NYC eats :: 5 breakfast & brunch hotspots

I honestly had no idea where to even begin with our New York trip - pretty much everything was a highlight for me, and we just did so much in a week! However, I thought it only made sense to kick off the NY posts with what all good adventures should start with: a hearty breakfast. 

Let me preface the inevitably long and multiple food related posts from the holiday with this. E and I love food, it's one of our biggest passions in life. We both believe that it's not just for fuel, that it brings people together, that a good meal is like live music - you experience it once and it's gone, but it makes us happier than any material luxuries could. 

With that being said, and with NYC being one of the most exciting culinary cities we've been to, we made experiencing the restaurants there a priority. We saved up to be able to splash the cash on food in a way we don't usually, and we did a ton of research before going, especially collecting recommendations from people whose opinions we trust. So, basically what I'm saying is, we ate. A lot. And I loved every single bite.

Now let's get into the 5 places we enjoyed breakfast/brunch at, all of which I would recommend, but you'll see I have my favourites.

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Jack's Wife Freda
224 Lafayette St. 
(Area: Nolita, Soho)

I'd seen this place pop up on Instagram and heard of it through word of mouth so many times, that I made it our first stop the morning after we arrived. As we were staying on the Lower East Side, it was a nice 15 minutes walk or so to this branch, and we got seats right away around 9am - but it quickly filled up a few minutes later. It's a very hip, Jewish all day bistro owned by a married couple (Jack and Frieda, of course!), serving a select but interesting menu of casual comfort food with a twist. 

E tried the Rosewater Waffle with berries and yogurt, and I went for the Green Shakshuka with challah toast - how beautiful do both dishes look?! I loved the idea of the green shakshuka and it worked perfectly, the taste of avocados and herbs coming through with the runny eggs, with the challah to soak it all up (I'm now obsessed with challah). E enjoyed his waffle, too, and both plates were just the right amount of food, considering we had a hefty lunch later on. I also loved the menu design, and the little fun touches to the sugar packets! Oh, and we had free refills of our coffee, which we found out was quite common in similar places.

Prices: Waffle $10, Shakshuka $12, before tax

Black Seed Bagels
170 Elizabeth St. 
(Area: Nolita)

This was the morning we woke up to what a real bagel tastes like. Trust me, it's nothing like the ones you get anywhere in London. Apparently, it's something to do with the water being so different there, as bagels are boiled before they're baked? Anyway, whatever it is, it's magical.

This place was recommended to us by multiple people, and I wish I could have brought home a branch back here. I completely forgot to take photos of E's bagel (smoked salmon and cream cheese), which I have regrets about as it was a beauty and possibly better than mine, but you'll just have to imagine it. I got pickled lox, red onion and sprouts on an "everything" bagel, and it was amazing. We debated going back there for another breakfast, but our curiosity to try other places won. When we go back to NYC, we'll see you again BSB. 

There are a few seats inside, and I also grabbed a green juice from The Butcher's Daughter next door, which we also wanted to try but didn't manage.

Prices: $7-15 per bagel, depending on filling

Russ & Daughters
127 Orchard St. 
(Area: Nolita)

Although this place was also on the recommendations list, I wasn't particularly planning on going there. But when I saw that we were staying just 5 minutes away from the restaurant (they also have a shop, which came first), we decided to give it a try - and wow, I am so incredibly glad that we did.

First of all, we got there around 9:45am not realising that it opens at 10am, and there was already a crowd of people waiting to get in. Obviously, this made us quite excited - anywhere that gets a queue going on a weekday morning must be good, surely? 

There are lots of Jewish delis and cafés in the area, this being another, and I immediately fell head over heels in love with the interiors of this place. It's all white tiles and bright blue accents and I was swooning all over it. It specialises in seafood, and I felt the design somehow matched that so well.

As for the food, it was definitely not something I'd tried anywhere else - being Japanese, I can stomach fish at any time of the day, and went for one of the specials, Holland Herring Sandwich on a challah bun with chopped vidalia onions and cornichons. I was over the moon with my pick - the fish was so tender and flavourful, the challah fluffy as a cloud, and the pickles and onion added just the right amount of acidity. E loved Lower Sunny Side with eggs, smoked salmon and potato latke - I tried a bit of the latke and it was terrific.

Although we nearly left without dessert, what we had tried was so good that we just couldn't do it! Our first pick was the Honey Cake with caramelised apple ice cream, but E spotted the Babka French Toast  with chocolate babka, sour cream and berries, and when the waiter told us it was his favourite, we had to go all out. Thank goodness we did, because the french toast was out of this world amazing. The bread itself with swirled with chocolate, but the whole dish is not too sweet, surprisingly light and melts in your mouth. The honey cake was also great but a little on the sweet side - if you go to R&S, you absolutely must order the french toast.

Prices: Latke with salmon $14, Herring sandwich $9, French toast $10, Honey cake $9, before tax

Shapiro's
120 Rivington St.
(Area: Lower East Side)

This was the brunch that refuelled us after our 10K race on Halloween! And refuel us it did. We went there with our friend who was kindly letting us stay with him for most of our trip, and he chose a local gem for us to have brunch together. The inside is so New York cool I can't take it - is it a bar? A diner? A café? It could be anything. 

The portions there are very generous, and I struggled to eat even half of my plate - but then again, I did choose a very filling dish. Mine was called Julio's Breakfast, which was egg toast, fried eggs, avocado and anchovies. It probably sounds unappealing to most, but what did I tell you about me and fish? I also had a delicious bloody mary, a drink I have maybe once or twice a year, and it was top notch. E had the Banana Foster French Toast which was pretty immense and possibly the winner of the table, and P went for classic Eggs Royale, which is always a good choice. We also ordered Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes to share, which I managed one bite of - I liked what I tried though! Why are pancakes so much better in the States?!

It's a great, casual place to hang out on a weekday morning, fill up with a feast and slot right in with the hip Lower East Side crowd.

Prices: Julio's Breakfast $10, Eggs $12, French Toast $10, Pancakes $10, Bloody Mary $11, before tax

ABC Kitchen
35 East 18th St. 
(Area: Union Square, Flatiron)

If you want down-to-earth NYC chic, this is the place for you. Notoriously hard to get a reservation, I booked several weeks in advance, and managed to snag a weekend brunch spot. Now, the chef behind ABC Kitchen (Jean-Georges Vongerichten) is known for being a little gimmicky with his restaurants, so I was slightly afraid that ABC would turn out to be more style than substance. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised and we had a lovely meal there.

Of course, I'm a huge fan of the interiors - it might look a little too Pinterest-y for some, but I loved it. The crockery is mismatched yet elegant, we had giant mugs for our refillable coffee which was a big plus for me, and I felt like we were just casual New Yorkers, enjoying brunch on the more luxurious side on a Sunday morning.

The highlight for both of us was the Crab Toast that we shared, with lemon aioli - simply incredible. I would eat that every day if I could, it was so fresh and perfectly executed. E and I also shared the Eggs Benedict with Flying Pigs Farm ham and Buttermilk Pancakes with lemon curd and maple syrup. When the pancakes arrived, I thought they looked a little flat and small, but they were light as air, fluffy and melty at the same time - I'm doing a terrible job describing it! The lemon curd was so delicious, and a genius pairing with the pancakes. The eggs were great, too - they pride themselves in sourcing local, organic ingredients, which lifts the standard eggs benedict to another level.

To be honest, it's probably over-priced for what it is, but you're paying for the setting and the hype - and it was fun to try somewhere like that for our last morning in New York. You definitely need to book, and at least a week or two in advance for peak times.

Prices: Crab Toast $16, Eggs Benedict $20, Pancakes $17, before tax

I hope you've enjoyed the brunch chronicles of New York - so much more to come!