Order a slab of layer cake or a hot fudge sundae for breakfast and garner more than a few raised eyebrows, but ask for an equally indulgent tiramisu or bananas foster in the form of your typical brunch fare and suddenly it’s totally fair game. “You want the crème brûlée? What kind of … oh, the crème brûlée waffles. Excellent choice!” This weekend, gather with friends for an unhurried morning meal and treat yourself to a sweet plate that practically comes with a certificate for one free nap afterward. These decadent dishes go beyond the usual waffles, pancakes, and french toast for a distinctly dessert-like take on brunch. Live the dream and order dessert for breakfast!
The Little Lion, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This Old City eatery named after Alexander Hamilton reinvents a Southern dessert favorite with an unforgettable breakfast feast. For their Red Velvet French Toast, a cheesecake spread is sandwiched between layers of chocolatey bread and comes with a side of raspberry maple syrup for dipping or drenching. Our founding fathers would be duly impressed. Make a reservation at The Little Lion.
Max Brenner, Boston Massachusetts
At this chocolate lover’s mecca, there’s an entire section of the menu dedicated to a sweet brunch. You’ll find treats like White Chocolate Cream French Toast, Illegal Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Pancakes, and the aptly named After Party Belgian Waffles. Two hot waffles are the backdrop for balsamic strawberries, strawberry honey, melted white chocolate, and a healthy (sized) scoop of whipped cream. Take a cue from the name and order these after a late Saturday night — chocolate is a surprisingly powerful cure-all. Make a reservation at Max Brenner.
La Sirena, New York, New York
The fluffy Amaretti Mascarpone Pancakes at Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s newest Italian restaurant — their first to serve breakfast — have actual amaretto cookies shaved on top for a nicely sweet, nutty flavor. What’s the opposite of a short stack? We’ll have that, per favore. Make a reservation at La Sirena.
Proof on Main, Louisville, Kentucky
This isn’t your grandmother’s casserole. Unless, of course, your grandmother’s recipe calls for liberal scoops of nutella and marshmallow. At this airy, art-filled space inside Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel, chef Mike Wajda makes a French Toast Casserole with everyone’s favorite chocolate hazelnut spread, marshmallow fluff, and a hazelnut crunch for an indulgent spin on the classic breakfast staple. Make a reservation at Proof on Main.
Siena Tavern, Chicago, Illinois
In an effort to incorporate the restaurant’s beloved Tiramisu on the brunch menu at chef Fabio Viviani’s bustling Italian eatery, pastry chef Amy Arnold dreamed up the Tiramisu French Toast. With espresso-soaked brioche, marsala cream, and white chocolate, chef Arnold describes it as “your morning coffee and a day’s worth of dessert all wrapped up into breakfast.” Translation: there’s coffee in here, so it’s the perfect way to kick start your day. Make a reservation at Siena Tavern.
Avenue Kitchen, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania
This stylish, sunny bistro takes the best part of the quintessential French dessert — the entire thing — and places it atop a perfectly fluffy Belgian waffle. Chef Gregory Smith whips up a vanilla bean crème brûlée, then torches the sugary top to create the signature crisp, caramelized coating. Custard fills the pressed pockets, and with every decadent bite you’ll wonder why all French restaurants don’t offer their crème brûlée on a waffle. Make a reservation at Avenue Kitchen.
Isla, Austin, Texas
Austin’s own Caribbean cantina serves up a sweet island-inspired brunch, complete with Bananas Foster French Toast. Chef de cuisine Alex Hughes explains, “Who doesn’t want dessert for breakfast? Ever since I was young, bananas foster has been a go-to for me. Now everyone can enjoy the best of both worlds.” To recreate the classic dessert, chef Hughes uses housemade brioche, sliced bananas, and Pilar rum caramel sauce. Paired with one of Isla’s signature brunch cocktails (the Goodie Goodie Rumdrop, perhaps?), it’s a recipe for a carefree, breezy kind of Sunday. Make a reservation at Isla.
The Blue Duck, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
As if each weren’t perfect enough on its own, Fruity Pebbles French Toast marries two universally beloved breakfast treats. Candy-colored cereal coats soft, squishy bread for a textured, crunchy-chewy combination. Deliciously playful, it’s what your six-year-old self would have whipped up if she were in charge of breakfast. Make a reservation at The Blue Duck.
Boqueria, New York, New York
Proving that brunch and dessert are nearly indistinguishable, chef Marc Vidal’s Torrija is also on the dessert menu at dinner time. At the Upper East Side outpost of his lively Spanish tapas bar, the “Boozy Brunch Feast” includes the a chewy, crispy caramelized French toast covered in caramel sauce and fresh berries. At dinnertime, the same Torrija is topped with a scoop of coffee ice cream and a fruit compote. It only makes sense to try both and determine your favorite version. Make a reservation at Boqueria.
Viviane, Los Angeles, California
Channel your inner Old Hollywood screen siren at the glamorous Viviane, located in the historic Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills. In one of their mid-century inspired cabanas by the pool, discuss a script with your agent (or plot your LA adventure) while daintily tucking into the Slab of Brioche French Toast, filled with dark chocolate ganache and topped with blueberry compote and fresh whipped cream. Make a reservation at Viviane.
Imperial, Portland, Oregon
It may get its name from the cereal, but with apple French toast, chantilly cream, and sprinkling of streusel topping, chef Vitaly Paley’s Cinnamon Toast Crunch tastes distinctly like apple streusel cake. Other sweet brunch options include a homemade Pop Tart and a sticky bun with orange pastry cream, bourbon toffee sauce, and crunchy smoked pecans, and we’d happily partake in any of these socially acceptable ways to eat dessert for breakfast. Make a reservation at Imperial.
Hunter’s, Brooklyn, New York
This friendly neighborhood staple in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood takes inspiration from The King’s storied favorite for its Elvis French Toast. Thick-cut Italian bread is stuffed with peanut butter, rolled in pecans, and topped with fresh bananas. If you miss the bacon, order up a side or better yet, opt for their excellent housemade chicken sausage. Make a reservation at Hunter’s.
Regan Stephens lives in Brooklyn, New York, and when she’s not writing about food or beer, you might find her taking in all the great things about the city (restaurants, museums, plays!), reading on her Kindle, or eating ice cream. Probably the last thing. Say hi on twitter @reganstephens.