The Yummiest Brunches
Fourteen scrumptious reasons to sleep late and eat lots.
10 Perfect Brunch Spots
by julia sexton | photography by john fortunate
Brunch: a distinctly modern, distinctly American meal that blends the homey pleasures of breakfast with the hedonism of late-rising weekends. It’s a recent phenomenon, cropping up around America in the last few decades.
Or so many people assume. Actually, brunch is neither American nor modern in origin, having first appeared in an English magazine, Hunter’s Weekly, in 1895. The idea was that brunch, with its appealing mix of breakfast standards and more substantial luncheon dishes, was the perfect meal to greet hunting parties returning from the field. In their zealous race to get at the foxes, those horse-and-hound types probably skipped a proper breakfast. By midday, when they returned from their exertions, they were desperate for eggs, bacon, toast, jam—plus even more substantial fare like roasts. Blearily seeing a good thing, the less-than-sporty country-house crowd also warmed to the concept of brunch. They saw that the midday meal was perfect for late risers, who may have been a little fragile after all-night carousing. By the 1930s, the world was taking its cues from the Gosford Park set: brunch was an international fashion, attaining fame in America at Chicago’s Ambassador Hotel.
Even though few of us live in English country houses, brunch’s democratic appeal is still the same. Whether Sunday mornings find you up and at ’em with tennis and golf, or whether your disposition is more sybaritic, brunch has something for everyone: the cozy breakfast foods that you love, as well as more hearty, lunch- and dinner-appropriate offerings. Plus, at brunch, it’s even okay to indulge in a glass or two of Champagne, though it’s better if it’s not hair-of-the-dog.
Below you’ll find Westchester’s best, relatively new, brunch spots, with a shorter round-up of the County’s favorite, tried-and-true classics.
2 Weaver St, Scarsdale
The à la carte menu at Backals offers a cosmopolitan take on the usual brunch options. While tasty standards like eggs benedict and omelets are on hand, so is an English breakfast (two eggs any style with bacon, bangers, potatoes, and grilled tomato); an American breakfast (two eggs any style, bacon, French toast, potatoes, and maple syrup); and our favorite, the Backals Turkish breakfast. This brightly-flavored platter comes with poached egg, hummus, cucumber/tomato salad, tahini-scented yogurt, and toasted pitas. It’s a satisfying combination of breakfast and lunch that won’t weigh you down. Also light is Backals’s ever-popular turkey burger. Stuffed with spinach and parmesan, it's the perfect antidote to Saturday night’s overindulgence.
Backals’s multi-story dining room offers lots of intimate people watching perches—although, when the weather is cool, the place to be is by the huge, ground floor hearth. There, on the chicly tiled floor, surrounded by stylish modern furnishings, it’s great to cozy up to a crisp glass of Prosecco, Champagne, or even a Bellini—the elegant peach and Champagne drink invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice. For abstainers, passion fruit iced tea is available, as is a good selection of gourmet hot teas.
While you’re at Backals, don’t miss its famous puffy sugar doughnuts—because, after all, aren’t doughnuts breakfast food? These almost impossibly light clouds, hinted with vanilla bean and orange zest, are the perfect indulgence to end your weekend with a bang.
19 Main St, Hastings-on-Hudson
One of the problems with brunch is that it’s not the healthiest meal of the week. Skipping the usual OJ, high-fiber cereal and fruit, Sunday brunchers are apt to indulge in a mountain of carb-laden, fatty, cholesterol-rich foods. Washed down with a couple of Champagnes, it’s really not a healthy start to your day.
You can feel a little better brunching at Bloom, Hastings-on-Hudson’s super-green, all-organic restaurant. Instead of cholesterol-rich pork sausage, look for healthier, better-fat buffalo sausage. Bloom’s eggs are both organic and locally raised, coming from Cowberry Farm of Claverack, New York, and even the sugar for your coffee has been replaced by low-glycemic-index agave syrup. Plus, if you’re the kind that gets depressed about the carbon-imprint of fancy water bottles, you can always get ultra-pure, triple-filtered tap water at Bloom. They even cook with the stuff.
Sounds great, but does Bloom’s healthier, all-organic brunch taste, well, brunch-y?
Absolutely. Bloom’s buffalo sausage is rich and beefy, while its eggs are tasty and super-fresh. All of Bloom’s juices are freshly squeezed, and you’ll never notice that the agave syrup isn’t sugar. Meanwhile, Bloom is serving some of the best buttermilk pancakes we’ve tasted (they manage to be both fluffy and substantial at the same time), and—for the real health nuts—organic oatmeal with Medjool dates, straw-berries, and bananas.
Don’t say it too loudly, but at Bloom, you can even get sugar for your coffee, butter for your toast, and even a Bloody Mary—made with organic Square One Vodka, of course.
14 Main St, Tarrytown
(914) 703-6550 www.chiboust.com
Owner Jill Rose, formerly of La Caravel and L’espinasse , certainly knows her way around a croissant. Her perfect, flakey, buttery arcs are a revelation after run-of-the-mill croissants—just one bite and you’ll be back for more.
We return to this tiny, sophisticated oasis in the heart of downtown Tarrytown as often as we can, and there’s no better excuse to do it than for Sunday brunch. There, in a chic, airy space highlighted by a towering original brick wall and Chiboust’s luminous resin bar, we’re always glad to tuck into Chef Vijay Raghavan’s take on eggs Benedict. In it, her croissants form the base for house-cured gravlax (it comes with smoked ham as well), poached eggs and sunny hollandaise sauce. Paired with a Bloody Mary or a kir royale, it’s a gentle entry to the last day of the weekend.
While we could just jump up to window-shop along bustling Main Street, we’ll always make time for Chiboust’s desserts. We love Chef Raghavan’s Parisian take on humble bread pudding: she butters her already buttery croissants, toasts them crisp, and then soaks the pieces in luscious vanilla custard. Baked until hot and puffy, this rich, buttery, vanilla-scented pudding will have you floating out the door and right through the rest of your weekend.
Flying Pig on Lexington
51 Lexington Ave, Mount Kisco (914)666-7445 www.pigcafe.com
Those looking for a locavore’s take on brunch can head over to the Pig, whose new digs (in the space that formerly housed Café Antico) affords them the luxury of alfresco brunches. As with the rest of the Pig’s menu, much of the restaurant’s brunch produce and meats are locally raised at Mount Kisco’s Cabbage Hill Farm.
For $21.95 per person (kids are just $11), brunch is served buffet style—yet this is no hotel extravaganza. Instead, the Flying Pig’s brunch is a well-edited selection of high-quality offerings, including an egg and omelet station; pancakes and waffles (with Cabbage Hill sausage and bacon); a variety of healthy salads (our tangy barley salad was a standout); the Pig’s famous pulled-pork sandwiches; a smoked salmon buffet with capers, cucumbers, and chopped hard-boiled egg; bagels from H&H; and breads—including luscious sticky buns—from Balthazar Bakery.
We tucked into perfectly cooked, over-easy eggs and heavenly, mildly smoky, very porky
Cabbage Hill bacon. Paired with half of a salmon-and-caper bagel and way too many bites of addictive sticky buns, we were glad for an unscheduled afternoon to spend digesting.
253 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich, CT
Gaia is housed in a local architectural standout, this one a former bank on Greenwich Avenue. Those bankers weren’t kidding when they built this space: it’s loaded with facetted columns, stunning arches and intersecting Catalon vaults, all lined with the beautiful herringbone patterning of Guastavino tiles. (You might recognize this turn-of-the-century architectural bling from the vaults in Grand Central Station or on Ellis Island.) Gaia’s gorgeous architectural skeleton is only enhanced by Tony Chi’s sophisticated design, whose simple, white-draped upholstery and tables give the space a clean, dreamy elegance. It’s a pretty place to spend a Sunday morning— and, lucky for us, they serve a Saturday brunch, too.
Brunch is a budget-friendly opportunity to visit this chic Greenwich restaurant. Along with a pricier à la carte menu, Gaia offers a $20 prix-fixe, which includes a mimosa or juice and coffee or hot tea. Our brunch favorite is Gaia’s authentic croque monsieur, that super-Gallic take on a ham and cheese sandwich. In it, gooey Swiss cheese and ham are layered between slices of bread, then dipped into egg and more cheese. The entire assembly is broiled until it’s speckled brown and bubbling, then it’s served alongside a huge stack of crisp and salty pommes frites and a green salad. Gaia’s buttermilk pancakes are also a treat: they’re served with an apple compote, bacon, or sausage and warm maple syrup.
One of the great things about Gaia is that the restaurant offers several delicious non-alcoholic drinks, so non-Champagne quaffers won’t feel left out. Along with the usual array of juices, Gaia offers lemonades in white peach and apricot-lime, Parisian-style hot chocolate, and house-infused iced teas in strawberry-mint and passion fruit-vanilla. While others might have ambitious plans for their clear-headed Sunday afternoons, we’ve found that, for us, it’s just a good idea to be sober while shopping along Greenwich Avenue.
22 Warburton Ave, Yonkers (914) 709-984
Soul food does brunch right with that old Southern classic, chicken and waffles. Bridging breakfast and lunch, what could be more perfect? We’re talking warm waffles, slathered with butter and syrup, resting below a pile of crunchy, peppery, perfectly fried chicken. It sounds odd to us Northerners, but trust us—it’s brunch heaven.
The good news is that you don’t have to travel south to enjoy it. The dish is a staple on Lejends’s Caribbean/Soul fusion brunch menu. Still not sure? Try its tropical take on eggs Benedict (two poached eggs over crab cakes with curried hollandaise sauce), or, for Dixie-philes, chicken fried steak with two eggs, cream gravy, and home fries. More traditional brunchers can indulge in fluffy buttermilk pancakes with applewood-smoked turkey bacon. To drink, there’s fiery house-made ginger beer or sweet and herbal sorrel drink.
Adventurous or not, it would be a sin to leave Lejends’s bright, tropical-themed dining room without an order of the warm, gritty, intensely corn-flavored corn bread or fluffy hot biscuits with creamy sausage gravy. When feasting on these luscious treats (loaded with sweet butter, of course), we’ve found that it’s best to repeat this mantra: “Sunday only comes once a week.”
100 Titicus Rd, North Salem (914) 277-2301; www.purdyshomestead.net
Visiting Purdys Homestead, set back at a quaint crossroads in North Salem, is a lot like going back in time. This small 18th-century house still has its original paneling, tiny rooms, and creaking, wide-board floors. While we usually can eat privately in one of the building’s intimate dining rooms, it’s also nice to sit on the Homestead’s sunny, enclosed porch. There you can gaze out over a wide vista of quiet roads, old houses, and turning autumn leaves.
The Homestead’s bread basket is as warm and inviting as the cozy old house itself, and features delightful house-made cheddar/chive biscuits and two-lobed Parker House rolls. These comforting little freebies are definitely worth fighting your partner for.
Brunch selections are offered à la carte, and include French toast, eggs, and an array of more substantial fare, including crisp Long Island duck with savory apple/pecan strudel; marinated, brick-pressed chicken with mashed potatoes; and Atlantic salmon filet with horseradish mashed potatoes, tiny green beans, tomatoes, and tarragon.
We enjoyed shirred eggs served over house-made biscuits alongside sautéed spinach and wild mushrooms. Hot and fragrant with mushrooms, with a gooey, running yolk, these old-fashioned eggs are perfect for whiling away a country morning. Preferably with a side of bacon—and more of those cheddar/chive biscuits, of course.
The Sterling Inn
1279 North Ave, New Rochelle
Housed in a former station on the New York, Boston, and Westchester Railway (the long-lost line that ran from 1912 to 1937), the Sterling Inn offers a foodie’s take on the usual, ho-hum standards. Sit by the large, sunny picture window that overlooks a surprising pocket park and indulge in huge piles of perfectly crisped maple breakfast sausage (which come in adorable tiny skillets); fragrant, cinnamon-spiced pancakes (paired with a changing, seasonal fruit compote); and creamy, perfectly executed mushroom-and-goat cheese omelets. Just a peek at the menu and you’ll see—this is no diner breakfast.
While home fries can be a blah plate-filler elsewhere, this humble side is redeemed in Chef Smith’s hands. The tiny hand-dice of perfectly spiced, perfectly crusted potatoes are definitely worth the carb splurge. French toast, often soggy and unremarkable elsewhere, at Sterling Inn arrives huge, fluffy, and perfumed with the orange notes of Grand Marnier. Paired with aromatic roasted bananas and citron butter (along with the usual maple syrup), this French toast is almost tropical, a welcome summery note during these darkening days.
While dessert at breakfast borders on Elvis-like self-indulgence, dessert at brunch is perfectly fine. If you’re going to go for it, try Chef Smith’s “banana, banana, banana.” Here, a deep-fried, panko-crusted banana is paired with a banana cookie and caramelized bananas. Stuffed, we still found ourselves opting for Sterling Inn’s sugary take on breakfast crêpes: loaded with warm, luscious Nutella and paired with spiced whipped cream, these buttery sautéed crêpes were divine. The single downside? All we could manage after our brunch was a long, satisfying nap.
Whitby Castle at Rye Golf Club
330 Boston Post Rd, Rye (914) 777-2053; www.ryegolfclub.com
One of the beauties of brunch is its leisure—after all, how many of us can linger over breakfast these days? At Whitby Castle, it’s easy to imagine yourself one of the leisured, landed gentry —
the very horse-and-hounders who invented brunch. Located at Rye Golf Club, Whitby Castle was originally the country estate of William Chapman. While Chapman’s history might have faded in the mists of time, he’s at least acknowledged for hiring a star architect to design his 1852 home —Alexander Jackson Davis. A.J. Davis is the same man who designed that other landmark Gothic Revival Westchester estate, Tarrytown’s Lyndhurst (1838). Both structures share an almost fairy-tale romanticism, plus rolling grounds, and picturesque water views.
However Lyndhurst is a museum, so you certainly can’t eat there, while Whitby Castle is open to the public and, at $24, serves a reasonable prix-fix brunch. To be honest, the food at Whitby Castle can be a little less-than-stylish (it’s about what you’d expect from a golf club), but with the Castle’s architectural charm and views of rolling lawns, autumn trees, and—off in the distance—the sunlight glittering on the Sound, we’re definitely not complaining. If the weather’s fine, try to get a table on the Sound-side terrace, where you can lose yourself overlooking one of the prettiest estates in Westchester.
A good brunch bet is the carnivorous Whitby Castle eggs: three poached eggs on English muffins with Canadian bacon, sausage, applewood smoked bacon, and Choron sauce, which is hollandaise sauce tinted pink with tomato. All of Whitby’s brunches come with coffee or tea, fruit salad and juice, and all come with a beautiful view.
Winfields at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich
1800 E Putnam Ave
Old Greenwich, CT (203) 409-4400
When many people think of brunch, what they picture is the classic hotel version: endless buffets and carving stations, chefs flipping omelets and pancakes, and many, many glasses of Champagne. If that’s what brunch means to you, there’s no better place to go than the over-the-top buffet at Greenwich’s Hyatt-Regency.
The glass ceiling of the Hyatt-Regency’s atrium shelters a year-round tropical garden of trees, plants, and the occasional bird—there’s even a stream running through it. On Sunday, the entire verdant space is transformed into a huge brunch buffet. A $48 entry fee (kids are $30; under age 5 free) buys you access to an overwhelming array of foods, including sushi, a raw bar, shrimp, and smoked salmon; a pancake, waffle, and French toast station; an egg and omelet bar; a carving station that features beef and pork roasts; a pasta sautée area; a salad bar with cheeses; breakfast meats like sausage and bacon; a bakery buffet with danishes, bagels, muffins, and rolls, and (if you haven’t fainted yet) a dessert bar featuring a wide selection of cookies and cakes. The good news? After a midday meal like this, dinner is just out of the question.
While there is unlimited French Champagne poured throughout brunch, it’s more fun to visit the Hyatt-Regency’s included you-mix-it Bloody Mary bar. Look for both tomato and Clamato juices (for those who’d like a Bloody Caesar), hot sauce, black pepper, lemon, lime, horseradish, paprika, and a variety of other spices and mix-ins. You can substitute tequila for vodka, or even make your Bloody Mary double strength—but only if a nap is the sum of your Sunday plans.
Julia Sexton is a New Rochelle-based food writer and restaurant critic whose work has appeared in the New York Times and the Boston Globe, among other publications. When not recovering from overindulgent brunches, she manages to be a frequent contributor to Westchester Magazine. Check out her Eater blog on westchestermagazine.com.