo location: 265 Canal St, New York, NY 10013

Why:

You simply should not miss Joe's Signature Roll, with beef, pork, dried shrimp, and egg. Don't skimp on the chili crisp or sweet soy.


Honorable Mentions

Dim Sum Go Go (5 E Broadway, New York, NY 10038) is a very solid, delicious back-up option (sans carts, but with a fulsome menu) if you can't get into Golden Unicorn. Bamboo Garden (6409 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220) has some standout dishes, like shumai, spare ribs, stuffed tofu skin rolls, and bean curd.

Sit Down & Hang Out for a While


10, 11 & 12. Jeffrey's Grocery, Joseph Leonard & Fairfax (West Village)

Where:

Jeffrey's Grocery: 172 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014
Joseph Leonard: 170 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014
Fairfax: 234 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10014

Why:

We grouped these three restaurants—all owned by Gabriel Stulman's Happy Cooking Hospitality—because they share similar vibes (top notch), playlists (typically, the most recent Drake), wine and cocktail lists (fun, unfussy, and very drinkable), and menus (casual, composed new American). Joseph Leonard is a bit more upscale than the other two, Jeffrey's a good deal more seafood-focused, and Fairfax the lowest-key.


13. Davelle (Lower East Side)

Where:

102 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002

Why:

The toasts. All of them! But especially the berry and cream cheese.


14. High Street on Hudson (West Village)

Where:

637 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

Why:

"On the rare occasion that I have time for a slow, luxurious breakfast (or when I want to treat a friend), I go to High Street on Hudson," says Senior Editor Eric Kim. "They have an incredible pastry case, things like: black sesame kouign-amann (my favorite), spelt scone with raspberry-rose jam, and smoked cinnamon snickerdoodle. Good for work breakfasts, too—a full savory menu and excellent coffee to go with the pastries."

The pastry case at High Street on Hudson is where it's at. But get there early—they go fast. Photo by Eric Kim

15. Kopitiam (Chinatown)

Where:

151 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

Why:

Because once you start your day with Nasi Lemak, Kaya Butter Toast, and (on the weekend brunch menu) Pandan Chicken, you'll never want to do it any other way. Get extra sides of sambal, and a white coffee.


16. Blue Bottle (Park Slope)

Where:

203 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Why:

"The space is airy, comfortable, clean and minimalist, and everyone who works there is smart, friendly, and very knowledgeable (extra special shout-outs to Joe, Venecia, Kaylah, Jordan, Angel, Steph, and Artie)," says Food52's Co-Founder & President Merrill Stubbs. "The quality of the coffee goes without saying, but the food is far from an afterthought: steel cut oatmeal with butter and jam (I also like it just with butter and salt); deliciously yeasty homemade English muffins with pretty much any accoutrement you could imagine (including an egg, cheddar, and bacon breakfast sandwich); killer avocado toast on thick whole grain toast with coarse sea salt, lemon juice, and lots of chili flakes (if you don't like a lot of heat, they'll go light if you ask); and one of my top three croissants in the city (the other two are from Seven Grams and Bien Cuit). And make sure to nab an oatmeal cookie on your way out (they fold in extras like chewy bits of dried peach or caramel and white chocolate chips, depending on the season)."


17. Community Food & Juice (Morningside Heights)

Where:

2893 Broadway, New York, NY 10025

Why:

When you're looking for healthy-ish but still very scarfable fare, Community's your spot. (Or, skip healthy-ish and head straight to their stack of chocolate chunk pancakes.)


18. Buvette (West Village)

Where:

42 Grove St, New York, NY 10014

Why:

For the steamed eggs, topped with prosciutto, smoked salmon and crème fraîche, or goat cheese and tomato confit. Best enjoyed alone, with a side of toast, at the bar seat facing the front window.


19. Dante (West Village)

Where:

79-81 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012

Why:

"If you can slip into Dante on a weekday morning, you’ll probably get a corner table all to yourself. From here, you can watch a bartender slice a shocking number of Persian cucumbers while Ella Fitzgerald plays from nowhere in particular," says Copywriter Maggie Slover. "You’ll want to get everything, with bread: The burrata with sea salt comes with honeycomb and not enough pecan-cranberry toast. You’ll have to ask for more. Then an espresso. Then the Italian combo…it’s got sopressata, ham, dijon, and a crackly-fried egg on onion sourdough. Word on the street is the breakfast cocktails are very good. (Is that where all the cucumbers go?)"


20. Pondicheri (Flatiron)

Where:

15 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001

Why:

For a carrot paratha stuffed with an herby potato mash, or a cheesy railway omelet, or a breakfast Frankie (masala eggs and chutney in roti). And, for a side of excellent sourdough toast.


21. Via Carota (West Village)

Where:

51 Grove St, New York, NY 10014

Why:

Via Carota categorically refuses to acknowledge breakfast, meaning starting at 11 a.m. on the weekends, you can go for big bowls of extra-cheesy pasta. And sides of polpette. (Sibling bar/snacks spot across the street Pisellino will start to serve breakfast pastries imminently, too.)

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What’s your go-to pasta sauce?😌🍝 Crave it: 10/10

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22. Café Mogador (East Village, Williamsburg)

Where:

Brooklyn location: 133 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249
East Village location: 101 St Marks Pl # 1, New York, NY 10009

Why:

"My go-to is Café Mogador," says Email Production Coordinator Cara Vaccaro. "Both locations are great. Everything on the menu is good, but their Halloumi eggs are [very excited emoji]."


23. Gertie (Williamsburg)

Where:

357 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Why:

"I wish my whole life looked like the sunny interior of Gertie," says Recipe Developer & Food Writer Emma Laperruque. "Besides making some mean English-muffin egg sandwiches (with toppings like zucchini bacon and pickled peppers), they turn out A+ focaccia sandwiches, and one of the best cinnamon rolls that I've ever had. It's made with sourdough, is only available on the weekends, and, yes, you should definitely order two."


24. Golda (Bedford-Stuyvesant)

Where:

504 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238

Why:

"Their breakfast sandwich and pastries are phenomenal—the egg sandwich is a real standout: a spicy, nutty muhammara is spread thickly on the bread and topped with a perfectly runny egg," says Books & Special Projects Editor Brinda Ayer. "Then there's Kashkaval cheese on top, which gives a good bite and doesn't get too melty or messy. As for the pastries, it's a rotating cast. Their artichoke goat cheese danish is bomb. As is raspberry muenster. And they have a spinach walnut kale muffin, which sounds awful but is so good."


25. ATLA (NoHo)

Where:

372 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

Why:

You can lean into brunch with the Ranchero Eggs and Flax Seed Chilaquiles, or ignore it completely and head straight for other favorites, like Cauliflower Tacos Al Pastor, Maitake Mushrooms En Salsa Verde, and Fish Milanese. (It's never too early for an Overproof Margarita.)


26. Reunion (Williamsburg)

Where:

544 Union Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Why:

"It's a bright cheerful place, and the food is wonderful and fresh," says Senior Customer Care Specialist Erin Sanders. "I love the herbs omelet, shakshuka, and the pancakes—there's something for everyone!"


27. Cafe Luluc (Cobble Hill)

Where:

214 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Why:

The best pancakes N.Y.C. has to offer? Quite possibly. "The pancakes are almost unbelievably crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside," says Senior Social Media Manager Patrick Moynihan. "Great coffee as well."

Diners, Very Casual Cafés & The Like


28. B&H Dairy

Where:

127 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Why:

Chances are, if you're awake, B&H Dairy is open. The standard diner fare—omelettes, pancakes—is solid, but you're really here for the blintzes, the latkes, and the matzo brei. Order a side of homemade challah and top it with butter and salt.


29. Odessa

Where:

119 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

Why:

This old standby of Director of Finance Victoria Maynard has a menu roughly the length of a dictionary. It's worth a visit for the pierogi, Belgian waffles, banana pancakes, bacon omelette, and Kielbasa-egg sandwich.


30. Court Street Grocers (Carroll Gardens)

Where:

485 Court St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Why:

For the sandwiches, of course. And, because "their bagels with lox and the works are really good, their iced coffee is one of my favorites, and they also have a really hearty, homemade tasting sausage, egg and cheese," says Senior SEO Strategist Alex Egan. "Plus, the place itself isn't exactly cozy or 'cute,' but it's still a really nice peaceful place to sit and eat and work."


31. Veselka (East Village)

Where:

144 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Why:

Because Veselka is open 24 hours a day—and it's never too early for their famous pierogi. There's now a weekend "brunch pierogi" plate on offer, comprising dumplings filled with bacon, cheddar, scrambled egg, and potato.


32. Los Tacos No. 1 (Chelsea Market)

Where:

75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011 (in Chelsea Market)

Why:

For weekend brunch tacos you'll think about for months to come, try to beat the crowds at Los Tacos No. 1 (it opens at 11 a.m., every day). There are only four types on the menu (carne asada, pollo asado, adobada, and nopal)—and it wouldn't be a mistake to get two of each.

Bakeries for Grab & Go


33. Peter Pan Donuts (Greenpoint)

Where:

727 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Why:

For the very best old-fashioned donuts in town. Try the chocolate and red velvet cruller, plus every flavor of donut hole, then go back for more. A total pro move: Order a bacon and egg sandwich on a bagel and coffee, to eat at the counter with a newspaper.


34. Mah-Ze-Dahr (West Village)

Where:

28 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10011

Why:

If you get to Umber Ahmad's bakery right when it opens at 7 a.m. (on weekdays), you just might be able to decide between the pastry selection by 8 a.m. We're partial to the brioche donuts, the individually portioned banana bread (served in a wide, shallow disc), and any seasonal scone flavor.


35. Ovenly (Greenpoint & Other Locations)

Where:

Greenpoint location: 31 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Williamsburg location: 43 N 5th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Park Slope location: 210 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Midtown location: 230 Park Ave, New York, NY 10169

Why:

For week-changing croissants (like the "everything," or the provolone and ham), or savory scones (cheddar-mustard!), or the aptly named Best. Granola. Ever. (with yogurt). While you're there, pick up a few salted chocolate chip cookies for later.


36. Breads (Union Square)

Where:

18 E 16th St, New York, NY 10003

Why:

"I’m partial to their nutty seedy swiss muesli roll, which is perfect with a cup of coffee," says Executive Editor Joanna Sciarrino. "But their pastries (plain and almond croissants, pain au chocolat, raisin bun, cinnamon roll, apple strudel) are also excellent, and they have perfect little egg-and-cheese sandwiches if that’s more your style. Don’t leave without a babka and a few olive and cheese breadsticks for later."


37. Michaeli Bakery

Where:

115A Division St, New York, NY 10002

Why:

Dead-perfect burekas, rugelach, and kugelhopf.


38. Sullivan Street Bakery (Chelsea)

Where:

236 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

Why:

"Sullivan Street Bakery on 9th Avenue is my go-to pre-work breakfast spot," says Laperruque. "And not just because it's right near the Food52 office. It's cozy, never gets too loud, and I love its clear-cut menu (no big decisions for me before 9 a.m., please). You could get the egg-prosciutto tartine or a wedge of olive oil cake. But my usual is an eggplant-sized loaf of bread. I tear it by hand and dip it in the olive oil they keep by the milk and sugar. The leftovers turn into lunch and dinner—something to look forward to for the rest of the day."


39. Orwashers (Upper East Side & Other Locations)

Where:

Upper East Side location: 308 E 78th St, New York, NY 10075
Upper West Side location: 440 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024
Boerum Hill location: 292 Ashland Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Hunts Point location: 1187 E 156th St, The Bronx, NY 10474

Why:

"Orwashers has an amazing array of baked goods for any time of day, but I love to pick up their Morning Bun for breakfast," says Director of Brand Strategy Grace Montgomery. "It combines the best elements of a croissant and cinnamon roll into a perfect buttery, flaky, chewy creation."


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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner.

2 Comments

Liz July 25, 2019
The hands down best BBQ pork bun in Manhattan is Mee Li Wah on Bayard St. Also, while the pancakes at Cafe Luluc are exceptional, the pancakes at East One on Court Street with Triple Berry Compote and Marscapone Cheese are right up there.
 
SydAnderson July 24, 2019
Joe’s Steamed Rice Rolls is one of my favorite stops when in SoHo. On my last visit to NYC I found myself there immeditalty following lunch just to get my fill. Will have to try Sun Hing Lung Co. next time to see who I like best!