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September 21, 2012

Uwishunu’s Top Picks For The Best Brunch In Philadelphia, Fall 2012

Brunch is a crucial part of the weekend and happily Philadelphia nails it, boasting a wide variety of fantastic brunch options to fulfill every craving. (Top left photo courtesy Talula's Garden, all others by G. Widman for GPTMC)

With the start of the fall season, we thought it was a good time to revisit our roundup of the best brunches in Philadelphia. There are a slew of new brunch offerings on offer in Philadelphia, and some tweaks to brunch standbys that are definitely worth sharing.

We want to make sure you’re well-equipped for weekend enjoyment in Philadelphia, and what spells weekend more than B-R-U-N-C-H? The quality of brunch means different things to different people. We know this, and have taken it into account with our finely curated list, below.

Whether it’s the bang for your buck that’s important to you, or the quality of the brunch cocktails, or the crave factor of the edible staples (pancakes, omelets, French toast), we’ve got plenty of great options for you. We also made sure to take into account Uwishunu readers’ feedback from the last time around.

So next time you’re looking for where to go for a great brunch in Philadelphia, you need only consult this list. Dig in!

**Update: As of April 2013, we’ve published a brand new best brunch in Philadelphia guide, which you can check out right here.

Brunch Newcomers

Alla Spina: Marc Vetri’s newest spot, Alla Spina on North Broad Street, has a new Italian Sunday brunch that’s a must-try. The pig’s head hash poutine is a winner, especially washed down with one of the excellent brunch cocktails.

Morgan’s Pier: As of this July, brunch is available at Morgan’s Pier on Saturdays and Sundays starting at noon. It’s the only chance, outside of their actual shop, to get Philadelphia’s beloved Federal Donuts. Other brunch favorites include the Monte Cristo, Crispy Pulled Pork Patty Sandwich and the Salmon BLT. And a heads up: Morgan’s Pier is closing for the season on Sunday, September 30, so make sure to get there before next weekend!

Hickory Lane: Brunch at the awesome new Hickory Lane American bistro in Fairmount, offered Saturdays and Sundays, means light, refreshing salads, hearty sandwiches and bright egg dishes, all for under $15.

Rittenhouse Tavern: Saturday and Sunday brunch at the newest restaurant on Rittenhouse Square, Rittenhouse Tavern, combines deliciously fresh plates (we love the heritage turkey schnitzel with red eye gravy) with an excellent setting. Whether you’re indoors, inside the Philadelphia Art Alliance, or outside in the quaint courtyard, you’ll feel transported.

The Industry: On Saturdays and Sundays, this Pennsport bar from the guys behind Good Dog aimed at restaurant industry members dishes up brunch to the masses. They’ve got a whole section of the menu devoted to Hangover Cures, and bottomless coffee for three bucks.

Route 6: Stephen Starr’s most recent culinary contribution to the city incorporates seafood favorites from their dinner menu into a versatile brunch menu they launched this summer. Go the breakfast route and try the salmon, crab or traditional eggs Benedict, or if you’re more in the mood for lunch, try the irresistible chicken fried lobster tails. Hint — a basket of the cinnamon sugar donuts with raspberry dipping sauce is always a crowd pleaser.

Russet: One of Philly’s favorite farm-to-table BYOBs serves brunch to hungry locavores every weekend. Mains include buckwheat crêpes and Maine lobster omelets prepared with marinated heirloom tomatoes, chili oil and garlic chives. There are also classic European pastries to go along with the cafe’s many beverage options, including Counter Culture coffee, a carefully curated selection of tea, homemade seasonal sodas and fresh-squeezed juice.

Rex 1516: This Southern-inspired eatery on South Street offers weekend brunch to complement its dinner and drink offerings. Highlights include shrimp and grits and — get ready for this — a duck confit and chaurice omelet. They bake the bread on site daily, but they also offer a gluten free menu. Beverages are plentiful as well, with a menu of Southern-inspired cocktails like the Deep South and the Harper Lee. And Philly food critics have been loving Rex 1516′s brunch, so there’s that.

Lemon Hill: Lemon Hill is a neighborhood favorite, located right by the Philadelphia Museum of Art offering a delicious brunch with serious cocktails. Dishes like Brown Sugar Soaked French Toast, with honey whipped marscapone, cherry & rum syrup and pistachios, go perfectly with creative cocktails from The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. folks, like the Clover Club, with gin, dry vermouth, fresh lemon, house raspberry syrup and egg white.

Odd Fellows: The former Spruce Street Espresso, that made our Coffee Roundup, serves a great brunch every day of the week except Monday. And, thanks to Counter Culture, you know the coffee will be top-notch.

Brunch Standbys

Green Eggs Café: Specializing in eco-conscious fare with local and sustainable ingredients, Green Eggs (in South Philly, Northern Liberties and Midtown Village) makes socially responsible breakfast delicious (and BYOB) every day with Peanut Butter Crunchy French Toast with blackberry coulis; scrambled eggs over homemade biscuits with sausage gravy; and quinoa porridge with fresh berries.

Carman’s Country Kitchen: A South Philly institution, the quirky, tiny Carman’s will close for good on December 16 of this year. Before they do, allow yourself to experience an exotic and unpredictable brunch lineup which features a different menu each day of just four or five options, with none of which you’ll go wrong.

Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat: Honey’s is a homey hideaway in Northern Liberties and, to come this fall/winter, a second location in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood. Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat charms with its fusion of Southern and Jewish fare. Think chicken-fried steak, fresh biscuits giant crispy latkes and hand-gathered eggs from free range chickens in Lancaster County. Brunch is served daily, but get there early on weekends to avoid a long wait.

Sabrina’s Café: At all three of its locations (in Bella Vista, Fairmount and University City), Sabrina’s redefines brunch all day, every day, with creative dazzlers like the blue cheese and bacon frittata, polenta fries and, of course, its famous thick slices of French toast stuffed with all manner of sweets.

Jones: Stephen Starr’s take on the The Brady Bunch living room delivers on the brunch front in a way that would make Carol proud. You must order the shareable monkey bread, served gooey and hot, followed by any of the delicious egg dishes (spinach and feta omelette with tater tots, smoked salmon benedict). And don’t forget the great brunch cocktails.

Morning Glory Diner: The lines out the door never lie: Sam’s Morning Glory Diner is a favorite spot for its homemade ketchup and creative pancake specials served with a side of hot biscuits (MUST try the biscuits) and greasy-spoon attitude. Brunch happens on weekends, but the daily breakfast menu features many of the favorites.

Day By Day: A Philadelphia catering institution since 1981, Day By Day at 21st and Sansom Streets also serves a mean brunch to a dedicated local following Fridays through Sundays. The stuffed challah French toast is seriously good (even though it’s not the size of your head, as at Sabrina’s — which may be a good thing), and make sure you order at least one thing from the specials menu.

Lots more brunches below, including Great Deals, Non-Traditional Options and more.

Great Deal Brunches

A Full Plate Cafe: Although it’s moving to Fishtown in 2013, A Full Plate Cafe on Liberties Walk in Northern Liberties is a neighborhood favorite. Weekend brunch is a great time to try it, with a menu whose every item is drool-worthy. Not a vegan or vegetarian? Don’t avoid the veg-friendly plates, they’re completely delicious for even the hungriest carnivore.

South Philly Taproom: Weekend brunch at SPTR in South Philly is a great deal. You can get in and out for a cool twelve bucks, and if you want to start your day off with a cold one (no judgement), you’re at the right place. Also, it’s worth noting that the vegan options are delicious even for meat-lovers.

Johnny Brenda’s: Aside from its strong local beer program and awesome live music upstairs, a hallmark of Fishtown’s Johnny Brenda’s is its focus on fresh and seasonal fare. In fact, the menu is written on chalkboards around the restaurant since it changes so often, in tune with what’s in season. Even when they’re not hosting one of their awesome brunch events, Johnny Brenda’s is a brunch go-to.

Sidecar Bar & Grille: Graduate Hospital’s popular Sidecar Bar & Grille serves a priced-right Saturday and Sunday brunch with a great range of options for any appetite, whether you’re craving bloodies or bellinis, burritos or benes. Bonus: they’ve opened up a new second floor.

Cafe L’Aube: Crepe craving? Located in Fairmount, the cozy French Cafe L’Aube offers breakfast and lunch (=brunch) seven days a week. L’Aube serves its own micro-batch roasted L’Aube Torrefaction coffee and has free wireless. What’s not to love?

Distrito: Iron Chef Jose Garces does an expert Mexican brunch at his University City restaurant Distrito. You have two options: for $10, get “Kegs & Eggs” with your choice of one of four beers and one of four egg dishes; or for $20, get the prix-fixe brunch, which includes a selection of two courses (with tons of options for each) along with Garces Trading Company coffee.

Cantina Los Caballitos: This East Passyunk staple offers brunch daily — the perfect excuse to play hooky. Cantina’s comprehensive Mexican menu offers all manner of empanadas, tostadas and tacos, plus a full suite of brunch beverages like tequila-laden Mexican favorites and Bloody Marys infused with garlic and basil.

Café Lift: The Loft District’s sleek Café Lift specializes in European-style delicacies like a banana and chocolate hazelnut crespelle and a pesto and tomato frittata with thick home fries.

Ants Pants Café: Australian-style coffees (flat white or long black, anyone?) accompany “brekkie platters” of eggs, bacon-stacked sandwiches and French toast with sour cream sauce every day at this South Street favorite in Graduate Hospital.

National Mechanics: Bloody Mary fan? Go no further. This Old City spot has one of the most impressive Bloody Mary bars we have ever laid eyes on, a perfect quaff to match the veggie-friendly brunch offerings. There are 11 egg dishes, French baguette toast and both plain and blueberry pancakes on offer, all great.

Silk City: It may look like a typical diner on the outside, but Silk City serves up anything but standard brunch fare on the inside. And what better to go with smothered chicken and waffles, cider-braised pork belly hash or shrimp and grits than one of their specialty lunch cocktails (the options change weekly) or a beer from the 35+ option suds list?

Non-Traditional Brunches

El Vez: Stephen Starr’s Mexican spot in Midtown Village has an all-new brunch menu available on Sundays. Pair your Crab and Corn Omelet, Breakfast Burrito, Huevos Sopes with Chipotle Hollandaise or Steak and Egg Chilaquiles with a Blood Orange mimosa, the perfect breakfasty take on their super popular Blood Orange margarita.

Bar Ferdinand: This popular Northern Liberties spot has brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays. The menu offers decadent Spanish dishes like huevos de cordoniz escalfados (poached quail eggs with jamón Serrano, saffron aioli and piquillo peppers) and banana-and-chocolate-stuffed empanadas. You can also get in on their new brunch special, $3 a glass or $12 per pitcher of mimosas and bloody marys.

The Dandelion: Stephen Starr’s English-style pub in Rittenhouse Square is known for fish and chips, but the brunch menu is its hidden gem. Scotch Pancakes, with gooey, glazed apples and cinnamon-tinged cream, are the perfect start to a weekend day. But once you get one of the Dandelion Pub’s signature cocktails in hand — like the Beer Flip, with chocolate stout, marmalade and a whole egg — you may not want to do anything at all.

Cochon: French fare typically dominates the kitchen at Cochon, a cozy BYOB spot in Queen Village, but the Sunday brunch menu is a pan-national meat-lovers’ affair with Eggs Cochon (poached, over slow-roasted pork shoulder with a bacon cheddar biscuit) and deep-fried oysters served with fennel slaw, french fries and bacon mayonnaise. Do not fear; vegetarian and gluten-free options can also be made available here.

Kanella: The flavors of Cyprus come alive at this Washington Square BYOB, where the brunch menu features flavorful goodies like crepes stuffed with manouri cheese and drizzled with carob syrup; eggs stewed in tomato and pepper with grilled bread; and ground lamb flatbreads with pine nuts. Kanella serves brunch Friday through Sunday. Make sure you arrive early to avoid the lines (you can’t make reservations).

Mixto: Every day feels like Sunday at Mixto, a Cuban/Columbian hotspot on Pine Street’s Antique Row. The daily breakfast offerings include Argentinean steak and eggs, frittata Colombiana and huevos rancheros. Bonus: sunny outdoor seating in the warm months.

Amis: Brunch at Amis is a little under the radar, but that’s actually a good thing. The brunch menu transports you to Italy with perfect pastas and other fare: baked pecorino with almond honey, salumi misti, rotini with breakfast sausage and egg yolk, braised san marzano tomatoes with farm eggs and basil, and housemade polenta scrapple. Also, don’t sleep on the Cannonball.

Parc: Oui, monsieur, we will take another of those delicious bread baskets. Parc’s brunch menu just gets better after the bread, with a perfect quiche lorraine, chicken paillard, pommes frites and other French plates that pair perfectly with prime Rittenhouse Square people-watching.

Garces Trading Co.: If you haven’t tried Jose Garces‘ GTC for brunch, you haven’t tried it at all. The Saturday and Sunday brunch menu is a bite right out of the Mediterranean with cheese, charcuterie, eggs, sandwiches and so much more. The $25/person menu option includes your choice of one main, one side, and one dessert plus unlimited Garces Trading Company Coffee. And did we mention it’s one of the best brunches in America? Done and done.

Cuba Libre: Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar’s fresh juice mimosas, guava pastries and ropa vieja hash creates a tropical brunch paradise in Old City. An unlimited small plate menu is also available.

Kennett: This cozy Queen Village restaurant and bar specializes in locally sourced fare and offers an awesome brunch on weekends. Try the Italian Breakfast, with house-made gnocchi that’s absolutely to die for and a variety of local veggies, or the butter beans, braised with tomato and ale and served on brioche toast. There are also plenty of local brews and a cocktail menu featuring drinks like an all-organic Bloody Mary. And don’t sleep on the wood-fired pizzas; especially the porchetta.

Supper: Never mind the name. Supper serves a superb brunch with chilaquiles navidad replete with homemade chorizo; red velvet waffles with cream cheese mousse (oh, those red velvet waffles); a cereal bar; and six-ounce dry-aged custom La Frieda Blend burger on a house baked Pullman loaf served with duck-fat fries (an egg can be added for extra brunch effect).

Elegant Brunches

Talula’s Garden: Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy’s Washington Square spot offers elegant plates starring local ingredients, like Seared Scallops and Farro Salad with Market Veggies and an omelet with local Kennett Square mushrooms. And for those who like their picturesque views with a splash of liquor, there are cocktails like The Artist, a sparkling bellini with champagne, grapefruit juice and elderflower.

Swann Lounge: The city’s most elegant place to brunch is the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia’s Swann Lounge. The sumptuous $73 buffet — stacked with caviar, smoked fish, lobster tartlets and endless desserts — includes plated entrees. In all, a relative bargain and an unforgettable experience.

Nineteen: The morning buffet at chic Nineteen (XIX) at the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue begins with continental pastries, an extensive raw bar and pan-Asian dim sum; continues with egg and waffle entrees; and includes mimosas and Bloody Marys along the way. We love.

Lacroix: Housed in the tony Rittenhouse Hotel, Lacroix serves a filling Sunday brunch prix-fixe menu ($59 per person) featuring appetizers, raw-bar specialties, a chef’s table hot buffet and wine pairings. This is a special occasion brunch that surely will not disappoint. A decadent dessert table rounds out the offerings.

Cake: Set in the Robertson’s Flowers’ beautiful solarium, Cake offers a Sunday brunch that’s unrivaled for its sunny, family-friendly atmosphere, smoked salmon and gold dill potato latke plates, brunch pizza and to-die-for baked goods.

Water Works Restaurant: You can’t ask for a better view for Sunday brunch than the gorgeous waterfront vista in front of Water Works Restaurant on the Schuylkill River. The Sunday brunch buffet is worth getting dressed up for, and perfect for special occasions. It’s $40/person, kids 12 and under $17.50.

Hair-of-the-Dog Brunches

Smokin’ Betty’s: Sister restaurant to Devil’s Alley in Rittenhouse, Smokin’ Betty’s in Washington Square West has a solid weekend brunch that changes with the seasons. The menu is sparing, which makes it easy to order, and the drinks; oh, the drinks. Whatever the seasonal sangria is, order it. And don’t forget they’ve got a whole second floor, with bright and airy windows and comfy booths.

Pub & Kitchen: If you find yourself in Graduate Hospital on the weekend, head directly to Pub & Kitchen for brunch. They’ve got a great range of plates for every palate, from the carnivores (hello, Churchill Burger) to the carb cravers (Brioche Pain Perdu with toffee bacon sauce and bourbon syrup). And be sure to try one of their special bloody marys, called the Wrangler (which won Best of Philly 2012 for Best Bloody Mary).

Square 1682: We just love Chef Guillermo Tellez’s food. Brunch at Hotel Palomar’s Square 1682 means locally sourced, sophisticated American fare with excellent cocktails to boot (Apple Cider Mimosas, anyone?). Bonus: they’re pet-friendly during the summer months. Look out for Chef Tellez’s next venture at the Hotel Monaco, Red Owl Tavern, opening up next month.

Local 44: West Philly beer bar Local 44 serves brunch on weekends that includes a fried-egg-topped burger. No matter what you order, you can wash it down with any of the 500+ bottles in the Local 44 beer bottle shop.

Varga Bar: Chef Evan Turney’s spot in Washington Square West offers creative, kicked-up American food by night, and equally compelling brunch dishes by weekend day. Cheese fries come topped with truffle oil and jumbo lump crab meat (but don’t call them “Crab Fries”); grilled cheese comes with the most velvety, decadent tomato soup imaginable; and with a knowledgeable bar staff to guide you through the 19 beers on tap, there’s no way you’ll go thirsty during a meal here.

Valanni: Valanni has Saturday and Sunday brunch, and the offerings are unbeatable. Think chocolate chip and banana pancakes with vanilla-maple syrup, ricotta-walnut cream; and the “Valanni Hangover,” two eggs any style, pancakes, chorizo or bacon and home fries accompanied by a virgin Bloody Mary. And speaking of brunch cocktails, $25 gets you unlimited Blood Marys or Mimosas.

Continental Midtown: Nighttime revelers keep the party going at The Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar and its sibling The Continental Mid-town, with brioche French toast, tiramisu waffles or a turkey club with caramelized apple mayo, all of which can be accompanied by a champagne cocktail or an espresso martini.

Standard Tap: The burgers, fried smelts and chalkboard omelet specials at Northern Liberties’ Standard Tap can chase any hangover away, though a pint of local microbrewed beer won’t hurt, either.

What are your favorite spots for brunch? Be sure to let us know in the comments below. And you can follow our Philly’s Great Brunch Spots list on Foursquare and guide on Foodspotting.

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Jenna says:

Parc bread basket…mmm nom nom nom.

Jeff says:

The Sardine Bar in Point Breeze has an amazing weekend brunch.

Niki says:

You actually CAN make reservations for Kanella and my fav bfast is Malowah it’s these Yemen pastry things soooo good!!

Kaela says:

Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House which opened this summer just started brunch on Saturdays & Sundays served from 11am-3pm! Delicious!

Paramour says:

You forgot about Paramour at the Wayne Hotel! Best Brunch in the ‘burbs!

Hawthornes on 11th and Fitzwater is the best brunch I have ever had and should definitely be on this list.