For atmosphere, let's begin with a plate of beans on toast (two eggs optional) at Pastis, in the very early morning, with the big louver doors thrown open so you can watch the garbage trucks go trundling by.
For counter dining, a helping of buttered grits and salmon croquettes at the M&G Diner up on 125th Street, or a platter of huevos rancheros at the Bright Food Shop, in Chelsea, complete with two layers of soft tortilla, two eggs, and a melty mass of beans, sour cream, coriander, and Jack cheese.
For nourishment, the fruit bar at The City Bakery, where you can load up on wedges of fresh papaya and mango before moving on to healthful bowls of mamaligah (advertised to me by the porridge lady as "Jewish grits") or a palatable Americanized variety of Thai congee (made with jasmine rice, with sprinklings of salty soy nuts or shaved coconut).
For brunch, my friend the egg nut swears by the Gruyère-and-mushroom omelette available weekends at Le Zinc. I'm partial to the hubcap-size portion of codfish hash at Diner, in Brooklyn, under the Williamsburg Bridge, the chiffon-light lemon ricotta pancakes at Five Points, on Great Jones Street, and the strips of real corned-beef hash, fried with cubes of potato, at Leshko's, off Tompkins Square Park. You can get most of this and more at the new brunch at Ouest (plus prosecco bellinis spiked with peach purée), and the narrow layout is diabolically designed to frustrate the usual brunchtime invasion of baby strollers.
|Pastis, 9 Ninth Avenue, 212-929-4844
M&G Diner, 383 West 125th Street, 212-864-7326
Bright Food Shop, 216 Eighth Avenue, at 21st Street, 212-243-4433
Le Zinc, 139 Duane Street, 212-513-0001
Diner, 85 Broadway, Brooklyn, 718-486-3077
Five Points, 31 Great Jones Street, 212-253-5700
Leshko's, 111 Avenue A, 212-777-2111
Ouest, 2315 Broadway, at 84th Street, 212-580-8700