New York City is known around the world for many things. Whether it’s food, such as our dirty water dogs, bagels with lox, pizza, or cheesecake, cultural institutions, such as Broadway and the innumerable art galleries and museums, shopping, like in SoHo and 5th Avenue, or tall buildings like the Empire State Building, there are many things that are New York.
My favorite, and arguably the one quintessential local experience to take part in, is brunch. Specifically Sunday brunch, as much a tradition as it is a meal.
Sunday brunch is an institution in New York City. Many of us party ’til the break of dawn Saturday night, after perhaps having done it Friday night as well. Sunday brunch offers a way to gently acknowledge that the weekend is just about over, while allowing the necessary time to get acclimated to the slower Sunday speed (i.e. recover from hangover), since it happens around midday. Usually, restaurants will open for brunch service around 10:00 am and take guests until about 3:00 pm. Often, people choose to partake towards the latter end of the spectrum, sometime in the afternoon.
There is no cuisine or menu that is more “quintessential NY-style” than the others. Many kinds of brunch are readily available, with the more popular ones being standard American fare (pancakes, sausage, Eggs Benedict, etc.), Mexican, Dim Sum, and French. All-you-can-eat buffets are rare in New York City, unlike much of the rest of the United States. A majority of restaurants serving this special meal will likewise have a special menu on Sundays, different than the standard breakfast/lunch/dinner menus available at any other time.
Perhaps the one unifying factor in Sunday brunches from all the various New York establishments is the alcohol involved. Though a coffee and orange juice may accompany a brunch meal, it is the few cocktails available that make Sunday brunch an NYC Sunday brunch. The most common ones are the mimosa and the Bloody Mary, two perfect drinks for earlier in the day. Mojitos are a close third, along with any special house cocktails. Though New York City has few all-you-can-eat buffets, many brunch places offer bottomless coffee and brunch cocktails. Trust me, I don’t consider it brunch unless I am drinking a mimosa with it.
I’m always keen to try a new brunch place, and I enjoy gathering my friends for brunch on Sunday afternoon. Once in a while we are fortunate enough to be serenaded by live jazz or a show, which is a plus.
Next time you’re in New York City, forget the Statue of Liberty; if you want a taste of real New York, do the Sunday brunch.
Origin of “brunch,” according to Smithsonian Magazine:
What does seem certain is that the word “brunch”—that playful blend of “breakfast” and “lunch”—first appeared in print in an 1895 Hunter’s Weekly article. In “Brunch: A Plea,” British author Guy Beringer suggested an alternative to the heavy, post-church Sunday meals in favor of lighter fare served late in the morning. ”Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” Beringer says. ”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”