Home to world-famous landmarks, outdoor entertainment and more, New York City’s Central Park boasts a lot to see and do. Fuel up for a day of exploring at a nearby brunch and breakfast spot.
Sip a flat white at Bluestone Lane
Bluestone Lane serves Australian-influenced dishes | Courtesy of Bluestone Lane / Ben Hider Photography
Directly across the street from Central Park and set snugly next door to the Church of the Heavenly Rest is Australian café mini-chain Bluestone Lane. You’ll find a host of light, healthy offerings, such as coconut quinoa and oat porridge; banana bread topped with ricotta, toasted pecans, fruit and honey; and the requisite avocado smash. During the warmer months, diners spill out onto the sidewalk café, eating and sipping flat whites with Central Park as their backdrop.
It’s hard to ignore the lengthy wait at Sarabeth’s, but it does make sense; the acclaimed spot has been an Upper East Side institution since 1983. In the white tablecloth-clad dining room, breakfast and brunch run the gamut, from lemon ricotta pancakes, frittatas and omelets to cornmeal-crusted English muffins. Although you’d be remiss to pass on Sarabeth’s basket of muffins, you can always grab a couple of sweets at the bakery counter on your way out.
The Alsatian charm is in full effect at Café d’Alsace, from the berries tucked into the thin sheaths of crepes to the soft, flaky croissants. After all, at the helm of the kitchen is Philippe Roussel, a third-generation chef who calls France home. Here, Roussel brings a bit of France to the Upper East Side in the form of croque-madames teeming with bubbling cheese and a sunny-side-up egg, and a delicate crepe soufflé with passion fruit coulis.
The Mermaid Inn is a quiet sanctuary in the Upper West Side. Seafood-forward brunch dishes like smoked salmon eggs benedict are offset with creative cocktails like a pomegranate margarita and the Mermaid Mary, doused with Old Bay-spiced Mary mix.
Good Enough to Eat has been crafting simple, homey American breakfast fare on the Upper West Side since 1981. The servers may be surly and the crowds outrageous, but the food is undeniably good enough to eat. Eggs can come just about any way – whisked into omelets, poached atop corned beef hash, scrambled in breakfast tacos – while pancakes are studded with chocolate crumbles, apple slices, oats and cornmeal.
Jacob’s Pickles has a variety of biscuit breakfast sandwiches on its menu | Courtesy of Jacob’s Pickles
Pickled food, unsurprisingly, features heavily on the menu here – there are pickled eggs, carrots, tomatoes, jalapeños and cucumbers – but this Upper West Side establishment knows its way around biscuit breakfast sandwiches, too. Choose from 14 varieties, which can come flush with sausage gravy, cheesy grits and house-made preserves. After feasting on pancakes and grits, you can walk it all off. After all, Central Park West is only two blocks away.
Dine at Barney Greengrass, the Upper West Side’s famous Jewish deli
Deli, American, $$$
Every neighborhood in New York City has their local Jewish deli establishment – from 2nd Avenue Deli in Murray Hill to Shelsky’s in Brooklyn Heights – but there’s nothing quite like Barney Greengrass (also known as The Sturgeon King), which has been an Upper West Side staple since 1908. The unassuming deli is home to an array of smoked fish (think whitefish, sable and gravlax), which can appear as thinly sliced pink sheaths of lox cloaking a bagel schmeared with cream cheese, or tucked into omelets or hot sandwiches. Snag one of the few tables to dine in, or order at the counter to take your own bag of smoked fish, whitefish salad and berry-filled blintzes on the go.
There’s seemingly always a wait to get into The Penrose, especially on weekends when brunch is served. This half bar, half restaurant certainly knows a thing or two about cocktails. A particular highlight is Mister Pink, made with pink-peppercorn-infused tequila, hibiscus and lime. Once seated, sample fun dishes like French toast sticks (to be directly plunged into brown-butter maple syrup), mac and cheese bites, and fried chicken and waffles.
Even if you weren’t planning on visiting The Met Breuer (we won’t tell), you can still duck into Flora Bar, the restaurant tucked in the museum’s basement (anyone can enter without paying museum entry). Brunch consists of a slew of raw bar options, small dishes like croquettes with potato and raclette, and mains like shakshuka with rye flatbread. But if you’d prefer to dine and dash, you can snag a cup of coffee and a couple of pastries, including sticky buns, scones and cookies, at the counter.
Diners at Flora Bar can either eat in or order to go
Courtesy of Flora Bar
Hit up Madison Avenue’s greasy diner, Viand
Madison Avenue certainly seems an unlikely spot to house a greasy diner, but sandwiched between single-family brownstones and fancy high-fashion boutiques is Viand, a minuscule diner founded in 1976. The narrow, hallway-like space is divided into cushioned booths on one side and a counter, dotted with swiveling chairs facing the kitchen, on the other. The teeny kitchen specializes in your favorite diner fare: eggs every way, towering stacks of pancakes, thick slabs of French toast and milkshakes. Here, you may be sitting elbow-to-elbow with your neighbor, but that’s OK; you’ll also be sipping bubbly egg creams and dousing pancakes with an unending supply of maple syrup.
Alice’s has two locations (the only difference is the Upper East Side site is larger than the Upper West Side’s) to pinky-up for high tea. Both establishments are Alice in Wonderlandthemed and lean into the fantastical and whimsical of their namesake. The menu is strewn with illustrations of a falling Alice and ticking clocks, along with dishes like The Mad Hatter, a tiered platter of scones and dainty sandwiches. Breakfast options also include pumpkin pancakes, create-your-own crepes and a variety of tea, poured into charmingly mismatched cups and saucers.
You don’t need to pay the Jewish Museum entry fee to eat at Russ & Daughters, the beloved Lower East Side appetizing shop that also has a dine-in location in the museum. Just like at its downtown location, there are dense knishes, challah bread pudding, and boards of smoked sable and kippered salmon, ready to be plopped atop bagels and bialys. After, you can look around the museum or simply hop across the street to Central Park.