144 Second Ave., at 9th St.; 212-228-9682
For the next four weeks, this category really belongs to Florent, the meatpacking-district pioneer that’s been eulogized here and elsewhere. But the slickly renovated Veselka has its charms, too. Namely: fluffy, delectably tangy buttermilk waffles and pancakes, a diverse clientele of neighborhood irregulars and that random young couple—straight out of central casting—poring over a Bukowski biography, and the sweet Eastern European waitress who might entertain you with an impromptu magic trick between orders. Like any New York establishment that’s open round the clock, it has a bit of a forlorn bus-station vibe to it, of lonely souls biding time or nodding off. The pirogen usually rouse them.
EGG ON A ROLL
158 Bedford Ave., nr. N. 8th St., Williamsburg; 718-302-1810
There are two schools of thought concerning the egg on a roll. The first one, the classic school, professes that the combination of eggs (scrambled or fried), bacon (nothing fancy), and melted cheese (American, preferably orange) served on a standard-issue soft roll cannot be beat and should never be trifled with. Fairway Cafe makes an excellent version of this style, and undoubtedly so does your corner deli. The second school, the aspirational-gourmet school, believes that in breakfast-sandwich-making—as in all the creative arts—a little renegade tinkering never hurts. ’Wichcraft’s sophisticated and harmonious fried egg, bacon, Gorgonzola, and frisée sandwich on Sullivan St Bakery’s new “panini” roll falls into this camp. While we have no binding allegiance to either the high or the low, we recognize each’s appeal. The egg sandwich at Williamsburg’s new coffee-geek bar El Beit strikes us as the happiest of compromises: Eggs are softly scrambled to order, mingled with fried sage, and crowned with a slice of New York State sharp Cheddar, then deposited inside that soft and chewy new Sullivan roll for an upgrade that will appeal to the sensualist without alienating the purist.
Sáu Voi Corp
101–105 Lafayette St., nr. Walker St.; 212-226-8184
The beauty of breakfast in this town is that, like lunch and dinner, it can be just about anything from anywhere and cost you next to nothing. Which is why, whenever we get into an egg-on-a-roll rut, we head down to Sáu Voi Corp, a Chinatown sandwich shop masquerading as a ramshackle Lotto-cigarette-and-Vietnamese-record store, for a $3.75 bánh mì. Granted, tucking into a Vietnamese hoagie constructed of mostly porky mystery meats is a long way from a toasted everything bagel. Keep an open mind, however, and note that in Ho Chi Minh City, a bánh mì during the morning rush is as de rigueur as an Egg McMuffin is in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. Once you get past this breakfast bias, you have in the Sáu Voi Corp menu eighteen bánh mì variations from which to choose, from barbecued meatball to sour pork hash, all deftly assembled by a team of Yankees-cap-clad ladies. No. 1—the house special combination of ham, pâté, and slightly rubbery turkey loaf mingled with the usual cukes, carrots, hot sauce, and mayo on a crunchy Italian hero roll—is as good a way to start your day as any. Wash it down with an invigorating Vietnamese coffee, and you have a breakfast you won’t forget before lunch.
BEST BREAKFAST, PERIOD
135 N. 5th St., nr. Bedford Ave., Williamsburg; 718-302-5151
Imagine a greasy spoon that sourced the best possible ingredients, then turned them into the sort of soul-satisfying, all-American breakfasts your Cheerios-pushing mother could never be bothered with. That’s Egg, Williamsburg’s plainspoken morning mecca, where chef-owner George Weld has forged a modest kingdom from local-free-roaming-chicken’s eggs and artisanal heirloom grits. Weld’s pancakes are light and fluffy, his buttermilk biscuits unsurpassed. Because of him, Col. Bill Newsom is a household name in country-ham-loving New York households. In short, Egg’s breakfast menu—served, mercifully, until three on weekdays, two on weekends—is New York’s finest. The whole is even greater than the sum of the meticulously sourced, expertly executed parts.