139 Duane St., nr. Church St.; 212-571-8880
You can thank chef Kurt Gutenbrunner and a tradition of doting Austrian mothers for the best eggs in town. They come soft-boiled and pre-peeled because, to loosely paraphrase the chef, young Austrian boys have better things to do with their time than peel eggs, and there is nothing a good Austrian Mutter wouldn’t do for her little Augustus Gloop. At Blaue Gans, Gutenbrunner serves them two to an order in a martini glass, one nestled atop another like a pair of baby seals sunning themselves on a rock. It’s a striking presentation—one that you can find in any coffeehouse in Vienna, according to Gutenbrunner—and one you almost don’t want to topple until you dig in and discover how nicely cooked the eggs are with their soft whites, bright-orange yolks that are runny but not too, and nary a distracting shell in sight.
Sullivan St Bakery
533 W. 47th St., nr. Tenth Ave.; 212-265-5580
Nothing against the trend of restaurants serving doughnuts for dessert, but the doughnut is first and foremost a breakfast food. And while there is much to be said for the Rockwellian appeal of blue-collar throwbacks like Alpha Donuts in Sunnyside and downtown’s Donut Pub, it only stands to reason that the better the baker, the better the doughnut. That’s why we get our fried-dough fix at Sullivan St Bakery, where, on a whim, Jim Lahey recently began crafting extremely small-batch bomboloni. Why the Italians named a doughnut after a word that means “big bomb,” we’re not sure. Perhaps it’s due to the tendency of the filling to zero in on the front of your shirt like a cruise missile, or maybe it’s the way a lesser bombolone sits in your stomach all day, but these superior vanilla-pastry-cream versions are not only delicious, they’re exceptionally light and airy. Lahey’s trick is using a modified panettone dough instead of a regular bombolone dough—that, and cooking the bomboloni four at a time in a $99 Emeril Lagasse deep fryer he bought at Zabar’s.
541 Amsterdam Ave., nr. 86th St.; 212-724-4707
Any harried New Yorker will tell you there’s no more sacred, satisfying breakfast in town than a fresh-baked bagel, devoured on the run, in the morning. But if you have time for a leisurely, even salubrious, bagel-oriented feast, there’s only one place to go. Barney Greengrass has been peddling more or less the same range of product, from more or less the same green-walled, weather-beaten space on Amsterdam and 86th, for exactly 100 years now. We suggest you go when the true aficionados do, on a weekday morning, when you can carefully inspect the stacks of sturgeon and sablefish and lox without being trampled by the unruly weekend hordes. There are twenty smoked-fish platters to choose from, 23 omelettes and egg dishes, and eight kinds of egg sandwiches. What do we recommend? Sturgeon scrambled with eggs and onions, with a plain toasted bagel and cream cheese on the side, of course.
80 Columbus Cir., at 60th St.; 212-805-8881
Are you tired of gnawing on stale croissants with the same bunch of self-serious, suit-wearing, pseudo-powerful gasbags at the St. Regis or Michael’s? Then do what we do whenever our agent, or editor, or banker friend wants to meet for an early-morning cup of tea—and is willing to pick up the tab. Take a seat at Asiate, the polished, glass-and-chrome eagle’s nest on the 35th-floor lobby of the Mandarin Oriental, in the Time Warner Center. You’ll find fresh orchids at your table and a grand penthouse view of the dappled meadows in Central Park. More important, you’ll find a pretty damn good meal. There are six strong egg options on the menu (the “All American” being the most classically satisfying), a $32 “Japanese Breakfast,” even a Chinese breakfast that includes steamed pork buns and rice congee. Our unorthodox, noncorporate choice? The Asiate turkey hash, topped with poached eggs and Hollandaise tipped with miso.
383 W. 125th St., at Morningside Ave.; 212-864-7326
Diners—the true old-fashioned workingman’s lunch counters, not the vintage shells painstakingly rehabbed into hipster hangouts—are a dying breed, especially in Manhattan. That’s why we’re grateful for relics like M&G, the soul-food luncheonette that advertises itself as “old fashion’ but good!” That about sums it up. Comfortable in a bedraggled, lived-in way, the place is patronized by regulars who hang their coats on the standing rack before grabbing a stool at the counter, where bottles of Frank’s hot sauce or Aunt Jemima’s syrup mark the place settings. The place is known for its fried chicken, which is salty and greasy and can be ordered for breakfast on top of a waffle. But there’s something about the short-order setting that steers us toward the eggs, accessorized with any number of soul-food specialities, from smothered pork chops to salmon croquettes. Cakes beckon from beneath plastic covers, but the thing to get is the corn muffin, dessert by any other name.