Check out some of the best places to eat breakfast in the Boston area — with mouth-watering appearances from the likes of red velvet pancakes and pastrami Benedict.
From homey to haute, here is where to go for the most important meal of the day.
By James H. Burnett III, Nicole Cammorata, Ike Delorenzo, Sheryl Julian, Doug Most, Anne V. Nelson, Kathleen Pierce, Mark Pothier, Julia Quinn-Szcesuil, Denise Drower Swidey, Rachel Travers, Adrian Walker, and Eileen McEleney Woods.
3 Little Figs
Chef, baker, and co-owner Katie Rooney got her start at area farmers’ markets, but the family affair (mother, husband, sister) put down roots in Somerville. The airy cafe is a stylish understated place with stylish understated offerings. Coffee cakes rotate, and the java is from Gimme! Coffee. Eat breakfast here, and it’s hard to resist also taking home a snack for later.
278 Highland Avenue, Somerville, 617-623-3447, 3littlefigs.com
The Blue Room
The fixed-price Sunday brunch buffet at The Blue Room in Cambridge is still going strong after over 20 years, though now it’s under the spatula of a new chef. Robert Grant is known for seasonal menus and top ingredients. A mini smoothie — one recent morning, it was blueberry, banana, and pineapple — makes a great start, or jump in with a mimosa. Then whether you go for scrambled eggs or a salad, fresh and delicious is what you get. Don’t overlook the pastry table’s chocolate ganache tarts, lemon poppy seed muffins, or cherry almond scones.
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-494-9034, theblueroom.net
Bread & Chocolate Bakery Cafe
Dark wooden farm tables convey a homey feel, and so does the new weekend brunch menu that’s available at the Newton Highlands location only. Highlights include the buttery croque-madame and the French (bread) French toast, surprisingly tender despite its baguette origins. The omelets are packed full, and the thick bacon will melt in your mouth.
4 Hartford Street, Newton, 617-795-0500, breadnchocolate.com
The Breakfast Club
Tough love is on the menu weekday mornings starting at 6, an hour later on weekends. So are thick white-bread French toast, sheets of scrambled eggs, slow-grilled new potatoes, and basic but effective coffee. The truckers, construction workers, and slumming Harvard Business School students who fill the vinyl banquettes seem to like it that way. For the faint of heart, bowls of fresh fruit, granola, and oatmeal are available with a look of disappointment on the side.
270 Western Avenue, Allston, 617-783-1212, thebreakfastclubboston.com
The Bristol Lounge
Breakfast at the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons is always a special occasion. Exquisitely comfortable chairs, tables overlooking the Public Garden, nice linens, coffee poured often, tea with actual leaves, and unparalleled hospitality guarantee it. The staff never flinches, whether you’re making up your order (they pride themselves on being able to fulfill it; if they don’t have the flavoring for your favorite yogurt, they make it) or a house specialty (corned beef hash with poached eggs and Boston baked beans). The bill is always high. So is the quality.
200 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-338-4400, fourseasons.com/boston
At Clover, servers intercept rather than greet you, taking orders on iPods and reporting prep times to the tenth of a minute. And there’s plenty of green attitude: no trash cans (“everything we use is compostable’’), no Splenda (“it’s artificial’’), and no meat. But it’s worth it. The marvelous $2 coffees feature a cast of local indie roasters. And yes, the same sandwiches are sold at Clover’s Inman and mobile locations, too.
7 Holyoke Street, Cambridge (no phone), and other locations including a food truck, cloverfoodlab.com
Imagine this — two farm-fresh eggs, over easy, sprinkled with fresh chives and dried Espelette pepper and served with Parmesan polenta and thick, house-cured bacon. Yes, even brunch is better in Italy. Scrambled eggs with leeks get a fancy name like uova con castello, and a taste to match. Drinks include refined Bloody Marys, Aperol with orange juice, and prosecco spritzers, including one served stealthily in a mug. Inexplicably, you can often walk right in while other South End bruncheries have pointless lines. Hurry, that won’t last. (Open Sundays only for brunch.)
253 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboston.com
Crossroads Cafe & Deli
For years, the turnover rate was high for businesses on this busy corner in Hanover. But when Crossroads opened a decade ago, something seemed to click. Locals flock for yummy quiches, three-egg omelets, and the traditional, no-frills plate of bacon, home fries, and eggs any way you want them. The service is always warm at this neighborhood spot, which is decorated in bright, cheerful hues with roosters on the curtains (good morning!).
216 Rockland Street, Hanover, 781-826-9921, crossroadscafeanddeli.com
Deluxe Town Diner and Deluxe Station Diner
Like many other diners, Deluxe Town in Watertown and Deluxe Station in Newton Centre serve breakfast all day. Here the difference is you get Fair Trade coffee, cage-free eggs, and artisan-baked bread. On weekends, lines snake out the doors, with patrons waiting for pastrami and eggs, lox-style smoked salmon, and the Acadian buckwheat pancakes called ployes. Co-owner Daryl Levy makes outstanding pies and cupcakes for both locations.
627 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown, 617-926-8400; Deluxe Station Diner, 70 Union Street, Newton, 617-244-2550, deluxetowndiner.com
East Coast Grill
Sure, you can wait 20 or so minutes for brunch at this Inman Square institution serving its own brand of New England seafood meets Southern spice cuisine. But the host will actually thank you for waiting when you sit down, a tiny thing that makes a huge difference between this spot and other hip, tasty Sunday destinations. New menus have undergone seasonal changes, while keeping favorites like the tuna tacos.
1271 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, 617-491-6568, eastcoastgrill.net
The Friendly Toast
Weekend waits can be up to an hour, but this Kendall Square pioneer opens early and stays open late, so try an off hour and you might get lucky. Walking in is like entering a 1950s arcade — it is filled top to bottom with retro funky stuff, much of it fascinating. The fun tone carries over to the menu, too. The Hansel & Gretel Waffle is made with gingerbread and topped with pomegranate molasses and whipped cream, and then there are Green Eggs and Ham — the “green’’ is a light herb sauce. As for the namesake toast, you can choose from six kinds of homemade bread.
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-621-1200, thefriendlytoast.net
Gerard Adomunes’s restaurant has been a major morning draw in Dorchester’s Adams Village for over 40 years. As befits its heavily Irish clientele, the signature breakfast dish here is a concoction called “Irish Breakfast Festival’’: two eggs, two slices of Irish bacon, two Irish sausages, home fries, black pudding, and white pudding. A word about this “pudding’’ thing: black pudding is sausage, blackened with hog’s blood; white pudding is much the same, without the blood. Forget what’s in it and just eat it. It’s great.
772, Adams Street, Dorchester, 617-282-6371, gerardsadamscorner.com/Restaurant.html
Gourmet Decisions Cafe & Grill
Chef Richard Prioli and manager Stephanie Spinosa have three decades of experience and have a gourmet catering company in addition to their Gourmet Decisions Cafe & Grill, Tucked in the back of a parking lot in Natick Center, this popular spot has lines out the door on Sundays, but it’s open every day but Monday.
12 Washington Street, Natick, 508-647-4024, gourmetdecisions.com
At this darling Teele Square place with great Turkish food, the breakfast and brunch offerings are a treat. One menu favorite is the Menemen, eggs with feta cheese, diced tomatoes, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. But the place is now serving chef-owner Huseyin Akgun’s mother’s Laz pancakes, a traditional Black Sea recipe for light, crispy pancakes topped with honey, apricot preserves, and feta. With strong Turkish tea in a little glass cup, you will be both fortified and transported.
237 Holland Street, Somerville, 617-440-7387, istanbul-lu.com
In A Pickle Restaurant
Grab a seat at the counter and watch the flapjack slingers turn out synchronized stacks in this cheerful deli in Waltham. College students and the under-12 crowd love the Reese’s pancakes (chunks of peanut butter and chocolate); cookie dough pancakes, inspired by Ben & Jerry’s, are a close second. There’s a lot to choose from on the mega menu. The real pickle is deciding between steak and eggs or a breakfast sandwich, whether you want egg whites on a bagel or a loaded burrito. The nice prices and upbeat feel mean lines swell on weekends. Expect a half-hour wait.
265 Moody Street, Waltham, 781-891-1212, in-a-pickle.com
At J’s Sunday brunch in Bolton, local and seasonal ingredients inspire the chefs’ creativity. The buffet changes constantly and is popular, so make reservations. Set in a cozy farmhouse at the Nashoba Valley Winery, you can sample the cinnamon French toast, hearty egg dishes (sometimes made with duck eggs), local cheeses, and orchard apple crisp while appreciating the sight of blossoming apple trees in the spring.
100 Wattaquadoc Hill Road, Bolton, 978-779-9816, nashobawinery.com/restaurant
Breakfast is served from 5:30 a.m. at this strip-mall gem in Framingham, with cheerful staff wearing pj bottoms and T-shirts as uniforms. Co-owner/chef Dave Fiore used to work in a fancy Bahamas hotel, which means great eggs Benedict on the weekends that can sell out. Crispy home fries are perfectly seasoned, and the OMG Breakfast of two grilled cheese “toasts’’ with tomato, bacon, and fried eggs is delicious. Cash only.
969 Concord Street, Framingham, 508-875-7811, jmdiner.com
You often see several generations at a table in kitsch-perfect Johnny’s in Newton Centre. Some menu items are Jewish-deli style, like cheese blintzes, latkes, the Wolfie (corned-beef scramble), and the Jack & Marion (smoked salmon and the usual fixings on a bagel). Bring bubbe, zaide, and the kids for breakfast all day.
30 Langley Road, Newton, 617-527-3223, johnnysluncheonette.com
The Knotty Pine Lunch
In this restaurant time forgot, you can practically carbon-date the lunch counter (50-plus years) by the plate-sized wear marks precisely spaced in front of each stool. Regulars pack the 38 seats at this Auburndale spot, bantering with the crew. On Saturdays, the cook goes through 500 local eggs, quickly frying up favorites like the “Knotty Pine Omelete’’ studded with bacon and tomatoes and the “Potato and Cheese Omelete,’’ which incorporates the restaurant’s crispy signature home fries. The egg dishes come with coffee, and a family of four can eat for under $30 any day of the week.
295 Auburn Street, Auburndale, 617-527-9864, knottypinelunch.com
At Kristin’s in Braintree, the coffee is strong, the refills are free, and you’re sure to get your food within 15 minutes of ordering. You’ll find no fancy decorations on the walls, but the cozy atmosphere makes Kristin’s feel like your own dining room. And what to get in that dining room? There are plenty of traditional egg, omelet, and pancake dishes, all under $8. But you’d be remiss not to try the coffeecake pancakes with crumble topping. Kristin’s recently recieved a favorable review from Phantom Gourmet.
349 Washington Street, Braintree, 781-843-2022, kristinsbraintree.com
The Papakonstantinou family has run this Wellesley restaurant for 33 years. It glows with warmth. The long counter and green booths are always packed with locals digging into perfect blueberry pancakes or house-made Greek yogurt — delicate, tangy, and creamy. Have it with blueberries and strawberries for the perfect parfait. Although it looks small on the outside, this place seats more than 100 and the wait is no longer than 20 minutes on weekends.
300 Washington Street, Wellesley, 781-235-9647, themaugus.com
The line snakes down the block every weekend to get into McKenna’s, the neighborhood brunch spot in Savin Hill. Pancakes, omelets, and burritos are the most popular dishes on the menu of the 14-year-old diner. But, truth be told, neighborhood gossip may be its biggest draw. “We’re like Cheers without the alcohol,’’ says manager Helena Kelly. “If we had booze, no one would ever leave.
109 Savin Hill Avenue, Dorchester, 617-825-8218, mckennascafe.com
Miel Brasserie Provencale
Early in the morning, you may not want to sip your OJ alongside the tattooed hordes at a retro diner. You could do without flapjacks. Instead you want luxury, good coffee served in good china, waiters who call you “madam’’ or “sir’’ (not “dude’’), and real croissants — in fact, make that French luxury. Morning at Miel is a sumptuous taste of those bygone days when travel did not involve the word “budget.’’ And when it’s warm out, joy of indulgent joys, they’ll call you “madam’’ or “sir’’ on the patio in the morning sun.
The InterContinental Boston, 510 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, 617-217-5151, intercontinentalboston.com
Miracle of Science Bar + Grill
The real miracle is the one that transforms this beer-splattered Central Square bar into a fresh, sunny brunch spot on weekends. That, and the grilled pink grapefruit halves that the staff drizzles with honey. The fruit mellows as it roasts, and by the time it gets to your table, it’s charred, sweet, and almost falling apart. There are also eggs, toasts, good coffee, and a very nice chicken sausage. Ordering a second serving of grapefruit midway through your breakfast is perfectly acceptable.
321 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-868-2866, miracleofscience.us
Nancy’s Air Field Cafe
Set on the edge of Minute Man Air Field in Stow, Nancy’s comes with built-in entertainment. There’s also blueberry pancakes dripping with maple syrup and other dishes celebrating good, basic ingredients prepared with detail and care. The “green eggs & ham’’ omelet is another great example: eggs filled with perfectly cooked kale, broccoli, green onions, cheese, and ham paired with home fries and toast.
302 Boxboro Road, Stow, 978-897-3934,nancysairfieldcafe.com
Sunday brunch is an event at this Chelmsford hot spot that gives suburbanites a reason to reapply their lipstick and strap on a pair of heels. Coffee is complimentary, as is the glass of freshly squeezed orange juice topped with champagne. As you contemplate the wide-ranging menu of uncommon offerings — brown sugar-roasted pineapple, applewood smoked bacon — a warren of sticky buns arrives in a skillet. Chef Robert Jean brings big-city flair to every dish, but save room for the red velvet pancakes.
185 Chelmsford Street (route 110), Chelmsford, 978-256-7777, moonstones110.com
This family-owned chain claims to have “New England’s largest breakfast/lunch menu,’’ and why argue? It could take a farm’s worth of eggs to sample everything. The nine locations serve breakfast starting at 7 a.m. in a folksy setting — natural wood, Rockwell prints, “bottomless’’ mugs of coffee. At the Plymouth Persy’s, blueberry pancakes are appealingly thin and not greasy, and the malted waffles are crisp and high.
35A Main Street, Plymouth, 508-732-9876, and other locations, persysplace.com
Rox is part of the “new diner’’ trend: classic dishes made with seasonal and local ingredients. If stuffed French toast is your thing, then this is your diner, plus there’s a whole menu category called “Benedict Heaven,’’ with seven varieties, including the Flatiron Benny, made with an 8-ounce Angus steak. Prices are fair but not dive-diner cheap.
1881 Centre Street, West Roxbury, 617-327-1909, and 335 Walnut Street, Newton, 617-916-1795, roxdiner.com
Sofra Bakery and Cafe
Restaurateur Ana Sortun does everything well. And she does Sofra Bakery and Cafe almost too well. The tiny place is often mobbed, but do wait, because you’ll be rewarded with Persian spiced doughnuts or shakshuka, eggs poached in curried tomatoes with pita crumbs. The cuisine is authentic Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean. Devotees make time to go midmorning on weekdays, when you can find a seat.
1 Belmont Street, Cambridge, 617-661-3161, sofrabakery.com
At this posh Sunday brunch in Cambridge (prix fixe diners get a beverage, starter, main dish, and dessert or cocktail for $33), well-seasoned chef-owner Tim Wiechmann plays guitar instead of grill, performing with a jazz trio. The music is as smooth as the scrambled farm eggs, the juice is a sensuous mix of cara cara oranges and blood oranges, and the bakery plate (a choice for your starter) comes with irresistible house-made scones, muffins, and breads.
377 Walden Street, Cambridge, 617-864-4745, twfoodrestaurant.com
Just the amazingly light popovers — get yours with tart raspberry jam — would be enough for JP’s Ula to make this list. But there’s more. Homemade oatmeal. Rasberry crumb bars. Currant scones. Lemon poppy seed muffins. There’s a wide selection of lattes plus loose teas from MEM Tea Imports in Somerville. In nice weather, snag an outside table. This is what a neighborhood cafe ought to be.
284 Amory Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-524-7890, ulacafe.com
The vegetarian and vegan menu at Veggie Galaxy in Central Square seems to have hit a chord. So don’t go there for breakfast on weekend mornings — there’s at least an hour wait, and the breakfast menu is available all the time. The wheat bread from Big Sky Bakery is especially good, and if there’s a grilled cheese special running, go for it.
450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-497-1513, veggiegalaxy.com
Since 5757 (aka 1997), this up-market delicatessen has creatively interpreted Jewish classics. Empire Eggs are Benedict-like, but substitute Brooklyn-made smoked salmon and crispy, thick potato pancakes for the traditional Canadian bacon and English muffin. The Roughrider Omelette features flavorful house-made corned beef hash. And the beloved Banana-Stuffed French Toast is a sweet engineering marvel. Breakfast is served all day at both the Brookline and Natick locations, so no need to go during the weekend rushes.
335 Harvard Street, Brookline, 617-975-0075, and 1298 Worcester Street, Sherwood Plaza, Natick, 508-653-4442, zaftigs.com
On a menu of worldly classics, it’s easy to overlook such pedestrian fare as the assorted-pastry basket. Don’t. Not here. This astonishing array of croissants, brioche, and madeleines, all made in-house, arrives with divine (and also homemade) fig and apricot preserves. Executives in weekend attire dig into quiche Lorraine, eating every bite of the buttery, flaky crust. A smattering of families with young kids gives the place a less buttoned-up vibe.
145 Lincoln Road, Lincoln, 781-259-9920, akabistrolincoln.com
The hair of the dog is the star of the brunch show at this beloved neighborhood spot in Dorchester. The gazpacho Bloody Mary, made with muddled cucumbers and cucumber vodka, is spring in a glass. Wash your drink down with a Trainwreck Omelet: open-faced and topped with jalapenos, cheese, and sour cream, served with hand-cut fries. Finish with homemade cider doughnuts.
555 Talbot Avenue, Dorchester, 617-825-4300, ashmontgrill.com
B Street Restaurant & Bar
A dynamite crust, half whole-wheat and half white flour, is the base for the satisfying flatbread, the darling dish of the stylish Saturday brunch crowds in Newton Centre. On top, there’s a trio of sunny side up eggs and a layer of herb-roasted potatoes, sharp cheddar and thick bacon nuggets. Roasted garlic brings zest to each bite. “It’s got it all going on,’’ says owner Elli Kaplansky. The challah French toast, topped with caramelized apples and Vermont maple syrup, is ethereal. Even the slow-cooked oatmeal with steamed milk feels uptown.
796 Beacon Street, Newton, 617-332-8743, bstreetnewton.com
Plough & Stars
This minuscule Irish pub is a Cambridge legend dressed in burgundy and dark wood, and has for 40-plus years served terrific food, no matter who’s in charge. The classic Irish breakfast comes with Irish bacon (it’s like a thinly sliced brined pork chop), breakfast sausage, black and white pudding, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, toast, and eggs. But the menu’s real surprise is a dish of perfectly poached eggs on house-made pork confit hash and an English muffin with a light roasted-garlic hollandaise. Spot on.
912 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-576-0032, ploughandstars.com