The Best Places to Eat Brunch on the Coast
Koko Head Café
Add a self-described culinary polyglot to Hawai’i’s melting pot of Pacific Rim cuisines and you get Koko Head Cafe, easily the hottest place for brunch on Honolulu. That popularity can be credited to chef Lee Anne Wong’s ingenious approach to the first meal of the day. Take, for instance, her cast iron special, Breakfast Bibimbap, or a fried poke omelet topped with furikake and masago aioli. And on the sweet side, Wong’s French toast, which is dipped in coconut milk-vanilla custard, coated in crushed cornflakes and fried to perfection. The toppings of candied bacon, Frosted Flake gelato, and creamy black-pepper maple syrup are just the (figurative) cherry on top.
Veggie-forward and farm-to-table meets smartly infused Middle Eastern influences at Tusk, a Bon Appétit Best New Restaurant and a Food & Wine Restaurant of the Year for 2017. Traditional Moroccan dishes include the Lamama Breakfast (a platter of olives, berries, labneh, egg, dates, almond and argan butter served with crispy bread), but the Middle Eastern influences seep even into tried-and-true American classics. For example, biscuits punched up with za’atar (a heavenly blend of thyme, oregano, sumac, and toasted sesame seeds) and slathered in paprika-spangled pork and lamb gravy. Leading pastry chef Nora Antene takes care of dessert, whipping up a pistachio gooey butter cake and seasonal jams paired with chevre and sourdough toast.
San Francisco, CA
Chef Gayle Pirie insists on starting your morning at Foreign Cinema with an Aperol, lemon, bitters, and Dolin Blanc cocktail named “Wild at Heart”—and it only gets better from there at this San Francisco institution. Indulge your inner child with an organic ‘Pop Tart’—no more saccharine fake-fruit filing, just seasonal Fuyu persimmon in this breakfast pastry. Then belly up to the raw bar and snag oysters on the half served with a Brazilian mignonette (a mélange of minced red onion, minced habanero, lime juice, zest, and salt). No worries if you linger over your meal—film screenings of movies such as Blancanieves, East of Eden, and Great Gatsby begin at dusk.
San Francisco, CA
Tartine proved their bread prowess—wild, long fermentations to attain a custard-like crumb and shatteringly crisp crust—with the original Tartine location in the Mission District. Now, owners Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson have expanded to Tartine Manufactory, a multi-counter culinary playground offering everything from baked goods and coffee to ice cream and glasses of natural wine. Sure, grab-and-go options abound, but if you have the time, you’ll want to snag a table for a complete design-it-yourself multi-course experience. Sip on a cup of coffee roasted in-house or a rose lemonade kombucha, and indulge in coddled eggs scattered with trout roe, horseradish, za’atar, and grilled bread. Then make sure to meander over to the Pastry Counter for a morning bun orange ice cream pie, which will test every ounce of your midday restraint.
Los Angeles, CA
Of all things, chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson connected the dots between the climates of the Middle East and Southern California, and saw the potential of infusing the culinary traditions of two very different locales. The results? One of the West Coast’s most adventurous brunches. Take the broccoli toast, for instance—topped with pomegranates and house-made labneh, a traditional Middle Eastern kefir product made at Kismet with California dairy. Sure, you can play it somewhat safe with shakshuka, but the kuku, a Persian-inspired frittata with white beans and barberries, is our new go-to.
Los Angeles, CA
From a dining room bedecked with white picnic tables to walls plastered haphazardly with skater stickers, it’s apparent that Ludo Lefebvre’s (Trois Mec) Silver Lake restaurant doesn’t take itself too seriously. This whimsical ethos is best seen on the menu, where French, Mexican, and Californian influences come to play. For instance, Lefebvre’s take on Taco Bell’s Double Decker taco, here layered with silky mashed potatoes, carrot pico, and crème fraiche. Or the chef’s breakfast burrito filled with caramelized onions, American cheese, jambon de Paris and truffle salt. Fair warning, lines here can accumulate down the length of the strip center, but you can always grab a milky-sweet Horchata or churro French toast from the cheekily named “Trois Go” takeout menu.
Los Angeles, CA
What started as a preserves company has grown into a full-on brunch phenomenon at Jessica Koslow's Sqirl. One peek at the Silver Lake spot's geotag on Instagram and you're instantly mesmerized by the thick slices of darkly toasted brioche, a hearty spread of house ricotta, and bright seasonal jams such as apple butter, blood orange marmalade, and wild boysenberry. The vegetarian-friendly, California-vibe fare struts its stuff in dishes like the Sorrel Pesto Rice, with Kokuho brown rice tossed with sorrel pesto, preserved meyer lemon, lacto-fermented hot suace, watermelon radish, French sheep feta, and a poached egg (house sausage or market green add-ons available, too). Snag a table (if you can), and arrange your fresh feast for the perfect 'gram.
Farmer & The Seahorse
San Diego, CA
Top Chef celeb and San Diego food scene fixture, Brian Malarkey’s followup to the highly successful Green Acre is inspired by all-local produce and the freshest catch of the Pacific. Nestled within the coastal city’s life science work/play hub, Farmer & The Seahorse specializes in updated classics like Malarkey’s pillowy crab crab benedict, a gouda and grilled chorizo breakfast sandwich, or a breakfast pizza layered with fried egg, cheddar curds, and candied jalapeno. Still not suffering from a food coma? Enjoy a knockout punch courtesy of the cold draft coupe shaken with house-infused vanilla vodka, Caribbean cold draft coffee, salted caramel Bailey’s, and chocolate bitters.
New Orleans, LA
James Beard award-nominated Kelly Fields brings her passion for all things pastry to New Orleans’ Willa Jean. Take advantage of your proximity to the Gulf with the BBQ Shrimp Toast, a dazzling strata of locally caught shrimp, burrata, and buttery NOLA-style barbecue sauce atop a slice of grilled sourdough. But save room for a seasonal pastry (or two!)—Fields herself thinks it should be unlawful to not try the Monkey Bread paired with Willa Jean’s famous frose or a coffee-forward cocktail like the Caffeinate Lebowski—an amalgam of espresso, vodka, Kahlua, and cream.
The Collins Quarter
At this Australian coffee shop and café just off the Savannah River, the Down Under vibe comes from the homey hospitality of Australian owner Anthony Debreceny. Pop in and you’ll see him taking his morning macchiato chatting alongside regulars (most often with a spiced lavender or turmeric latte in their hand). Then order a brunch classic with a Collins twist: the Swine Time Beni, a slice of Brioche French toast piled high with tender pulled pork, grilled tomato, a poached egg, homemade Hollandaise, and a smattering of crispy Cheshire Farms bacon.
Darling Oyster Bar
Teal leather booths and barstools. Crisp white tiling. And 1920s architectural detail in a century-old building. Darling Oyster Bar earns its namesake. For a taste of Chef Joe DiMaio’s North Carolina roots, order an oyster fry basket dredged in the Calabash way (delicately seasoned and lightly breaded). The French toast, topped with a mixed berry compote, is worth it for the maple whipped cream alone. But don’t grab the check until your table has split an order of the “poutine” fries—local clam and bacon chowder, poured tableside over house fries.
The Handsome Biscuit
What makes a biscuit a Handsome Biscuit? Just mash in roasted local sweet potatoes into the dough alongside brown sugar and buttermilk. “It’s like a southern Thanksgiving everyday,” says owner Dave Hausmann. So how can you resist? Particularly when said biscuit is lavishly layered with fried chicken, thick-cut bacon, cheddar, and red eye sausage gravy sandwich (i.e the Hella Fitzgerald). Pair any of their 10 amazing biscuit sandwiches with a coffee roasted at Cafe Stella just down the street, or wash it down with Handsome’s rotating in-house agua frescas like the pear-lime.
Pizza and seafood-driven New England fare takes center stage at Boston chef Michael Scelfo’s sophomore venture—even at brunch. Add an egg to any one of his legendary pizzas (we suggest the chopped clam with parsley) or choose from a breakfast original such as the spinach, egg, and Benton’s bacon on a béchamel base. Perhaps the most Instagrammable offering (besides the baller caviar service) comes from pastry chef Kenny Hoshino, who bakes a raisin and walnut cinnamon roll as big as your face. Pro tip: during Sunday brunch, oysters are just $1 a pop, and go down easy with one of Waypoint DIY mimosas (choose from a variety of bubbles and juices).
Tradition reigns supreme at Rose Foods, the newest venture from chef Chad Conley of the critically acclaimed Palace Diner in Biddeford. Here, all the trimmings of a classic Jewish deli (Conley says he was inspired by Schmaltz Appetizing in Toronto) are done right—from the herring plates and mile-high pastrami on rye to the house-made bagels in flavors both familiar (everything, poppy seed, dark rye) and the not-so-much (sumac and chile, corned beef spice). Peruse the retail area filled with Kosher treats and made-in-Maine products (Kelp Krunch Bars) while waiting for a cup of matzo ball soup or classic nova sandwiches schmeared with cream cheese, nova lox (cured to perfection at Samaki in New York) , cucumber, onion, capers, and dill.