Brunch may just be my favorite meal. Brunch freely mixes sweet and savory flavors. Eggs take center stage in a range of dishes from simple to sublime. This luxurious weekend meal encourages champagne consumption, mixed with fruit or straight up. During the hectic holiday season, or any time of year, a restaurant brunch is a great way to connect with family and friends in a relaxed setting everyone can enjoy, even the kids. This week, I am rounding up my list of favorite places for brunch in northern New Jersey.
A few rules of the road before we begin. First, I have consciously eliminated all diners from the running. Diners serve breakfast, usually all day. Yes, you can choose to eat breakfast later in the morning and call it brunch. For the purpose of this roundup, I chose to focus on those restaurants serving a dedicated brunch menu with offerings more tailored to the special “in-between” menu you expect at this meal. In my view, when a menu is more limited, the dishes are better executed.
Second, I gave preference to those locations able to serve alcohol. There are a few exceptions, but in general, I find it difficult to name a restaurant a great brunch spot if they cannot serve you a mimosa. In some cases, the food was good enough to get them there despite their absentee liquor license, so I note where you can BYO to supplement your experience.
Alright, let’s get to brunch!
photo by jenn kosar
Best Traditional Champagne Brunch Restaurants in northern NJ
When people ask me where to go for Brunch in the area, Moonshine is usually my first suggestion for best all-around brunch performance. Their two-course, mix-and match brunch menu features my favorite items from the full menu, including the Country Salad with Frisée, duck cracklings, and a sunny side up duck egg. They offer all the trendy Brunch items you are looking for — Avocado Toast, Ricotta Doughnuts, Nutella Crepes, Duck and Waffles. At $20 for two courses or $30 with three brunch cocktails (mimosas, sangrias, bellinis), it is a good value. You can read my full review of Moonshine here.
photo by jenn kosar
The Hills Tavern
A newer entrant to the scene, The Hills may soon surpass (or at least tie) with Moonshine for my top Brunch recommendation. Similar to Moonshine, The Hills offers a solid Brunch menu with options for everyone, a space large enough to accommodate your gang of family and friends, and the fun-loving brunch atmosphere you seek. Maybe because they are the new kid in town, they are working extra hard to deliver a top experience in every category — great drinks, delicious food, quality service. The french toast is sinfully good, and the drinks are bottomless for just $15. Head here with some good girlfriends and have a blast. You can read my full review of The Hills Tavern here.
Jersey City, NJ and Bloomfield, NJ
Now with two locations, Satis Bistro brings the traditional French bistro to the New Jersey dining scene for any meal (check out my full review here). Since brunch in my family always includes charcuterie, Satis Bistro is high on our list of favorites. The pan-Mediterranean brunch menu invites you to create your own board with a huge selection of cheese, meats, and pâtés. Bring friends, because the portions are large, or bring home the extras for all-day snacking. Save room for an entrée, because the burgers are packed with rich flavor. The Smoked Salmon Tartine with tangy Horseradish Creme Fraiche was the perfect fresh, bright complement to my cheese-and-meat first course. Our kids were treated like royalty, and raved the simple over easy eggs and pancakes were “the best they ever had”.
photo by jenn kosar
The traditional French offerings that have made dinner at Verjus a dependable choice for a simple, delicious meal in Maplewood extend to their brunch menu. The main entrees are fairly unassuming, but well done: omelettes, french toast, pancakes, plus seasonal savory options like Hanger Steak Salad with Blue Cheese Horseradish. The starters are elegant, traditional French offerings such as savory Asparagus Ravigote (served with lump crab meat salad) or a sublime Duck Liver Terrine. What may surprise you is the price: only $30 for two courses, including freshly squeezed orange juice. Bottles of champagne or champagne cocktails can be added for very reasonable prices, a signature feature of Verjus’ value-priced wine list.
Best BYO Brunch Restaurants in Northern NJ
Lorena’s has long held the ranks as one of the best restaurants in New Jersey (and in America according to OpenTable’s Diners Choice awards), but did you know they feature a special Sunday brunch menu? The seasonal menu varies a bit, but generally features upscale French versions of your brunch favorites: Brioche Stuffed French Toast with Nutella, Warm Duck Confit Salad, and of course, their famous Crepe of Crabmeat and Wild Mushrooms with Truffle Oil and Beurre Blanc. Children are more than welcome for brunch with a menu created and sized just for them, although my kids prefer the adult-portioned Balthazar croissants! Just remember to bring your own champagne for the full brunch experience, as Lorena’s is BYO.
photo by foodiesfeed
Probably the most official brunch spot of the bunch, Toast dedicates itself to peace, love, and pancakes. So really, what can go wrong? French Toast and pancakes of all flavors from classic buttermilk to luscious red velvet, four kinds of eggs benedict, and unique egg scrambles that keep this high-protein breakfast girl from getting bored. And they don’t slouch on the savory side either, with their fresh lobster cobb salad, delicious burgers, and range of sandwich and wrap selections. The only problem here is parking and the wait, but it is most certainly worth it. Toast is BYO.
Something different for Brunch Restaurants in Northern NJ
Craving something beyond the usual eggs and french toast this weekend? I have you covered. These spots serve brunch, but with their own twist. Check them out for something new and different.
The Kitchen Step
Jersey City, NJ
Mostly an adaptation of their regular menu, but that is just fine, because their regular menu is delicious. For brunch, I love the Oysters, the Kale Caesar Salad, the Chicken and Waffles, and of course, the Nutella-Swirl Buttermilk Pancakes. You can read my full review of The Kitchen Step here.
photo used with permission from The Kitchen Step
Okay, one traditional brunch item — Avocado Toast. But at Abril Cocina, it is amazing, because these guys know how to handle an Avocado. Of course there are the delicious tacos, plus Chilaquiles Scrambled Eggs rich with smoky flavor and my sweet favorite, Tres Leches French Toast. Abril Cocina is BYO, and you can read my full review of my hometown favorite here.
Worth the Trip for a Special Brunch
Norma’s at the Le Parker Meridien
New York City
I cannot talk about brunch without talking about Norma’s. If you are celebrating something special, or just feel like having the most decadent, over-the-top brunch experience of your food career, visit Norma’s. It is perfect for birthday brunches, bachelorette weekends, and yes, men love it too. Go with as many people as you can, because the portions are gigantic, and you will want to order everything on the menu. I mean really, brunch means never having to choose between sweet and savory. Gary’s tip: order the mac and cheese and just commit to bring it home and eat it later. Yes, the waiters will think you are crazy, but it is worth it.
photo by foodiesfeed
I have not yet visited Summit House in Summit, NJ for brunch, but if their dinner service is any indicator, brunch will be fantastic. Do you have a favorite brunch spot in the area? Share and let us know your view.
In the neighborhood? Join us at the brand-new SOMA Eats Local for a discussion on the best of the dining out scene in South Orange, Maplewood, and surrounding towns.