Marian’s in West Village

To eat at Marian’s is to live the West Village dream. The dining room evokes a charming townhouse owned by a stylish socialite, one with a fondness for robin blue hues and vintage pillows that are reminiscent of Gucci. It’s definitely a rich lady vibe. In fact, I just looked up the restaurant on Google Maps and found that Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment was nearby, which proves my point. Marian’s now serves brunch, so what a way for well-heeled women to be drinking mimosas on a Saturday.

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Win Son Bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

I went to Win Son, a Taiwanese American restaurant in East Williamsburg, many, many years ago, and what I remember is that I don’t remember much about it. I’m sure things were reasonably good, but nothing stood out in a way that made me want to travel back for more. Win Son Bakery, the restaurant’s all-day cafe, on the other hand, grabbed me by the balls instantly. I fell in love with everything that was on my plate. I stuffed myself silly with an egg sandwich, two donuts and a rice roll, all in one sitting. It was incredibly indulgent, but I couldn’t help myself, because the flavors were terrific.

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Bubby’s in Tribeca

Brunch hot spots come and go, but Bubby’s is forever. This place has been around for nearly 20 years, yet it still manages to draw crowds for its brunch. Just a few weekends ago, a 10 am walk-in, which some may view as an aggressively early brunch time, required a 45-minute wait. Bubby’s gives the people what they want, which is an old-fashioned, all-American breakfast consisting of key comfort foods. They don’t challenge you with interesting reinventions or dainty small plates, because who necessarily wants that so early in the day?

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Breakfast at Rose Bakery and Two Hands

Planning brunch is a struggle. The criteria is always the same–somewhere cute, with good food, preferably with some healthyish options like avocado toast, not too crowded, no waiting and preferably downtown. It’s nearly impossible to coordinate a brunch that checks the box on all of these things, because everyone wants the same thing. Friends try to be helpful by recommending Egg Shop or Prune or Bubby’s, which really isn’t because these places are always packed and don’t take reservations.

gentlemen (and ladies) are welcome at two hands
gentlemen (and ladies) are always welcome at two hands

So really your best option is to arrive on the early side as in before 11:30 am and cut your wait time by half. This is what we did when we planned for brunch at the new Two Hands restaurant in Tribeca. Two Hands is an enormously popular cafe in Nolita that somehow manages to be a recruiting center for the hot Aussies in New York. They’ve opened another bigger location that is now a proper restaurant, and it’s just as packed and just as Aussie as ever. We waited for 30 minutes for a table of three, something that comes with the territory.

a flat white to start off the day
a flat white to start off the day

It makes for good people watching. A lot of people wearing denim or leather jackets will be sitting around you. One afternoon I even saw Alexander Wang grabbing a coffee here. If you want something cute and sceney and downtown, you can’t ask for more. And the stylish girls always want something healthy, so you can expect lots of wholesome ingredients on top of toast or bowls with lots of nutritious grains and greens.

avocado toast
smashed avocado toast

broccolini bowl
brassicas bowl with charred broccolini, brussel sprouts, kale, hummus, soft boiled egg and avocado

beet cured salmon with poached egg, fennel yogurt, pickles and capers on rye caraway
beet cured salmon with poached egg, fennel yogurt, pickles and capers on rye caraway

two hands beef burger with a side of crispy potatoes
two hands beef burger with a side of crispy potatoes

The avocado toast is solid, it has a little bit of a spicy kick from the chili oil and good texture from the pepitas and watercress that make it a little more interesting than all the other avocado toasts out there. I also liked the beet cured salmon on toast served with a creamy fennel yogurt spread, which was a nice, lighter and less carby spin on smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel. If you don’t want carbs at all, you can opt for the brassicas bowl, which has nary a bread in sight, only veggies that are mostly green–kale, brussels sprouts, broccolini, peas and beans. Truth be told, I’ve had better leafy green salad bowls elsewhere, like at Sweetgreen or El Rey, but it’s above average. And if you’re like eff it, I want more than rabbit food, then there’s a humongous Two Hands beef burger that comes with a side of potatoes on the menu. Everyone wins at Two Hands.

rose bakery at the ground level of dover street market
rose bakery at dover street market

A lesser known secret for a fashionable brunch without the wait is Rose Bakery, the eatery on the ground floor of Dover Street Market. Dover Street Market is a boutique for the most fashiony of people, the ones in the know about obscure brands like Vetements and who can afford to blow their money on hugely impractical Comme des Garçon pieces. By virtue of that, you will be surrounded by well-dressed patrons with the most discriminating of taste, despite its odd location on 30th and Lex. I guess Dover Street Market attracts a pretty niche crowd so not that many people really know about the store, much less the restaurant.

coffee and the most amazing bread
coffee and the most amazing bread

scone with marmalade and honey butter
scone with marmalade and clotted cream

Which is a big win for me since I can drop by at 12 and just slide into a seat. The cafeteria style seating isn’t the most comfortable, and the service can be a little slow, especially on a Sunday, and they seemed to be running low on things, but the baked goods are worth the wait. The house bread is incredible and on par with the best rustic breads that I’ve had at Wildair and Relae. I was also extremely pleased with the scone we ordered. It was not dry, had a little bit of salt to it, and came with the most amazing side of clotted cream that tasted like honey butter. Smearing some of that on with the marmalade was magical, a moment that ranks up there with opening a new package of Chessman Pepperidge Farm shortbread cookies.

lentil and quinoa soup
lentil soup

the farro bowl with chickpeas, mushroom, sunflower seeds and peas
the farro bowl with chickpeas, mushroom, sunflower seeds, beans and peas

The high end shoppers also like to eat light, so the menu is similarly geared towards wholesome items with an emphasis on vegetables and grains. The daytime menu has some key breakfast staples, all-day sweets, different seasonal vegetable sides and a small selection of entrees. I’ve already raved about the scone so you must get those, and the savory items are nutritious and filling. My farro bowl looked like spring was in full bloom, overflowing with a bountiful harvest of green peas, beans, mushrooms and farro grains. Each morsel was incredibly filling in the most meaningful way. You could probably get away with sharing this with another person and not be hungry. For something lighter the lentil soup should do the trick. It’s more liquidy than most lentil soups, but it’s in no way watery and tasteless.

The beauty of this place is that you can linger here, get some reading done, order another pastry or juice once you’re fully digested and then browse the store at your leisure. The prices of the clothes are sky high, so having a meal at Rose Bakery is a more accessible way of experiencing Dover Market without the same investment. And it’ll be your little secret to have in your back pocket the next time someone wants to do brunch somewhere cute and cool with healthy options and a good scene.

Two Hands Restaurant and Bar
251 Church St (between Leonard and Franklin St)
New York, NY 10013
No phone

Rose Bakery at Dover Street Market
160 Lexington Ave (between 30th and 31st St)
New York, NY 10016
(646) 837-7750

High Street on Hudson Breakfast

Philly often gets a bad rap, but one thing that gets the city good press it its food scene. Several food franchises like Han Dynasty and La Colombe have successfully crossed over into New York, and now another one will join them. High Street on Hudson is the latest transport, and its cute, farm-to-table American cooking and Instagram-worthy breakfast sandwiches and pastries are sure to be hits with the brunch crowd.

freshly baked goods at high street
freshly baked goods at high street

The restaurant is in a prime location that straddles the West Village and Meatpacking. However, it lacks the character of the charming little eateries like a Buvette or Cafe Cluny that are representative of this area. It is an upscale fast casual restaurant, and it definitely looks and feels like one. The food quality is for sure better than a Pret or an Au Bon Pain, but I wouldn’t say that it’s quite as good as its full service counterparts.

lovely place settings
lovely place settings

The pastries were the biggest disappointment. The waitress described High Street’s sweets as being more savory than your typical pastry, which sounded very intriguing in theory, but not so in practice. I wanted so much for the hazelnut-fig escargot to taste like a danish, which it did, but one where the baker completely forgot the sugar. The disconnect between what I saw and what I ate was very troublesome, and I left the baked good largely uneaten.

hazelnut-fig escargot
hazelnut-fig escargot

What’s great about the menu is that there are equal parts devoted to traditional breakfast and lunch items. High Street raises the bar on egg sandwiches, although I wish they made them easier to eat. My Forager sandwich was stuffed with all the greatest hits from the local farmers’ market–the dreamiest soft scrambled farm eggs, creamy green meadow swiss cheese, braised kale and a handsome slab of earthy king oyster mushroom–but they could hardly be contained between the unstable infrastructure of flimsy poppy seed brioche buns.

the forager egg sandwich
the forager egg sandwich

The ancient grains salad held up much better, which is something you might expect from a dish that has been around since the age of the cavemen. It completely lived up to its Paleo mantra of clean eating, with a little cheat day of goat cheese and cider cranberries thrown in. The clear winner of the day was the humble sweet onion parsnip soup. The flavors were exactly as advertised, which made it such a success.

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ancient grains salad

sweet onion parsnip soup
sweet onion parsnip soup

One upside of the fast-casual nature of High Street on Hudson is that the operations are pretty efficient. We were quoted a wait time of 40 minutes on a Saturday but were seated in 20, and the food all came out pretty fast. And if it doesn’t, you can always browse the interesting clothing stores in nearby Meatpacking, or you can take some things to-go and eat it on the High Line instead of the High Street.

High Street on Hudson
637 Hudson Street (between Horatio and Gansevoort St)
New York, NY 10014
(917) 388-3944