Tumescent rods of celery rise out of highball glasses. Half the entrées come under lofty poufs of whipped cream. It’s barely 11 a.m., but every third table is crowded with flutes of fruited champagne. Let’s be honest: Is there anything gayer than brunch? Okay, plenty of things. After all, double features of Rocky Horror and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert don’t usually tee off until midnight. But you still need to eat the next day—and probably closer to noon than to daybreak.
When the line at Sabrina’s is already past 8th Street and you’re feeling too sheepish to show your face at Valanni (again), don’t worry: It’s time you broadened your horizons anyway. Here, brunch for every occasion.
The White Dog Cafe in Wayne
With a suburban address, and with founder Judy Wicks gone, the White Dog’s Main Line incarnation may have forfeited most of its countercultural street cred. But chef Zach Grainda has rejuvenated the cooking, partly by exercising better quality control over his ingredients (which are mostly still local). Brunch here is pretty “lunchy,” with standouts that include lamb sliders and a salad of Lancaster beets tossed with warm polenta croutons. And the intense wild mushroom soup will take you deeper into the woods than a Park Service ranger.
200 West Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, 610-225-3700.
Lost track of when and where to tune in for Brady Bunch reruns? Come on over to Stephen Starr’s homage to 1966 and do it—brunch, that is—on shag. The menu’s old-fashioned but surprisingly well-executed for a place fitted out with Jetsons-inspired chairs. Share some fluffy monkey bread, dig into a tangy mushroom-and-cheddar omelet, or go for one of the occasional up-to-date specials, like chorizo hash. And ask for a Sanka, just to see what happens. (Bonus: It’s kid- and booze-friendly.)
700 Chestnut Street, 215-223-5663.
TO BE AND BE SEEN
Knock Restaurant and Bar
Does anyone come here for brunch? I mean, specifically to eat brunch? Um, sorta. Even if the flatbreads are flaccid and the draft beer selection plays like a tribute to Milwaukee circa 1965, this is pretty much the place to see and be seen. And the only way Knock can keep it that way is by ensuring that the food isn’t quite good enough to attract too many straight folk. Besides, what you order is beside the point. The draw is what you might leave with: a lover on the side.
225 South 12th Street, 215-925-1166.
FOR THE KIDS
The Pop Shop
Did you know that LGBT folks get to skip directly to the top of the never-ending waiting list at this Collingswood institution? All right, that’s a lie, but your kids will tell even bigger whoppers in a bid to get you to take them here. Silver-dollar pancakes with M&Ms inside, fluffernutter sandwiches, and 30 variations on grilled cheese … what more is there to say? (Oh, yeah: malted milkshakes, egg creams, and the Captain Underpants ice-cream cone.)
729 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood, 856-869-0111.
TO GET BAKED
Under the Oak Cafe
East Oak Lane isn’t exactly a dining destination, but this cozy 20-seater has been quietly serving some of the best baked goods in Philly since opening next to the R1 tracks in 2007. The raspberry scone with lemon curd and crème fraîche is unsurpassed. Robert Tyree’s quiches set the standard for airy lightness. There’s fine cured salmon on top-notch bagels from Rolings Bakery in Elkins Park. But even just coffee and a cinnamon knot are enough to melt your stress away at this unlikely, understated but thoroughly charming spot.
804 Oak Lane, 215-924-1410.
FOR SPOTTING INTALIAN STALLIONS
Peter McAndrew’s Sicilian gem is the best thing to happen to the line at Sabrina’s since the Snowpocalypse. Join the exodus from Philly’s longest brunch waiting list to seek the lusty flavors across the street. There are grapefruit-size balls of fried risotto (stuffed with short rib, natch), a grilled octopus salad with wild fennel, and—if your companion is feeling more conventional—delish old-fashioned French toast.
901 Christian Street, 215-440-0495.
Green Eggs Café
Hollandaise sauce is the name of the game here, with eggs Benedict variations that run from lump crab (yum) to pork roll atop pretzels (less fetching). But there’s also lighter fare to eat while you socialize at one of the sun-drenched butcher-block tables. The best offering is the one that sounds the worst: quinoa porridge. Scented with cardamom, sweetened with agave nectar, topped with a berry compote, it’s as good—and good for you—as a $6 breakfast gets.
1306 Dickinson Street, 215-226-3447, and 719 North 2nd Street, 215-922-3447.
YOU COULDN’T AFFORD A TRIP TO LESBOS
Technically, chef Konstantinos Pitsillides is paying homage to his native Cyprus within these whitewashed walls, but the menu spans a bit more of the Mediterranean than that. From salty fried halloumi cheese to Tunisian shakshouka (eggs poached in cumin-y tomatoes and bell peppers), the Philly brunch scene doesn’t get much more exotic. Try the mahalepi, which gets its piney, pleasantly medicinal flavor from mastic, a hardened tree resin produced almost entirely on the Greek island of Chios.
1001 Spruce Street, 215-922-1773.
WHERE IT’S ALWAYS APRIL IN PARIS
All you really need here is an espresso, a baguette and some butter to bring back, à la Proust’s madeleine, lost memories of gay Paris. But Stephen Starr’s simulacrum of a French bistro has more going for it: the best sidewalk seats in the city, a decent salade Lyonnaise, and a fine omelet Espagnole with ratatouille. Still, it’s those crusty baguettes—baked on the premises—that give Parc its Gallic soul.
227 South 18th Street, 215-545-2262.
When Marshall Green started cooking breakfast in this spare industrial space about four years back, the question was how long before he’d migrate to the dinner scene. But here he still is, making the best shirred eggs around (mushrooms, spinach, truffle essence), plus seasonal treats like soft-shell crab sandwiches. Sweet tooths needn’t worry, either: French toast comes stuffed with stuff like rhubarb and ginger cheesecake.
444 North 4th Street, 215-925-5080.
FOR A LIQUID BRUNCH
Okay, so there’s really no leaving Valanni off a list like this. I mean, where else can you sit in a plush white leather banquette and ask the bartender for a Ruby Slipper to go with your chocolate-chip and banana pancakes? Plus, with sides like mild Spanish chorizo tossed with sautéed onions and peppers, the food’s actually a draw. Just don’t let all those flavored-vodka drinks distract you from the red sangria. It’s a model of balance—but still packed with more than enough fruit.
1229 Spruce Street, 215-790-9494.