Fried chicken and ube waffle and silog breakfast at Maharlika in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

5 Non-Traditional Brunch Options You Need To Try in New York City

Whether you’re being grilled at a job interview or filling out a dating profile, you’ve probably been asked to describe yourself in three words. For us, one of those words would be “brunch”. And we’re probably not alone: there are over 18 million posts under the hashtag on Instagram alone. Brunching in New York City is a sport, and we’re training for the Olympics.

Our default brunch move often involves avocado toast and eggs. (Often at an Australian cafe with those cute green coffee cups. #sorrynotsorry) But there are so many options in New York City that it’d be a crime not to acknowledge some of the amazing alternative options. So if your Instagram feed (and your tummy!) could use a little variety, here are a few places to pop you out of that avocado toast brunch rut:

1. Veselka

Exterior of Veselka in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Interior of Veselka in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Stuffed cabbage, borscht, pierogies and potato pancake at Veselka in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

There are a ton of trendy brunch options out there, but we tend to favor tried-and-true classics. And if the place has a little bit of history to it, even better. Ukrainian restaurant Veselka has been an East Village stalwart for over 60 years. It’s been featured in books, movies and television shows because it manages to capture so much of the essence of what makes New York City great: the immigrant experience, and bringing people of varied backgrounds together through affordable, accessible, delicious food.

Veselka is still family owned and operated, and it’s open 24 hours a day just so you can have stuffed cabbage and pierogies for brunch. Don’t miss out on the potato pancake, theirs is one of our favorites in town. If goulash for brunch is a step too far into unknown territory, try the brunch pierogi, which is filled with bacon, scrambled egg, cheese and potato and comes with a side of tomato horseradish ketchup. Oh, and vegetarians? Never fear, there are some amazing and filling options here for you as well.

144 2nd Ave

Open 24 hours daily

2. Black Ant

Interior of dining room at Black Ant in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Garden dining area at Black Ant in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Black Ant Burger with lamb chuck blueberry patty and chile ash bun at Black Ant in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Tacos de pescado from Black Ant in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Black Ant first came on our radar when it made headlines as a place you could eat grasshoppers. As scary as that may sound, chapulines are actually commonly consumed in Mexico and are a sustainable, nutritious food source. At Black Ant you can add chapulines to your guacamole. But that’s not why we come here. Black Ant offers elevated, inventive Mexican food. We developed a taste for breakfast tacos and chilaquiles from our time living in Phoenix, but Black Ant takes it to an entirely new level. The tostadas are made with lump crab, dill aioli and kabocha squash. The burger features a lamb chuck blueberry patty and a chile ashed bun. If you’re looking to shake things up, this is a great place to do it.

Pro Tip: You can’t see it when you step into the moody dining room, but there’s a tiny garden towards the back of the restaurant. Be forewarned, noise seems to be amplified out there, so deep conversations about the existential crisis you’re having might be tricky. But if it happens to be a nice day, it’s the perfect place to enjoy your meal.

60 2nd Ave

Sun-Wed : 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Thu-Sat: 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sat & Sun 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

3. Maharlika

Interior of Maharlika in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Flip'd chicken and ube waffle at Maharlika in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Silog and cauliflower breakfast at Maharlika in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Maharlika started as a pop-up several years ago but has earned a permanent place in the New York City dining scene. The term “Maharlika” is often used to describe nobility, but the food here is anything but stuffy or high-brow. Instead, the cuisine is often referred to as modern Filipino soul food. If you’re feeling adventurous, go for the silog breakfasts. Silog is simply derived from the Filipino words for rice and egg, which are the basis for the dish. At Maharlika, the garlic rice is to-die-for, and your silog options include anything from sausage to fried fish. The sizzling sisig is another well-known dish many people trek here for. For crossover dishes, try the Filipino Chicken and Waffles–where the waffle is made with ube (yam) and the butter on the side has anchovy in it–or the Mango Stuffed French Toast.

111 1st Ave

Mon-Thu 11:00 am – 3:30 pm and 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Fri 12:00 pm – 3:30 pm and 5:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sat 11:00 am – 3:30 pm and 5:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sun 11:00 am – 3:30 pm and 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm

4. The Good Sort (Update 8/26/18: PERMANENTLY CLOSED)

Exterior of The Good Sort wit Ai Wei Wei portrait in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Turmeric Congee with poached cranberries and dried strawberries at The Good Sort in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Granola bowl with milk being poured at The Good Sort in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

When we like a place, we go there a lot. The Good Sort is one of those places. If “intimate” is real estate speak for small, The Good Sort is really intimate. There are only two tables in the closet-sized spot, so we’re hesitant to give it away. It’s known for its Instagrammable rainbow latte and equally Instagrammable millennial pink interior, but the vegan eatery on picturesque Doyers Street also offers one of our favorite brunches.

Granola and avocado toast is on the menu, as well as some other suspiciously hipster-sounding dishes like activated charcoal waffles. We’ve tried the avocado toast and the granola, and both are good, but the highlight here is the Turmeric Congee. Congee is common in Asian cultures but The Good Sort’s play on the typically savory dish is delightful. The Turmeric Congee is made with coconut cream, poached cranberries, dried strawberries and lemon zest. The spot is a haven from the typical hustle and bustle of Chinatown, and ideal when you have a taste for something different.

5 Doyers St

Daily 8:00 am – 6:00 pm

5. Okonomi

Counter and open kitchen at Okonomi in Brooklyn, New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Interior of Okonomi in Brooklyn, New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Ichiju sansai brunch meal with fish, rice, soup and egg at Okonomi in Brooklyn, New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We mentioned Okonomi when we highlighted the sashimi class at Osakana, but it still stands as one of the most unique brunch experiences in the city, in my humble opinion. Okonomi is two restaurants in one: one serves traditional Japanese set meals during the day, and the other serves ramen and mazemen at night. If you’ve ever been to Japan, it probably took you very little time to realize that the set meal is omnipresent. It usually involves a main, soup, rice and a smaller side dish like pickled vegetables. The set meals are based on the traditional meals offered at Zen temples and are similar to meals made in Japanese households, so it’s the Japanese equivalent of getting a quick home-style meal away from home.

At Okonomi, the idea is similar. They don’t take reservations and there is no set menu. A daily selection of fish is prepared one of four different ways: shio yaki (salt-roasted), saikyo miso (sweet miso), sake kasu (sake lees), and kombu jime (dry kelp cured). It is served with seven-grain rice, miso soup, vegetables and an egg. They take the idea of sustainability and holistic dining seriously here, and it shows.

150 Ainslie St

Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am – 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sat-Sun 10:00 am – 4:00 pm  and Dinner omakase by reservation only
Closed Wed

And of course, there’s always dim sum!

We know this barely scratches the surface. So we invite you to throw down: how do you brunch?

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Pinterest graphic with pictures of food and text overlay with the words Different is Better Unique Brunch Options in NYC

– L.

18 thoughts on “5 Non-Traditional Brunch Options You Need To Try in New York City”

    1. You’re too kind, JAM! We definitely think the food qualifies as an “attraction” here in New York City, and we continue to be wowed by it on a consistent basis 🙂 We hope you’ll let us know what you think if you decide to try any of these places out!

  1. These look great!
    I haven’t tried Filipino or Ukrainian just because of the limited options. I know you said Veselka has options- I’ll definitely look up the menu and see if anything appeals to me! Thanks! Delightful photos.

    1. Thanks, Tara! You should check out both. Lynn had the rice option at Maharlika but with some kind of curried cauliflower. You could just go sans the egg. And Veselka has a few different option that would work.

  2. So many choices! What to do?! I love these unusual options for brunch, and all sound delicious. Veselka sounds especially appealing, but I need to learn more about the non-bacon options. Only thing I think I will skip is the chapulines…oh heck, I’d try one :). I assume you two have?

    1. There are definitely non-bacon options at Veselka. They have vegetarian options for both platters and pierogies, among other things. As far as Black Ant is concerned, we’ve had the chapulines. We aren’t particularly focused on them, though. I would kinda compare them to crispy, fried shallots that would be used as a topping. They are not remotely as extreme as you would expect.

  3. YUMMY!! The Good Sort it is for me 🙂 I loved how you referred to brunch as a sport! When we were working it was such a treat to go out for brunch, eggs and salmon were on the top of the list for me.

    1. Thanks, Suz! The Good Sort definitely called for repeat visits. I bet you’d enjoy it. And brunch is definitely a sport. We’re well on our way to becoming professional athletes.

    1. Hey Tiese! On your next visit? Well, whenever the weather in NYC is halfway decent. (No idea when that will be at this point.) Regardless, we’d definitely love to hear what you think.

  4. This list is amazing! Sooo excited to visit NYC for the first time, and your food recommendations keep making me want to extend our stay The brunch pierogies may end up forming my staple diet. It’s ok to eat brunch for dinner too, right?

    1. Hi Sarah! So glad we’re able to give you some additional ideas for your visit. And don’t worry, NYC makes it impossible to get to everywhere you wanna visit on a single trip. Built in FOMO is why you have to keep coming back! Unfortunately, Veselka only serves those brunch pierogies 9am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays, though there are plenty of others you can get 24/7. Personally, I’d say eating brunch at any hour is not only acceptable but encouraged.

  5. Great recommendations…will keep these in mind the next time we are wondering about where to land up for a nice brunch. Black Ant and Veselka sound like they would be full of possibilities. Om nom nom.

  6. These all look like such good options. We’re going to NYC in September… if you had to pick just one, which one would you go for?

    1. Hi Rachel! That’s a REALLY tough question: I think it was quite a feat for us to narrow this post down to 5 options as it was! I took a quick glance at your blog, and I love that you and Tiernan have quite adventurous palates and don’t mind splurging on a good meal. I truly believe you would enjoy dining at all of these spots. But if I had to pick just one, I think I would recommend Veselka because you get more than just a great meal. Veselka is a New York City institution! It’s located in the East Village (an essential NYC neighborhood to visit) and has been featured in many New York City TV shows and movies (Gossip Girl, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) because it’s such a classic NYC establishment. In fact, I think it’s in the new Ocean’s 8 movie 🙂 If you do settle on any of these options, we really hope you’ll come back and let us know all about it!

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