Ranked: The Definitive, Irreproachable List Of The Best Brunch Dishes

Brunch is now served at Nick's in Old City

When we have nothing else to argue about here at Foobooz World HQ, we make fun of manatees. But when even the manatees are no longer amusing, we debate the merits of brunch.

This is saved as a conversation of last resort not because we don’t all agree on the elements of a great brunch (liquor, pancakes, salt, liquor, soft light), but because we have strong opinions that are, mostly, all the same. Brunch, while not an American invention, was perfected by Americans. We do brunch better than almost anyone, and in Philadelphia, brunch is treated almost like a religion–a required and formalized bit of tableside worship done every weekend by thousands of us, only with bloody marys and bacon working the weekly magic of transubstantiation.

So anyway, brunch? It’s something we think about a lot. And here, we have put together a ranked list of the best (and worst) brunch dishes in order of greatness and necessity–not by specific restaurant (the greatest brunch, often, is the one that’s in front of you), but by archetypal dish. And it all begins with…

1) Beignets
This one was a personal call. I’m not saying that any rational person would argue that the beignet is NOT the best brunch food ever invented, just that there is often some contention over the top spot. Like, for example, there was some discussion that…
2) Biscuits and Gravy
…ought to really take the top spot because they’re such a brunch standard and so perfectly, beautifully American. But that’s nonsense. Beignets are like classy donuts. They’re deep-fried and topped with powdered sugar. And frankly, they only narrowly beat out…
3) Fry Bread
…because, seriously, it’s hard to find real fry bread around here. So yes, there is a bit of regional bias in this list. But not much. I promise.
4) Bacon, Egg And Cheese Sandwich
Preferably on an English muffin, but you do you.
5) Breakfast Burrito
Art says breakfast tacos are better than breakfast burritos. I think he is wrong, and I’m the guy who wrote the final list. But feel free to discuss below.
6) Corned Beef Hash
The king of the hashes. And ranked in a suitably kingly position.
7) Bacon
We considered breaking out individual breakfast meats, but that would’ve made this list ridiculously long. Suffice it to say that the addition of a side of bacon to any of these dishes is an excellent idea. Suffice it to say that simply eating a plate of bacon at brunch and washing it down with three mimosas is an effective way of demonstrating to your body just who is in charge and making all these questionable life choices. Suffice it to say that bacon is a way to give the finger to mortality. Bacon is special. That’s why it gets its own slot on this list. The only other individual meat we’re including here is…
8) Scrapple
…because scrapple is ours and it is special. It’s like bacon’s scrappy cousin, just in town to have a few beers and pick a fight with a police horse. Not so delicate or venerable as bacon, it remains an ideal morning-after curative and a better way to root yourself into place in Philadelphia than waking up in Old City wearing nothing but a Ben Franklin wig and a Flyers jersey. Take it from us.
9) Congee
10) Shakshuka
11) The Traditional
By which I mean two eggs, any style, bacon, hash browns and toast. Sometimes the simple things are the best.
12) Pancakes (Standard)
Including potato, which are excellent as a solid and savory base for day-drinkers.
13) Huevos Rancheros
14) Crepes
Sweet or savory crepes can work here, depending on your feelings about spinach as a breakfast food. Crespelle also fall into this category. But blintzes? No. And do you know why? Because I can’t recall the last time I had a good blintz. And neither can you.
15)Avocado Toast
A new-fangled up-and-comer, sure. But we have been impressed by the range and creativity of various avocado toasts lately. Also, if we didn’t include it somewhere on the good half of this list, our friend Adjua from Be Well Philly (who loves avocado toast to what one might consider an obsessive degree) would kill us. And since she’s healthy (meaning she doesn’t eat a plate of bacon every day), she could probably outrun us.
16) Eggs Benedict
So often fucked up. But when they’re done well, they’re awesome.
17) Shrimp And Grits
18) Waffles
Wait, what? Pancakes are better than waffles? Yes, they are. Just deal with it. But the best waffles are still better than…
19) Pancakes (Fancy-Pants)
Some unique and creative pancake iterations are good. Buckwheat flour, odd syrups, nut toppings–okay, we can get behind that. But the next doofus who ruins a plate of pancakes by putting pomegranate or hay on them is going to get punched. Don’t mess with brunch that way. It’s unseemly.
20) Toad In The Hole
A special place for this highly specific egg presentation.
21) Omelets (All Varieties)
22) Nicoise Salad
23) All Other Hashes
24) Last Night’s Leftover Pizza
Really, more of an at-home brunch kind of thing, but we felt it was important to include this. Same deal with…
25) Fried Chicken
Eaten cold, the next morning, which is seriously just the best if you are simply unable to get out the front door to face the world.
26) Fried Chicken And Waffles
This is not a brunch dish. It is a 3am dish, eaten BEFORE going to bed as a prophylactic defense against hangovers.
27) Croque Monsieur/Madame And Also The Monte Cristo
I find all breakfast sandwiches that aren’t, you know, a BREAKFAST SANDWICH to be highly suspect. That said, I do respect the first man who thought of deep frying a ham sandwich.
28) Mussels
Art doesn’t believe that brunch mussels are a thing. But they are. He’s just in denial.
29) Toast (both French and plain)
The sucker’s brunch. Don’t get me wrong. I like French toast and regular toast, too. But if you’re out for brunch and looking for something sweet and syrupy and goopy, both pancakes and waffles are the better choice than French toast. And if you’re so wrecked (or so health conscious maybe?) that plain toast is the only choice you can stomach, maybe just stay home. Or go jogging or something. Also, there’s just something more straight up breakfast-y about both toast varieties, isn’t there?
30) Breakfast Tacos
31) Oatmeal
Ugh… Really? Maybe just stay home.
32) Soup
See: Oatmeal
33) Any Sort Of Shake Or Smoothie-Based Replacement For An Actual Meal
Yeah, this is where we’re getting into the really bad stuff. Things that should never be done at brunch. And like so many bad life choices, it all begins with a smoothie.
34) Quiche
Mostly, just gross.
35) Yogurt With Stuff In It
36) Brunch Burgers
Just eat a burger. You don’t have to put an egg on it to make yourself feel better.
37) Brunch Pizza
Fuck you. (It should be noted here that our otherwise charming and dependable intern, Stephanie, chose “eggs on pizza” as her #1 favorite brunch dish. In her defense, she also ranked hash pretty highly, but we may still have to fire her.)
38) All Other Salads (Besides Nicoise)
No, seriously. Fuck you.
39) Frittata
You’re the worst.

All Brunch Coverage [f8b8z]