[sidebar]For Something Special
The tables are perfectly set, the buffet is meticulously presented, live acoustic guitar fills the room — everything about brunch at this Rittenhouse Square star is perfectly planned, as it should be, given the tariff ($56 per person). But the brunch menu is prepared through the innovative Lacroix filter, so it’s pleasantly unexpected: A stack of cardamom-spiked pancakes is served with smoked strawberry jam, and a grilled cheese sandwich has layers of brie, prosciutto and bright pesto. Brunching hours: Sunday from 11 a.m. 210 West Rittenhouse Square, second floor, 215-790-2533, lacroixrestaurant.com.
As Ryan Moore flips your made-to-order omelet with a deft flick of his wrist (he’s done this before), the rest of your party grazes the elegant $40 buffet spread. (Smoked salmon, or broiled? Waffles or croissants?) Plates heavy, everyone finally settles in on the stately covered veranda to enjoy mimosas and a postcard view of Boathouse Row. Brunching hours: Sunday from 11 a.m. One Boathouse Row, 215-236-9000, thewaterworksrestaurant.com.
Fountain at the Four Seasons
Hands down, incontrovertibly, without a doubt, the most elegant spread in town, with a towering sculptural buffet of caviar, balsamic watermelon, and warm cobbler, not to mention absolutely apropos entrées like ultra-rich crab eggs Benedict and basil-bathed omelets. Yes, it’s $68, but as we digest (really, it’s the only meal you’ll need that day), we prefer to think: Recession? What recession? Brunching hours: Sunday from 11 a.m. One Logan Square, 215-963-1500, fourseasons.com/philadelphia.
A civilized way to start your day, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s downstairs eatery serves up a $32 buffet that’s unpretentious and casual. A bountiful table of salads and cheeses, a hot station of quiches and sausage, and cooked-to-order waffles make up the well-executed fare. The parking-lot view isn’t the stuff of masterpieces, but brunching here is the perfect start to a day of Degas — especially after a complimentary mimosa. Brunching hours: Sunday from 10:30 a.m. 26th Street and the Ben Franklin Parkway, 215-684-7990, philamuseum.org.
Sometimes brunch with mismatched mugs, paper placemats and ironic waiters just won’t do, so we’re grateful that Jake’s gives us the white-tablecloth, polished-flatware fine dining that’s appropriate for frittatas and mimosas on Mother’s Day. The prix-fixe menu is heavy on the savory; don’t miss the first-course crème brûlée oatmeal. Brunching hours: Sunday from 10:30 a.m. 4365 Main Street, Manayunk, 215-483-0444, jakesrestaurant.com.
Looking to Booze
Continental Martini Bar
The cocktail list at Stephen Starr’s Old City diner/bar is filled with tough decisions: Will you get loose with the Wake & Bacon, a Bloody Mary made with bacon-infused vodka? Or do you prefer to start your Sunday with the Breakfast of Champions (right), chocolate milk spiked with peanut cream liquor, served over a bowl of Cap’n Crunch? We say try both, and soak up all the booze with whitefish salad on a bagel or a juicy burger. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. 138 Market Street, 215-923-6069, continentalmartinibar.com.
What Café Estelle doesn’t have: a liquor license. What Café Estelle does have: a damn good Bloody Mary. If you bring the vodka, your waitress will bring you a carafe of the house-made mix and a bowl of olives, cornichons and pickled jalapeños to garnish with as you see fit. And you already know how much we love the Best of Philly-winning food, like peach-and-cinnamon cream-cheese-stuffed French toast, and brisket hash. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. 444 North 4th Street, 215-925-5080, cafeestelle.com.
With its kicky house Bloody Mary, fruity mimosas and alcoholic iced coffee, El Vez is a choice stop for cocktails during daylight hours. If that kind of hair of the dog fails to save you, the Mexican breakfast dishes — like huevos rancheros and DIY scrambled-egg tacos — are rich and delicious hangover cures. Brunching hours: Sunday from 11 a.m. 121 South 13th Street, 215-928-9800, elvezrestaurant.com.
We can’t decide which we like most about this Gayborhood spot — the boisterous vibe, or the drinks. On second thought, they just might go hand-in-hand. Order the brunch-rita (a margarita with a touch of OJ) or the Brazilian Pop, which has pomegranate liquor, mango puree and champagne. Grab a seat near the window to show off your shades, and nibble on a killer Monte Cristo, grilled romaine salad with polenta croutons, or lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries. Brunching hours: Sunday from 11 a.m. 1229 Spruce Street, 215-790-9494, valanni.com.
If you live or work in Center City, you eat at Marathon. But no matter how many times we’re there during the week, it still hits the spot for weekend brunch. The atmosphere is a little less hustle-and-bustle, but the food still comes out fast, and the menu has something for everyone: eggs on a croissant with bacon, Gouda and apple; whole wheat apple-cinnamon pancakes; and lots and lots of coffee. (Psst … upstairs at the 10th and Walnut spot is our favorite of the lot.) Brunching hours: Brunch served at all locations (except 1818 Market Street) on Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 a.m., and at 40th and Walnut starting at 10 a.m. Multiple locations; marathongrill.com.
We just can’t understand why this adorable BYOB isn’t bursting at the seams for brunch. The menu is filled with dream-worthy, light but sumptuous dishes like fried eggs in brioche with Nueske’s bacon, roasted tomatoes and hollandaise, and a garden-fresh Niçoise salad with pink tuna. No matter; it just means we can show up with a group in tow, grab a table facing the open kitchen, and watch as chefs whip up the best part of our weekend. Brunching hours: Sunday from 11 a.m. 801 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-923-7675, cochonbyob.com.
This wood-adorned converted fire station (with outdoor seating) isn’t just spacious; it takes reservations, ensuring your hungry party of brunchers will get seats. But it’s the complimentary buttermilk biscuits to start, the warm chocolate chip cookies to finish — plus the kick-ass, heavy-on-the-horseradish Bloody Marys in the middle — that keep us coming back even when we’re alone. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. 2130 Fairmount Avenue, 215-232-9000, jacksfirehouse.com.
White Dog Cafe
While this long-standing West Philly locavore destination offers a kids’ menu consisting of the usual suspects, chances are your offspring will prefer the adult menu’s Seven Stars yogurt parfait with its Morello cherry puree, or the big ol’ (read: unfinishable) stack of buttermilk pancakes topped with caramelized organic bananas. New moms, note that breastfeeding is encouraged, though you may want to lay off the boozy brunchtime Blood Hounds. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. 3420 Sansom Street, 215-386-9224, whitedog.com.
It’s not until you bring your brood to brunch here that you realize this restaurant is actually perfect for kids. Oversized booths and sunken wrap-around tables are made for corralling lots of tykes; servers — decked out in retro rock tees — are quick and patient; high chairs abound. But the best part of all? Use your kids as an excuse to order the menu items you secretly want: gooey monkey bread, chicken and waffles, and the cheese-steak omelet. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. 700 Chestnut Street, 215-223-5663, jones-restaurant.com.
Winnie’s Le Bus
The intoxicating aroma of doughy treats fresh from the mini bakery and plates of oversized banana walnut pancakes remind you why it’s worth waiting, even with restless kids, for a table to open up at this popular Manayunk institution. Good thing there are toys and books by the benches to keep them occupied. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. 4266 Main Street, Manayunk, 215-487-2663, lebusmanayunk.com.
We like Farmicia for dinner, but we love it for brunch, and we promise it’s not only because of the brilliant half-price-drinks brunch happy hour. There’s also the vibrant atmosphere that’s equally suited for a big group or a quiet morn, and the fresh fare that’s never fussy. We can’t resist the brunch sandwich (two eggs, melted local cheddar and bacon on sourdough) or the Mexican-inspired egg dishes. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. 15 South 3rd Street, 215-627-6274, farmiciarestaurant.com.
Sam’s Morning Glory Diner
Why do Chase and Jen Utley keep coming back to this flowerbox-adorned Bella Vista stalwart? Is it Mo Glo’s homemade veggie burgers? The light-as-air blueberry pancakes? The stuffed frittatas, curry-touched tofu scramble, berry pie, or coffee served in steel mugs? Maybe. But surely it’s mostly the diner’s motto: “Be nice or leave.” Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. 735 South 10th Street, 215-413-3999, themorningglorydiner.com.
This super-casual one-room West Philly cafe has a kitschy Gran’s-parlor vibe that attracts Penn students in AC/DC tees and neighborhood moms with baby strollers. The menu is filled with wholesome, fresh and locally sourced ingredients that are well-priced and appeal to all; get the crispy brioche French toast with mixed berry compote. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. 4443 Spruce Street, 215-222-9590, caferx.com.
For the Scene
Solo diners sipping café au lait and reading the Sunday newspaper at the bar. Servers in crisp white shirts delivering plates of pain perdu, gooey with hazelnut butter. Impeccably dressed groups sharing bites of the omelette du jour. Couples facing the Square, basking in the warmth of heat lamps. This is the stuff brunches at Parc are made of. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. 227 South 18th Street, 215-545-2262, parc-restaurant.com.
When brunching at Fork, you can expect a crowd that’s well-dressed but never overdressed, and lively but never boisterous — plus food that’s well-crafted, creative, and downright yummy. Try the huevos rancheros, layered in a cast iron pot with fluffy eggs and house-made sausage; the well-seasoned quinoa with a bounty of perfectly grilled veggies and kalamata olives; and a fresh-squeezed mimosa. Brunching hours: Sunday from 11 a.m. 306 Market Street, 215-625-9425, forkrestaurant.com.
Standard Tap & Johnny Brenda’s
Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda’s have the same owners, which makes deciding which one to brunch at a challenge: At the Tap, we’ve always loved the tuna melt, pork chop with eggs, and strong neighborhood vibe. But the spicy chilaquiles, smoked trout salad, and $7.50 rib platter — not to mention the boozy whiskey doughnuts — call us to JB’s. Good thing they both serve both days of the weekend. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. 901 North 2nd Street, 215-238-0630, standardtap.com. 1201 Frankford Avenue, 215-739-9684, johnnybrendas.com.
Sure, you can cozy up inside with your paper and cinnamon pancakes, but outside is, as ever, best for seeing and being seen. (And for Rittenhouse’s autumnal glory!) We love a teensy sidewalk table brimming with coffee mugs, pints of Bloody Marys, and — lately — the rich and delicious croque madame. With a side of crispy bacon. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. 205 South 18th Street, 215-732-6622, rouge98.com.
Carman’s Country Kitchen
Carman’s is an experience no one should miss. Rub elbows with regulars at the counter, or grab the outdoor seating, which is actually a picnic table in the flatbed of a pickup truck. And while the ever-changing menu — think pulled pork over cheesy grits with eggs, or an omelet filled with stewed collards — is amazing, it’s Carman who completes the show. She likes to regale the dining room with her topics du jour. (On our visit: Texans and the NRA, then Obama’s birth certificate.) Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. 1301 South 11th Street, 215-339-9613.
Ant’s Pants Cafe
When it comes to brunch, G-Ho residents know that this tiny Australia-inspired eatery is the ant’s pants. Should you arrive early or late enough to avoid the crowd lined up along the left wall of the narrow space, your brekkie (that’s Australian for breakfast) will be a quick meal of long blacks (a double espresso with a splash of hot water) and bacon stacks (bread layered with bacon, tomato, arugula, a fried egg and cheese). Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. 2212 South Street, 215-875-8002, antspantscafe.com.
It looks like Greece. (The walls are bright white and blue). It smells like Greece. (That would be the special pork shoulder, roasting on a homemade spit on the 10th Street sidewalk.) And, most importantly, it tastes like Greece. The authentic Cyprus breakfast consists of two olive-oil-fried eggs, grilled haloumi cheese, lounza (Greek breakfast pork) and crusty bread. All that’s missing is the ocean. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. 1001 Spruce Street, 215-922-1773, kanellarestaurant.com.
Who says brunch has to be all about bagel schmears? As the long line outside Chinatown’s Ocean Harbor proves, doing dim sum instead will keep your weekend interesting. Here, you’ll get all the chaotic bustle you expect: clanking carts, raised voices ordering in multiple languages, and endless plates of steamed and fried dumplings that often taste sweet and savory at once. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. 1023 Race Street, 215-574-1398.
Geechee Girl Rice Café
There are more traditional brunch choices at this sunshiny Germantown BYOB, but you’ll definitely want to opt for the Down South specialties: saucy shrimp and grits, or the Southern breakfast with ham steak and coffee-infused red-eye gravy. Whatever you eat, don’t miss the sweet and spicy house-made ginger beer. Brunching hours: Sunday from 11 a.m. 6825 Germantown Avenue, Germantown, 215-843-8113, geecheegirlricecafe.com.
At this cute Bella Vista spot where everything comes wrapped up in a light-as-air crepe, you’ll have to decide between savory and sweet. There’s a delicious sausage, Swiss cheese, mushroom and egg option, as well as a version with avocado and corn salsa, plus caramelized tomato sauce. But with pears and chocolate, Nutella and bananas, and berries and lemon curd, we challenge you to resist the sweet. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. 624 South 6th Street, 215-592-0656, creperie-beaumonde.com.
When you settle in to Sunday brunch at this tasteful Fitler Square restaurant, you’re hardly expecting to stuff yourself silly. So that order of baked eggs and side of homemade biscuits and gravy will seem like a perfectly reasonable amount of food. Until said biscuits arrive: two to a plate, dripping with sausage-studded gravy. Yeah, maybe the Heart Stopper entrée (a pork chop with buttermilk mashed potatoes and sausage gravy and a sunny-side-up egg) should have tipped you off. Either way, we say yum. Brunching hours: Sunday from 11 a.m. 2201 Spruce Street, 215-735-4900, memerestaurant.com.
Honey’s Sit ’n’ Eat
More down-home than the Down Home Diner, more country than Carman’s Country Kitchen — and just as hip as neighboring eateries — this industrial-chic corner experiment in Jewish-Southern cooking does right by its dense biscuits, homemade applesauce, green bean casserole, chicken-fried steak and matzo ball soup. Waits of an hour-plus on weekends: totally worth it. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. 800 North 4th Street, 215-925-1150,
Brunching at RT means dealing with the faint smell of last night’s beer-soaked party. But that’s why we love it. This is a true-blue pub that serves creative, seasonal fare. Order the cures-all burger or fluffy, chive-spiked scrambled eggs draped over tater tots — or be good with a tofu scramble or the super-cinnamon-y house-made lavender honey granola and a mimosa. People can change. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. 937 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-389-6694, royaltavern.com.
You’ve heard good things come to those who wait. The old adage is certainly true at Sabrina’s, where the long waits have become almost as famous as the eats. Not to worry; when the tattooed, bandanna-bedecked staff brings out that turkey bacon and spinach frittata, and the unbelievably thick-cut cream-cheese-stuffed French toast, you’ll be back in line the next day. Brunching hours: Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. 910 Christian Street, 215-574-1599, and 1804 Callowhill Street, 215-636-9061; sabrinascafe.com.
Brunching à la small plates at this elegant eatery is a nice change of pace. Get a few dishes to share, like cornmeal pancakes with berries, ricotta blintzes with cherry compote, hush puppies, and the house-made doughnuts — and you’ve got an at-your-table mini brunch buffet made up of exactly what you want. Brunching hours: Sunday from 11 a.m. 926 South Street, 215-592-8180, supperphilly.com.
What was once just a bakery is now a full-service restaurant in an idyllic, sun-drenched greenhouse setting that makes for a perfectly chill brunch. You’ll have a hard time choosing between the seasonal vegetable garden frittata, the baked brie avec baguette, and the smoked salmon from Maine’s Ducktrap River. But make sure you leave room for the Boston crème cupcake. Brunching hours: Sunday from 10 a.m. 8501 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill, 215-247-6887, cakeofchestnuthill.com.
Tinto’s normally dark and moody dining room looks different with Sunday-morning light peeking through the big street-facing windows. Brunch is crafted from traditional, top-notch Basque small plates. Try the Kobe steak and eggs and the pipérade — a rich olive-oil sauté of peppers, onions and chorizo — plus a drink. Brunching hours: Sunday from 10:30 a.m. 114 South 20th Street, 215-665-9150, tintorestaurant.com.
Sure, the $21.95 buffet is well-stocked, and the $3.50 mimosa and Mary drink specials are appealing. But the soothing live jazz makes the meal. Food highlights include buckwheat Belgian waffles, an omelet station, and the bite-size desserts, like cherry coffee cakes. Brunching hours: Sunday from 10:30 a.m. 4120 Main Street, Manayunk, 215-482-8220, manayunkbrewery.com.