A Brief History of Brunch + A Few of Our Fave NYC Brunch Restaurants

Eggs Benedict, fresh bread baskets, bottomless mimosas, some gentle jazz standards to set the Sunday mood — these are the ingredients we’ve come to associate with the classic American brunch. What are the origins of this most famous of merged meals? How did brunch culture flourish in New York City in particular? And why is brunch both so loved and loathed? We explore both in this brief history of brunch and highlight some of our favorite NYC brunch restaurants below.

Brunch, Actually

The word is synonymous with Mother’s Day, bridal and baby showers, any weekend occasion that calls for a glass of bubbly (or few). But there was a time, at the dawn of the twentieth century, when brunch was a new addition to the culinary vocabulary. In an 1896 edition of Pennsylvania’s New Oxford newspaper, a new “fad” was introduced — a “repast at 11 o’clock a.m.,” between breakfast and lunch, that was on its way to becoming a weekly post-church ritual across the country. Shouldn’t the Lord’s day of rest include a nap-inducing feast … and one less meal to prepare, after all?

From Ellis Island to Studio 54 to Sex and the City: How New York Became America’s Brunch Capital

And then came a wave of immigration and, with it, a whole new cultural landscape in America’s cities, notably in New York. Today, everybody knows the cliché about how Jews go out for Chinese food on Christmas. But what was New York’s increasingly large Jewish population doing back in the day, while the rest of the city’s huddled masses were in church? Looking for places to nosh, of course. (Dim sum in Chinatown is still a weekend favorite.) That is one theory for why brunch became a tradition here. Another is the city’s vibrant nightlife. Tourists, club kids, well-heeled single women seeking a hangover cure after one too many Cosmopolitans — these and other late risers want to have their pancakes and eat them, too! In the so-called City that Never Sleeps, a whole new midday dining experience, from the greasy-spoon to the grand ballroom, was born.

Happy Hour or Hangry Time?

But brunch, like many aspects of New York life, can be complicated. Restaurant owners love serving brunch because it’s big business. Residents dodging the influx of bridge-and-tunnel brunch-seekers? Not so much. “Brunch is for jerks,” claimed one New York Times op-ed writer, only to be taken down in a New York magazine missive entitled “It’s Time to Shut Up About Brunch.” Ranting about the indignities of brunch — it’s expensive and elitist! No stroller parking! — can be an activity in and of itself. No matter which side of the argument you fall on, one thing is for sure: People are passionate about brunch. And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Skip the Lines and Brunch Away with Some of Open Table’s Favorite NYC Spots

Streetside loitering is a rite of passage for New York’s brunchers. What better way to build your appetite than standing for an hour with the Sunday paper (on your smartphone) or at the bar, right? Actually, we suggest you beat the wait by reserving a table ahead of time at some of these best-loved brunch venues in the area!

Cherche Midi
Love the food but want to skip the fracas at Balthazar? Take the flâneur route over to the Bowery and dine on all the best French brunchables — pot du fromage, steak frites, a glass of kir royale to name a few — this chic, energetic bistro has to offer. Make a reservation at Cherche Midi.

NYC Brunch Restaurants

Dirt Candy
Forget the facon: A creative menu filled with meat-free options — the Canadian Cracker alone is worth the cost of admission — elevates this eatery of earthly delights to ‘must-go’ status for vegetarians (vegans, too). Worried what your omnivorous friends will think? Mention the Jealous Mary (made with green tomatoes!) and let their FOMO do the rest. Make a reservation at Dirt Candy.

NYC Brunch restaurants

The Odeon
To call it “storied” is an understatement. So iconic of the ‘80s that it appeared on the book jacket of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City, this downtown fixture exudes cool but it is a family-friendly neighborhood joint at heart. The expansive — and not too expensive — menu is one-size-fits-all. Great for solo dining, too. Make a reservation at The Odeon.

NYC Brunch Restaurants

Café Clover
Banquette-style dining, a table setting at the bar, the outdoor terrace — this is West Village charm defined. An emphasis on locally-sourced vegetables is a plus for those with healthy appetites … literally. Make a reservation at Cafe Clover.

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Foodies Are the New Fashionistas in NYC; Padma’s Skinny Secret + More

It’s too bad Carrie Bradshaw wasn’t more of a foodie. Maybe then we’d have all been spared the horror that was the cupcake craze.

Food and dining news from around the web and the world…

* Checks and the city. Restaurant reservations are the new Manolos for young singles. [NY Times]

* I don’t know how she does it. Oh, wait! Now I do. Padma Lakshmi reveals her secret to staying skinny. I think it also involves exercise, but, hey — juice away! [Daily Mail]

* Woody Allen’s diet. It’s as neurotic as you might think. [Grub Street NY]

* Winter wonderlands for foodies. Festivals to make the cold months pass fast. [Forbes]

* Feeling anxious? Order the salmon; apparently, it’s nature’s Xanax. [Men’s Fitness]

* The Paleo Diet. It’s so simple a caveman can do it. [PopSci]

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‘Sex and the City 2’ Twitter Trivia Dinner Giveaway: Follow @OpenTable Today

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Brothers
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

There’s no free lunch, but thanks to our ‘Sex and the City 2’ Twitter trivia giveaway, there is such a thing as free dinner. Today between 1PM-2PM PST (4PM-5PM EST), we’ll be giving away dinner for four at the restaurant of your choice in honor of the return of Carrie and Co. to the big screen. All it takes to win is a tweet!

To enter to win, follow @OpenTable on Twitter and watch out for our giveaway tweet of the day. Tweet back the correct answer to our “Sex and the City” trivia question and stay tuned. Dinner for four will be awarded to the first entrant who provides the correct answer. The winner will be announced on Twitter.

Read the official rules and regulations below, and, just like that, you could win dinner for your own fab four!

Follow OpenTable on Twitter

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‘Sex and the City’ Restaurants: Where the Fab Four Dined in New York

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Brothers
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Not every restaurant featured in the “Sex and the City” franchise is real. Raw, where Smith first waited on Samantha in episode 76, doesn’t exist. Nor does La Doleur Exquise, the, ahem, S&M-themed restaurant in episode 24. However, there are still plenty of opportunities to retrace Carrie’s Manolo Blahnik-ed footsteps around the island of Manhattan — especially at its restaurants. In honor of the release of Sex and the City 2 tomorrow, here are some of the real-life restaurants featured on the series and in the films, at which you can raise a Cosmo to Ms. Bradshaw and her besties.

21 Club
Carrie bursts into tears while tearing into a steak at this clubby Manhattan classic as she learns Big has returned to town from Napa to have “a little heart thing” done (aka angioplasty).

ABC Kitchen
Before there was a Jean-Georges restaurant in this Manhattan home-décor mecca, Charlotte butts heads here with Bunny, the mother of all mother-in-laws, over a new bed for her and Trey.

Blue Water Grill
A Union Square favorite, Charlotte brunches at Blue Water Grill with Arthur, a Harvard grad, whose behavior is more perilous than chivalrous.

Brasserie 8 1/2
This midtown stand-by marks the spot where Carrie is discovered and recruited as a “real” model for Dolce & Gabbana, only to wind up as fashion roadkill.

Buddakan
Carrie and John’s rehearsal dinner for their temporarily doomed wedding is held at perennial Chelsea hotspot Buddakan in the first big-screen adaptation of the series.

Casa Mono
It was Irving at Irving when the show filmed, but now it’s the stylish Casa Mono, outside which Carrie and Charlotte spend time deciding how many of the male passers-by they would, um, well, you know.

Centrico
Before it was Mexican fave Centrico, it was Layla, at which Mr. Big (who was Mr. Ex) attends Carrie’s birthday party. There are both belly dancers and awkwardness as the single scribe celebrates another year.

Commerce
Commerce’s predecessor, Grange Hall (also this blogger’s favorite extinct restaurant), served as the Paris restaurant where Carrie’s French fans fete her (albeit without her) in the final episode of the series.

Da Marino
The second time’s the charm (at least for a time) for Big and Carrie as he serenades her over Italian food at Da Marino, where Chris Noth is a real-life regular.

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