It's quite possible that Los Angeles is the ultimate brunch destination, with tourists crowding hotspots like République for weekday brunch and lining up at The Grove for Cronuts and coffee. But if any city gives our devoted brunch culture a run for its money, it's the Big Apple - so it should be no surprise that I jumped at the chance to start my holiday vacation a little early and take a quick trip to New York City. While we were only there a few nights, we managed to sneak in plenty of delicious meals - getting lost in the city's massive museums and basking in the glow of all the glittering holiday decorations requires fuel, after all.
Jack's Wife Freda
New York's frigid winter air was hardly a deterrent for the crowds of well-dressed millenials lined up outside Jack's Wife Freda; some parka-clad brunchers even dared to accept a table on the chilly sidewalk - that's true brunch dedication if I've ever seen it. As popular as the cozy, minimal café seems to be (even on a weekday morning), service is swift and friendly, and you'll be hard-pressed to reach the bottom of your coffee cup before it's refilled. It's the bits of Middle Eastern flair set this menu apart: a crisp and fluffy waffle is infused with fragrant rosewater and comes topped with creamy labneh and honey syrup, while perfectly poached eggs are served atop tangy slices of griddled halloumi and tomatoes.
Russ & Daughters
A trip to New York City is incomplete without a bagel and lox for breakfast, and if you're going to go for smoked fish, you may as well do it right and head over to Russ & Daughters. These days, you can partake of this New York institution's incredible smoked fish at either the shop (owned and operated by the Russ family since 1914), or at the café a few blocks down, where you can linger over an egg cream at the old-school soda fountain bar or cozy up in a booth with a mug of joe. We kept it simple and ordered The Classic Board: tender sliced Gaspe Nova Salmon, a mound of fluffy cream cheese, crisp sliced tomato, onion, and capers, and of course, a toasted everything bagel. The smoked salmon was delicate and buttery, and was easily some of the best we've had.
Caracas Arepa Bar
When traveling with a partner (romantic or not), it's a good practice to allow each party to choose at least one non-negotiable destination per trip, so neither party feels cheated by the (let's face it, brunch-centric) itinerary. My husband's non-negotiable stop this time just happened to be the star of the entire trip: Caracas Arepa Bar, a tiny Venezuelan restaurant in the Lower East Side with milk crates for chairs that could almost be called a hole in the wall. We've both had our fair share of arepas in our days (my husband's family is partially Venezuelan), but these were special: the fillings were bold and flavorful, stuffed generously inside sliced arepas that were crisp on the outside and pillowy on the inside. All at once sweet, soft, salty, and oh-so-satisfying, this is the kind of food that warms both your belly and your heart. Around Christmas, Caracas also serves hallacas, a Venezuelan version of a tamale wrapped in a banana leaf and filled with mixed meats and vegetables. These are a rare and delicious treat, and are not to be missed if you happen in around the holidays.
If you've made it this far, you'll be happy to know that I've saved the best for last: Cookshop. This bright and airy spot is conveniently just steps away from The High Line (making it a perfect spot to pop in for breakfast before a day of exploring Chelsea), though it deserves to be a destination all its own. Don't expect over-the-top, gimmicky Instagram bait here - what makes Cookshop special is its ability to elevate simple, humble food into something truly special. Take my husband's meal, The Breakfast Board: two soft boiled eggs, housemade almond butter, jam, whole grain toast, and market lettuce salad. Simple components that you've certainly tasted before, but that somehow, when sourced from the best possible purveyors and when prepared with care, become something exceptional. But the best thing we tasted here (which was also the best thing I ate on the trip) was without contest was the Poached Eggs Cilbir. At the base is a layer of creamy fresh pressed yogurt, which is then smeared with a boldly flavored spiced sweet potato hummus. On top, two beautifully poached eggs and a generous drizzle of smoked chili oil. Crisp sourdough is served alongside to sop up this flavorful concoction, though you'll still wrestle with the temptation to lick the bottom of the bowl once you're done.
Of course, not every meal eaten can be brunch, and there were plenty of indulgences that were enjoyed in the dark of night, or when we didn't have the camera handy. Roberta's was a favorite stop for thin-crust, ooey-gooey pizza and a formidable wine list - and of course, a peek at Heritage Radio Network's studio, where one of our favorite podcasts, Radio Cherry Bombe, is recorded. For something both bitter and sweet, we'll never forget the delicious halva and freshly milled tahini from Seed + Mill - I've already mail-ordered plenty of this delicious stuff, and am admittedly addicted. If street food is your jam, a huge gyro or falafel platter drizzled in hot sauce and yogurt from The Halal Guys can't be beat, especially on a chilly evening. Finally, our hotel's restaurant, The Vine, surprised us with both its delicious, healthy food and its gorgeous, comfortable design. The vegetable-centered, perfectly-seasoned bowls were just what we needed after a long flight, and the Avocado & Green Pea Toast with sprouts, lemon zest, and poached eggs gave L.A. a run for its money.
Did we miss your favorite spot in NYC? Let us know in the comments, so we can make sure to check it out next time we're in town!