A quick hop, skip and jump on the famous bright-orange ferry will deposit you in New York City’s southernmost borough, and the first thing you should do is station yourself in one of these restaurants for brunch on Staten Island.
The oft-forgotten borough of Staten Island is a bit like New York City’s own piece of suburbia: standalone houses, minivans toting kids to school and enough greenery to remind you that Manhattan is hardly a verdant paradise. Although the island has become famous for its wealth of old-school Italian joints and Sri Lankan restaurants over the years, it’s also home to plenty of restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops worth bussing over the Verrazano Bridge for. While lists of the best brunch spots in New York often leave out the outer boroughs, you’d be remiss not to travel over New York Harbor to sample the best breakfasts and brunches on Staten Island.
With two locations on Staten Island – one on each tip – Project Brunch is, unsurprisingly, all about the beloved weekend meal. The menu boasts everything from eggs made every way to pancakes, waffles, French toast, sandwiches and burgers. The sweets are certainly extra-sweet and dizzyingly fun: pancakes are swirled with sweet cream-cheese frosting and marshmallows, waffles are deep-fried and rolled in cinnamon and sugar and hunks of banana bread French toast are crowned with walnut crumbles and cinnamon cream-cheese drizzles. There’s also a rotating specials list, which has included eggnog waffles and pastrami pizza.
Just a few blocks from the Staten Island Ferry, Beso is a Spanish tapas restaurant, but the food allows you to travel from the Iberian Peninsula to Mexico and Cuba, too. Brunch is a buzzy affair; for a mere $25 per person, you’ll get a three-course feast: one entrée, the soup of the day or a salad and dessert, along with a complimentary beverage (choose from a mimosa, bloody mary or sangria). Enjoy dishes like a Cuban omelet whisked with shredded pork, ham and cheese; steak and eggs flanked by a mound of mashed potatoes; and thick slabs of French toast loaded with fruit and bacon. Polish everything off with a slice of soft tres leches cake or sopapillas (fried dough) drizzled with espresso sauce.
Housed in a charming manor overlooking the picturesque Clove Lakes, The Stone House serves an upscale three-course brunch on Sundays. As you dine under high ceilings and next to a soaring stone fireplace, you’ll begin brunch with a basket of warm cheddar-corn muffins swiped with chipotle honey butter and a complimentary brunch cocktail. Larger plates run the gamut from cookie butter flapjacks to smoked salmon tacos and breakfast croissant sliders, brimming with eggs, brown-sugar bacon and cheddar. You’ll conclude with dessert (think soft slices of cheesecake and cookie butter mousse), all for $29.95.
Lakruwana initially opened in Manhattan in 1995 before moving to Staten Island in 2004, bringing its homey Sri Lankan cuisine to the island. In this iteration, the cozy, brick-lined dining room is decked out with Buddha statues and painted masks. On weekends, there’s an all-day buffet where a long table is lined with clay pots kept warm by flickering flames. These unassuming bowls are filled with sweet deviled chicken, curry plastered with shards of pineapple and yellow lentils steeped in coconut milk. They’re best paired with edible bowls made from crisped-up rice and coconut flour, a thrilling addition that you simply eat with your hands.
This low-key coffee shop tinged with local color is all about coffee and tea, and offers a slew of teas, bubble teas, coffees and frappés, but it’s also a great place to get Belgian waffles. Nurse a mug of coffee as you wait for your crisp waffle to arrive, which can be designed to your liking: choose from toppings like caramel sauce, graham crackers, fruit and chocolate chips. If you’re looking for something a little less sweet, the kitchen also cooks up croissant sandwiches, bagels and pastries.
On weekends, lines snake out of the door at this quaint ’50s-style diner outfitted with red-leather chairs, a black-and-white checkered floor and a counter with swiveling stools. Breakfast is served daily, replete with funky, avant-garde dishes like the famed chicken and waffles slathered with bacon-onion jam, melted cheese and chipotle mayo. There’s typical diner fare, too, like eggs, stacks of pancakes, croissant French toast and towering burgers, but you’d be remiss not to wash it all down with one of the many milkshakes (Cherry cheesecake! S’mores! Banana walnut!) served in soaring glasses and meant to feed two.
For brunch with a side of entertainment, there’s Bayou to sing you the blues with its Cajun-style live-jazz brunch every weekend. The $29.95 three-course brunch starts with your choice of soup or salad and a cocktail, then moves on to New Orleans-influenced dishes like pork remoulade with andouille jambalaya and a creole omelet swirled with tasso ham, red peppers, tomatoes and basil. For dessert, dig into fried ice cream or a sweet crepe with a dollop of vanilla ice cream as the father-and-son jazz duo serenade you on their brassy instruments.
Backed by the non-profit organization A Very Special Place, Harvest Café employs adults with developmental disabilities, teaching them food industry skills like customer service, indoor and outdoor restaurant maintenance, dishwashing and food preparation. After completing the program, many of the participants often go on to gain employment in the restaurant industry. At Harvest Café, diners are treated to morning dishes like creamy mascarpone polenta, warm bowls of oatmeal and four riffs on eggs benedict, and on Saturdays during brunch, nosh on omelets, chicken and waffles and spiced apple cake.
An Italian family-run bakery, Bruno’s has been churning out sugar-dusted bombolini and squat nubs of coffee cake since 1973. Breakfast is served Tuesdays to Fridays, with brunch on weekends, in the unfussy dining room, where plates overflowing with eggs benedict, berry-topped waffles and breakfast pizza perpetually land on tables. In the front half of the bakery is a pastry case jammed with house-made pastries and sweets, like glazed donuts and flaky cornets piped with Nutella, and behind the counter you’ll find baristas pouring coffee into paper to-go cups.