If you think about it, a hangover is really just a combination of mild dehydration and the cranial manifestation of an underlying psychological plea for a heaping plate of guilt-free bacon and maybe some morning booze. No matter where you are in the country, Hopper’s got you sorted for where to get that bacon (and challah french toast, pancakes with various macerated seasonal fruits and breakfast sammies with a side of cheddar grits) with our ranking of America’s best cities for brunch. Some of the brunch restaurants in these cities are so good that real fans may even want to consider these cities for their next vacay.
Boston is a city of contrasts: proud born-and-bred locals live alongside college students visiting from around the world. There are historic buildings – including the nation’s oldest restaurant, tavern and library – as well as hot new clubs, bars and dining spots. The city’s brunch scene is no different, with options ranging from the traditional and refined to the offbeat and progressive. Whether you want nutritious or deep-fried, extravagant or shoestring, you can get your fix here. At these standout brunches, one element remains the same: wicked-good food.
For all its serious politics, Washington certainly knows how to do funky brunch spots. Ted’s Bulletin, a ‘50s office-themed spot with adult milkshakes flavored with Kahlua, hazelnut liqueur, coconut rum or peppermint schnapps and homemade Pop Tarts, is certainly one of those places. Light and airy, decorated with art-deco pieces from the 1929 Philadelphia Convention Center and clever signs, Ted’s is a no-reservation Capitol Hill favorite that fills up fast. Or check out the Austrian-style Georgetown restaurant Kafe Leopold, with their curious but delicious Kaiserschmarrn mit Zwetschgenröster, a scrambled soufflé with plum-compote and currants. Savory breakfast foodies will love the Chedderwurst and truffle grits with egg and cured meat. Of course, one can’t leave this Cady’s Alley gem without taking home one of their decadent pastries: check out the gorgeous Papillote, a chocolate bundle encasing praline meringue and almond hazelnut mousse. Now we know how the politicians sleep at night – it passes time before brunch!
Maybe the writers of the critically successful and laugh-out-loud hilarious sitcom weren’t thinking of Sam’s Morning Glory Diner when they titled it "Always Sunny in Philadelphia," but dang, is it ever sunny in Philadelphia! This totally local diner was one of the first on the Bella Vista brunch scene and has a specific mandate to make all of their offerings from scratch, like their delectable morning muffins, made-to-order frittata platters and the insanely decadent "Monkey French Toast" stuffed with caramelized bananas and mangoes topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream. And no disrespect to the noble and ubiquitous Philly cheese steak, but diners with a hankering for meat on their way to the Liberty Bell would be remiss not to try the beef brisket sandwich on a brioche bun from widely hailed Jones on historic Chestnut Street. For a sunny stay in Philly, make sure you don’t fly back without breaking some brunch.
As soon as someone sinks their teeth into the french toast at Jam in Chicago, it’s all over. That’s a direct warning. It’s brioche soaked in malted vanilla custard, delicately and slowly cooked sous vide to optimize inner creaminess and caramelized just before serving, topped with macerated cherries, lime zested cream and pink peppercorns. Read that sentence again. Just like that every single piece of french toast you ever eat again will taste like soggy cardboard in comparison to the great french toast at Jam in Logan Square in Chicago. And while Jam is still Chicago’s jam, there are a handful of other well-hyped and competitive brunch spots in the beautiful windy city – the Publican, for example, serves up an expertly mixed Bloody Mary made with Tito’s Vodka served with a beer accompaniment – a beer accompaniment! – alongside innovative and decadent brunch items like duck confit on potato fry bread, roasted eggplant, frisée with a fried egg, or the breakfast sausage corn dog covered in waffle batter topped with chocolate persimmons and lemon whipped cream. And then there’s the maple-braised Publican bacon, which is, like, painful to think about – is there truly anything better than salty, smoky, sweet, super thick sliced pork belly cooked in maple syrup?
Atlanta represents a perfect balance of Southern tradition in trendy urban sprawl. With brunch, this is exceedingly apparent – nowhere else would anybody want to wait half an hour for a plate of grits or a corn dog, but in Atlanta, people are content waiting longer, because these grits are from Highland Bakery and exquisitely placed under sautéed seasoned gulf shrimp with a side of japaleño and chopped cilantro, and the corn dog is made with sausage served with truffle honey mustard from Rosebud. It’s that worth it. Dumplings, chicken and waffles, buttermilk biscuits and gravy, grits and even maple sugar are just a few of the great brunch offerings of the South, and in Atlanta these items merge with major big city cache to produce such morning perks of perfectly crusted tilapia over cheesy grits in Grant Park’s famous Ria’s Bluebird, or the corned beef hash at Murphy’s in the Virginia Highland area, made with cage-free poached eggs and horseradish mustard sauce. Wash it down with a fine cup of coffee or, better yet, a mimosa, and the morning will be made.
The Big Apple tastes a lot different when it’s slotted in alongside double-smoked bacon and New York State cheddar in the A-B-C grilled cheese at the Buttermilk Channel in charming Carroll Gardens on the eastern side of Brooklyn. Or topped over a spiced apple beignet from Cookshop in Chelsea. The competition for best brunch in New York has premier chefs and up-and-comers throwing truffles into their fried eggs (Clinton St. Baking), homemade harissa atop homefries (Cafe Orlin) and ham, turkey and swiss in their custard-battered and deep fried version of the Monte Cristo sandwich (Prune). Brunch certainly didn’t originate in New York City, but the city arguably upped the game and now everyone and their mom are dishing out designer eggs bennies, gulping down their hangovers with one more gourmet Bloody Mary. Which, speaking of, have you tasted the Bloody Mary menu at Prune? Famous for their 10 variations on the classic, including the cool burning Green Lake, which incorporates beef jerky and wasabi, this East Village go-to has a marvelous concoction for everyone.
While the concept of brunch traces back to the Britain 1800s, some theorize that the idea of this large, lavish and gourmet midday meal proliferated through the States by Hollywood actors in the 1930s who would be stopping over from transcontinental train rides on weekends, filling up in hotels because all other restaurants were closed on weekends. These days, brunch in Los Angeles harkens back to those days – hit Chateau Marmont on an early Saturday afternoon and find the Olsen twins chowing down on Brioche French Toast. Over at Urth Café downtown, clock Rachel Bilson walking out with a latte on the go. What this means is that in L.A., nobody’s going to have to settle for steam bin scrambled eggs (unless they’re actively seeking) – certainly not with the chocolate hazelnut spread stuffed in the "Addicted to Noisella French Toast" at the Griddle Café, or the Moroccan Baked Eggs with merguez, chili tomato sauce, cilantro and spiced yogurt at the super trendy Gjelina in Venice.
Nobody knows the importance of a healthy breakfast than the newly 21 birthday weekenders nursing massive hangovers. Except maybe the people who run the breakfast buffet. That’s why people who wake up in such a state would do well to put their grown-up pants on and pay a visit to the Country Club at Wynn Resort – their (soft) Jazz brunch includes unlimited poached eggs with barbecue smoked pork on a bacon cheese muffin, or french toast bread pudding, or shrimp and grits, or, really, anything on the menu. Adults eager for the celebrity chef experience can hit Bouchon Bistro, Thomas Keller’s home in the Venetian, with their decadent French classics: Croque Madames, scrambled eggs and white sausages with a croissant topped with beurre noisette, brioche to die for and an assortment of oysters, mussels, shrimp, caviar, and lobsters for the brave few who wake up feeling fishy. The point is, it’s Vegas, and Vegas isn’t going to pump you full of liquor just to take away the bacon the next morning – like the coolest mom ever, Vegas is going to hand you a Bellini made with white peach purée to help nurse that hangover.
Brunch lovers won't want to miss this article on the best restaurants for brunch in Las Vegas
It’s kind of crazy but one wouldn’t think that a city with so many fit bodies would be so good at something like the Southern-style eggs benedict over a biscuit topped with lump crab, poached eggs, Cajun hollandaise, roasted fingerlings and thick apple-smoked bacon, but the quality and decadent Icebox Café is actually not that anomalous in South Beach’s first-rate food scene. Nor is it all that strange that Icebox, an Oprah-approved restaurant known for their incredible cakes, has formed relationships with local organic farms to provide made-from-scratch and sustainable dishes. Michael’s Genuine, with locations in both Buena Vista and the Design District, also prizes local produce, meat, and seafood – this Miami pioneer of the slow food movement have formed ongoing partnerships with local suppliers and have their own recycling programs. For an upscale wake-up call, try pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith’s re-imagined Pop Tarts, with flaky crust filled with peach and blackberry, followed by the breakfast pizza, heaped with Monterey Jack, house smoked bacon, onions and an over-easy egg.
Portland is like: "Anything you can do I can do better… out of a food truck, made from totally organic and locally-sourced ingredients, bishes!" And when you hit up the Brunch Box because the logo’s got a mustache on it and you taste their "black and bleu" breakfast sandwich made with bacon, sausage, bleu cheese, onions and a fried egg, you’re like: "OK, Portland, you win this one." But it’s not just the übercasual outdoor eating vibe about Portland that makes this hipster-heavy city great for brunch, nor is it a strict adherence to trends. It’s everything – the bikes, the drive-throughs, the microbrews, the focus on the hyper-local and sustainable, the smiles of neighborhood café proprietors, the fact that someone who lives in Portland can laugh and say "Oh that’s so Portland" and it doesn’t even sound a touch pejorative. Portland is mad chill. The Waffle Window, for instance, has a seasonal waffle heaping with strawberries, cheesecake pudding, strawberry jam, topped with graham cracker crumble and whipped cream and $1.50 from each order goes straight the support the Sabin School. No biggie, though, right? It’s just Portland.