Home to institutions like Lincoln Center and Columbia University, Manhattan’s Upper West Side provides a taste of Old New York. Also on the menu are old-school Jewish delis and grocery stores, while contemporary takes on the tea room and the classic American brunch bring the residential neighborhood into modern times. Here are the best brunch spots on the Upper West Side.
Pickles hold a special place in the hearts and stomachs of New Yorkers, who’ve been making and selling them since the 1860s. Jacob’s Pickles keeps the tradition alive, serving its handmade products in pickle and cheese patty melts and hot and honey chicken sandwiches. Tip: Get an order of pickles for the table, and try not to fight over the last sour green tomato or hot sour cuke.
Pizza and sushi roll from Peacefood's vegan menu | Courtesy of Peacefood
For cuisine with a conscience, Peacefood Cafe offers a globally inspired array of vegan concoctions. Veggie-heavy raw pizza is joined by a popular Japanese pumpkin sandwich and a variety of juices and smoothies on the menu. Located just two blocks from iconic Central Park, Peacefood is a perfect place to fuel up for a day outdoors.
Good Enough to Eat has been the Upper West Sider’s destination for “good old-fashioned American food” since it opened in 1981. Brunch plates including apple pancakes, pumpkin French toast, and a smoked salmon-stuffed “Upper West Side Omelette” are as beloved now as they were then. Retro wall hangings and wholesome holiday decorations fit right in the residential neighborhood.
Dine like locals at Barney Greengrass, a no-frills delicatessen serving Upper West Side classics such as hot pastrami sandwiches, lox-topped bagels, and homemade matzo ball soup. A popular neighborhood spot since the early 1900s, Barney Greengrass promises an authentic, Old New York experience, complete with specialty Jewish foods, a cash-only policy, and entertaining people-watching.
Alice’s Tea Cup proves tea parties aren’t just for kids. Here, string fairy lights guide patrons to the dining room, where bread pudding-style French toast, scones Benedict, and crepes with homemade peanut butter are washed down by over a hundred different teas. Alice in Wonderland décor and asweet scone selection caters to the neighborhood’s many families.
Smoked salmon is the signature dish of the Upper West Side, though local seafood fans are known to change things up at The Mermaid Inn. Here, the neighborhood’s favorite food group is nearly unrecognizable in dishes like yellowtail ceviche with yuzu and lava salt and beer-battered fish tacos with pickled jalapeño.
Boulud Sud’s close proximity to Lincoln Center attracts a cultured clientele, who loves the spot for its elegant Mediterranean dishes and its celebrity chef. Daniel Boulud transforms weekend brunch into an affair worth marking on one’s calendar; unique dishes such as lemon saffron spaghetti and ratatouille with “oeuf mollet,” a recipe from Boulud’s grandmother, are served alongside cocktails crafted from seasonal ingredients.
Hotel Restaurant, Cuban, South American, Caribbean, $$$
Calle Ocho (that’s Spanish for “eighth street”) stands out as one of the neighborhood’s few Latin restaurants. With over 2,300 raving Yelp reviews, it may also be its best. Taste the Cuban skirt steak with Latin pork-fried rice and complimentary sangria, all part of the spot’s efforts to bring Miami to Manhattan, before adding your own recommendation to that number.
Sarabeth’s is an Upper West Side staple, for good reason. It’s located within walking distance of sought-after attractions like The American Museum of Natural History and Central Park, and it’s family-friendly. Throw in all-American dishes like “Adult Grilled Cheese” with cream of tomato soup and fruit-topped buttermilk pancakes, and this convenient eatery becomes even more crowd-pleasing.