Photo: Erica Olsen via Flickr
Manhattan’s Upper West Side isn’t exactly the hottest neighbourhood for nightlife, but it has definitely emerged as a foodie destination, with a number of spots worthy of the trek for that sacred NYC brunch.For a change of pace, check them out and make a day of it with a museum visit or a stroll through Central Park afterward. For the best quality, value, service and ambiance, here are five UWS brunch favourites.
Best French Toast: Old John’s Luncheonette
If Cheers was a luncheonette, it would have been Old John’s. The larger than life, heart-felt greeting you receive upon stepping through the front door draws you in like you’re the special visitor they’ve been waiting for all morning. Happily, the charm of Old John’s doesn’t stop there. The excellent customer service that continues throughout your meal, the spacious booths perfect for Sunday morning brunch lounging, and the extremely affordable prices are still just the icing on the cake. The real show stopper is the French Toast, the best on the Upper West Side. Soft on the inside, crispy outside and heaped with cinnamon stewed apples, they’re deliciousness for a mere $8.
Location: 148 W. 67th Street, between Amsterdam and Broadway
Best Diner: Big Nick’s
Big Nick’s is everything a diner should be: open 23 hours (except between 5 AM and 6 AM), a ridiculously long menu, breakfast served all day and appropriately greasy. As if the 26 page menu isn’t enough, the walls are cluttered with signs that call out additional items. It’s almost overload, so avoid menu paralysis by checking it out before you head over. While you can get anything at any time, they specialize in burgers and pizza. The Sumo, a 1lb steer burger, is as big as your face. If adventure over size is your thing, try the ostrich, buffalo or lamb burgers. It’s great for late night munchies, really cheap and the portions are big.
Location: 2175 Broadway at 77th
Tip: There’s another Big Nick’s on 71st and Columbus, but the menu and diner experience pales in comparison to the real deal on Broadway.
Most Unique: Popover Cafe
30 years ago, frustrated by the UWS culinary options at the time, Popover Cafe owner Carol Baer set out to create a place she craved herself: one that paid out on the trifecta of taste, ambiance and value. Not particularly mindful of being trendy, she followed her heart and pulled off a completely unique offering that’s been drawing loyal patrons for three decades. The signature popovers are heavenly; perfectly light, airy and served warm. The “Eggcetera” brunch menu reflects Carol’s whimsy with flavours and nowhere else in Manhattan are you served a popover rather than toast with every brunch item.
Tip: Ask for your popovers to be served with your entree, rather than before, and don’t forget the strawberry butter.
Location: 551 Amsterdam Avenue, between 86th and 87th, entrees average $12.
Every list needs at least one trendy place, and on the UWS, that translates to long lines. Decent competition for this honour comes from Isabella’s and Good Enough to Eat, but my vote goes to Sarabeth’s. There’s a reason why she’s won numerous accolades over the years and discerning New Yorkers keep flocking there in droves: her baked goods and famous fruit spreads, which are now sold around the world. Sarabeth’s started with breakfast and continues to turn out tasty, wholesomely delicious fare. Egg dishes and omelettes are made with all-natural eggs and served with her legendary muffins and preserves.
Location: 423 Amsterdam Avenue and 80th, entrees average $14
French Flair: Bistro Cassis
For a few extra bucks, they throw in a Mimosa or Bloody Mary, making the prix fixe menu reasonably priced at $18 compared to other up-market destinations, particularly considering the quality of the food and impeccable service. The menu selections are a nod to French Bistro fare including crepes, berry french toast and herb omelettes. It’s low key, you’ll be seated quickly and if you feel like lingering over your brunch, Cassis is a great choice.
Location: 225 Columbus Avenue, between 70th and 71st
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