Best NYC Cafes for Brunch

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Why does the decision about where to have brunch always involve an argument?  Probably because too few places offer everything we want;  good food, good coffee, good space and, of course, good company.  Quick!  Think of your last brunching experiences that included all of that (eating companions not included).  I’m willing to bet you either had an obvious answer, and exceptional experience, or paused to scratch your head for a few moments.  Perhaps you’re still thinking.  I wouldn’t be surprised.

After a long week of work, sitting down over a simple, slightly indulgent breakfast with a thick-ceramic mug of delicious coffee (drip or espresso, take your pick) and a magazine, book or friend — maybe all three — is a much-needed relief.  You can take the watch off your wrist, keep your phone in your bag and refuse to glance at your planner.  Unlike a restaurant, which can feel harried and cramped during the brunch rush, a cafe lets you linger and set your own pace for, well, as long as you’d like.

But, you’re hungry.  It’s the weekend and you want a breakfast that is a step above cold cereal.  You want something satisfying and tastier than a depressing bakery muffin or flaccid croissant.  Here are the best NYC cafes for finding good coffee, good food, good atmosphere and possibly good company as well.

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1.  Milk Bar (Prospect Heights) – Milk Bar is one of the best kept brunch secrets in Brooklyn.  The menu is mostly poached eggs on toast, but with a billion different varieties to make sure you never get bored.  If, for some reason, you’re not in an eggy mood, the yogurt and pastries are fantastic as well.  They serve counter culture coffee.

2.  The Smile -  The Smile is more restaurant than cafe, but the vibe and food are spot on.  Located in a basement on bond street, the menu is filled with non-fussy dishes that you might make at home, but done about 1000x better.  The yogurt with stewed fruit and almonds is shockingly good and the almond butter served with the toast is freshly ground in-house.

3.  Irving Farm Coffee – A hidden gem of good food and good coffee in Gramercy … and just about everywhere else in the city!  The coffee is served in diner mugs and there are plenty of tables for lingering.  True, the menu is filled with bagels and granola, but these unfussy options taste much better when coming out of their kitchen instead of your beat-up toaster.  The coffee is roasted at their farm upstate, so you can feel all hip and locavore while sipping on your single-origin drip.  We won’t mention where the coffee was grown, or the bagels made for that matter.

4.  Ground Support - This Soho cafe never ceases to surprise.  The coffee is top notch is one of the all-too-scarce New York cafes that brews Intelligentsia coffee.  Order a drink — the cappuccino is top notch — and some food, the bagels are always good and the nut bars are New York’s answer to the flapjack.  The cafe is always crowded, but the space is large and you won’t feel rushed or worry about finding a seat.  Go later in the day for a variety of sandwiches, all made to order.

5.  Cafe Grumpy – Depending on which location you head to, Cafe Grumpy can be hit-or-miss.  That’s why I’d recommend the Chelsea or Greenpoint location, especially for your weekend breakfast.  Both locations offer ample seating, unique baked breakfast treats made that day by Cafe Grumpy’s bakery and some of the best coffee New York has to offer.  If you’re feeling fancy, get one of their expensive-but-rare pour overs.  The baked goods change everyday, you can find out what the offerings are that day by following Cafe Grumpy on twitter, but there will always be something new you’ve never tried.  I’m looking forward to sampling some beet-goat cheese-dill focaccia and the rosemary-vanilla-pineapple scone.

What’s your favorite place to get coffee and breakfast at the weekends?  Do you have one?

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