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Where to Break Your (Night’s) Fast

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Photography by Phil Mansfield

There’s something about breakfast that gets my juices going (no pun intended). The aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the sizzle of bacon and eggs, and a perfectly crisp slice of buttered toast are enough to get this reluctant riser up and at ’em—and ready to start the day. As much as we’re all rushing, rushing, rushing, breakfast—when we stop for it—starts the day on a nurturing note (coffee being key, of course). Whether you’re looking for a place to jumpstart your mojo after a morning stuck in traffic or simply meeting a friend for a quick cuppa joe, there’s a host of eye-opening locales to fit every kind of scenario. Read ahead—just don’t blame me if your stomach starts to growl.

For Bleary Eyed Mornings
The Tavern at Croton Landing, Croton-on-Hudson

The eggs benedict at The Tavern at Croton Landing are a morning staple.

This laid-back pub surprises with its excellent food and come-as-you-are vibe. Personally, I love that the lighting is dim—meaning no one can see the circles under your eyes or that stain on your favorite sweatshirt. But mostly I love the food and almost hate to give away this still-below-the-radar eatery. Who knew that what essentially looks like a beer-and-burger joint from the exterior is such a hidden gem?

First, kudos to the Black Cow Italian roasted coffee, blended and ground from the local coffee place around the corner and the perfect caffeine fix. Second, a big nod to the creativity of the chefs who offer the coolest breakfast pizza you’ll ever find: homemade pizza crust served beneath scrambled eggs and your choice of toppings (cheese, sautéed veggies, sausage, and more). Another worthy invention: breakfast nachos—nacho chips topped with scrambled eggs, sautéed peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese with bacon, avocado, and served with pico de gallo and sour cream.

Chefs at The Tavern at Croton Landing cook breakfast in the dining room.

 

For those more in the mood for brunch, there’s the Sunshine Burger, with grilled tomato, caramelized onions, and an over-easy fried egg. Plus, while you ponder the menu, you’re served warm crullers—crispy, sweet, French donuts from the 100-year-old secret recipe of the chef’s grandmother. Even more interesting: the kitchen is basically brought to the dining room—the chefs fill out a small corner—so you can see your order being cooked up close and personal. It’s just another point of differentiation for a tavern where the breakfast menu is etched from an old shingle from the front of the building and the ice cream sundaes come in a dog bowl. In warm weather, there are two large benches for outdoor seating.

Order Up: 41 N Riverside Ave, Croton-on-Hudson (914) 271-8020; breakfast is served Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 2 pm.

 

When You Pine for an Authentic Irish Breakfast
Eileen’s Country Kitchen, Yonkers

Eileen’s Country Kitchen offers a traditional Irish breakfast with rashers, grilled tomatoes, soda bread, and blood sausage.

 

There’s a comfortable, lived-in atmosphere at this cheery eatery that specializes in curing what ails ya and defines itself as “a diner with an Irish soul.” Gaelic touches include traditional soda bread in a basket, presented upon your arrival, along with a lengthy list of Emerald Isle dishes including Irish bacon, Irish sausage, and black-and-white pudding (blood sausage). Even oatmeal rises to the occasion here: it’s the European version—thick, hearty porridge served with sliced bananas, ripe blueberries, or juicy raisins. The traditional Irish breakfast includes two eggs with Irish bacon, sausage, black-and-white pudding, and grilled tomato ($8.95, a mini traditional is $7.95).

Country Kitchen is a cozy spot where you can enjoy breakfast with your entire family.

 

 

 

Eileen’s also offers a “Traditional Ulster Fry” (two eggs with Irish bacon, sausage, black-and-white pudding, grilled tomato, mushrooms, onions, beans, and potato bread) and a “Traditional Irish Mixed Grill” (pork chop, steak, liver, Irish bacon, sausage, sautéed onions and mushrooms, and beans with eggs any style), both served with hash browns. Yes, the food is good and filling, but it’s the cozy, red-checkered walls adorned with antique-looking cookery, the lilting brogues of the staff (and many of the patrons), and the friendly service that makes breakfast here worth getting out of your pjs for. The place fills up quickly, especially come Sunday mornings when church lets out. If you can, snag a cozy booth for a more intimate experience or the perpetually sunny table in the front where you can watch the action on the street and daydream that you’ve crossed the pond as you sip your spot of tea.

Order Up: 964 McLean Ave, Yonkers (914) 776-2001; open every day from 6 am to midnight; breakfast is always available.

For Old-Time Comfort Food at Old-World Prices
Star Diner, White Plains

Loyalty to one’s favorite diner isn’t based on food alone: it’s the atmosphere. And no place is more of a time warp than this narrow 1930s luncheonette with its five booths and 16 stools. Solid all-American dishes (e.g., pancakes, scrambled eggs, home fries) and friendly service make this vintage hangout a classic—the kind of place that hasn’t changed in decades. And that’s what we love about it. The interior gleams with the patina of 70-plus years of good grub and the rhythm of a simpler time. One could sit here all day nursing a cup of coffee and enjoying the music: the clattering plates, the sizzling grill, the bustling waitstaff, and the din of conversation. The diner has been in business since 1937 (though it was called something else), the diner’s prices seem to have stood the test of time—think $5.25 for a weekday breakfast special that includes an oversized plate of homemade fare with coffee or juice; $7 on weekends. Regulars favor the feta cheese omelet, home fries fresh-cut on the premises, and flapjacks served a buttery brown. Need something to endear you even more? Breakfast is served 24/7. The one caveat: it’s cash only.

Order Up: 66 1∕₂ E Post Rd, White Plains (914) 684-8702; breakfast served 24/7.

For a Mad Men Flashback
The Cupcake Kitchen and Luncheonette, Irvington

Go ahead—it’s okay to have their cupcakes for breakfast.

Even on a gray day, The Cupcake Kitchen offers a cheerful respite with its retro blue-and-white luncheonette décor, and colorful baked goods in the window. Smack dab on Main Street, across from Irvington Middle School, this time-warp-to-the-Sixties feels like a place Mad Men’s Sally Draper would go with friends…at least before her meanie mom moved her family from Ossining to Rye.

Hop on a blue stool and watch the grill action or get a table in the back where, if you’re lucky, you can watch the waitstaff glazing a cake with pastel-colored icings. The menu isn’t extensive—think lighter fare like scrambled eggs, omelets, bagels, assorted pastries, and muffins (no pancakes)­—but what it lacks in variety it makes up for in coziness. We like that there are newspapers (the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on last visit) to peruse while you wait. Though wait too long and you’ll soon be eyeing (and ordering) one of the restaurant’s famous cupcakes (or cakes) to go.

Order Up: 100 Main St, Irvington (914) 231-6261; breakfast served from 8 to 11:30 am (or all day if not super-busy, says owner Jennifer O’Connell).

 

To Nurse a Cup of Coffee All Day
On the Way Café, Rye

Pancakes are always a favorite at the On the Way Café.

You wouldn’t think this café, tucked next to a Sunoco station on the way to Playland, is anything special from its exterior. Inside, however, it’s a different story: a welcoming oasis of wood floors, white tablecloths (though with brown paper on top for coloring kids), low-hanging lights, and a sleek marble counter—the perfect spot to sit and read the paper or nurse a mug full of coffee.

It almost has a European ambience, albeit with a down-to-earth friendliness. Grace or Jarrett, the front staff who are here in the morning (Grace is married to co-owner George Degenhardt and is the aunt of the other co-owner and chef, Joseph Mortelliti) are happy to refill your cup, chat with you about the weather, or simply leave you alone to contemplate the menu (blackboard specials behind the bar and on the tables).

You’ll have a hard time deciding between the inch-thick brioche French toast lightly dusted with cinnamon or sugar; the plump, cake-like blueberry pancakes in which each bite reveals a moist, not-too-sweet homemade batter filled with bursts of fresh fruit; or the Feather Ridge Farm organic eggs, which are available in a frittata, or a variety of styles, including scrambled and sunny side up, often with Coach Farm goat cheese and other fresh veggies (the chef believes in sourcing local). House-made muffins and scones only add to your indecision. Lucky for you, the pancake mix is sold to go so you can try (emphasis on “try”) to replicate the same experience at home, though, frankly, it’s more fun here and, dare I say, on the way.

Order Up: 34 Ridgeland Terrace, Rye (914) 921-2233; breakfast served 7 to 11:30 am every day but Monday. Cash only (ATM on premises).

 

 

To Escape the Kids and Gab with a Girlfriend
Stan’z, Larchmont

Healthy eaters love Stan’z oatmeal.

We women like cozy. We also like places where we don’t have to worry about figuring out how to divide the bill. Throw in some chef love—meaning the kitchen doesn’t mind catering to our often-particular tastes (e.g., low-fat milk as opposed to skim, omelets with egg whites, low-fat yogurt with fruit) and we’re in food heaven. Add sidewalk seating so we soak up the sun while gabbing with our friends and we’ve hit the jackpot. Which is why breakfast at Stan’z, a quaint neighborhood café, ranks up there as one of the most enjoyable around.

To start, you order at the counter and then sit down, meaning you can either pay up front or after your meal so you and your BFF can have separate checks (and no nitpicking when someone orders more than her share). In addition, the list of breakfast options is long and reasonable with Chef/Owner Steve Weishaus happy to accommodate special requests. Not that you really need them, as there is always something enticing on the menu. Even better: ever since the café expanded into the space next door in February, there is no more waiting in line for a table, leaving you time to linger over your frothy cappuccino.

Order Up: 26 Chatsworth Ave, Larchmont (914) 833-9760; breakfast is served daily from 7 am to 3 pm on weekdays; Saturdays and Sundays from 7:30 am.

 

When You Need a Central Place to Meet
City Limits Diner, White Plains

This breakfast favorite practically screams to you from the road with its gleaming art deco lights and promise of steaming mugs of coffee and dripping-with-butter silver dollar pancakes. The large dining room, which manages to be both a quintessential diner and a modern-day café, spans the ages and appeals to a variety of scenarios: powerbrokers making deals over vegetable frittatas, families bonding over decadent whipped-cream-soaked waffles, and elderly couples sharing the New York Times and a platter of fresh fruit.

The food—anything you want at pretty much any hour—is generally flawless, and the coffee is always fresh. The full breakfast menu ranges from novel takes on the classics—fluffy French toast smothered in a fresh berry compote—to innovative choices like Maryland lump crab-lobster cake Benedict with chive hollandaise sauce and a “City” sandwich filled with scrambled eggs, sausage, Monterey Jack, salsa verde, and salsa roja. Breakfast nirvana.

Order Up: 200 Central Ave, White Plains (914) 686-9000; breakfast served from 8 am to 11 pm weekdays; until midnight on weekends.

When You Crave a Really Good Schmear (But Your Significant Other Wants Something Low-Cal)
Rye Ridge Deli, Rye Brook

Everyone needs a Jewish grandmother doting on them with hearty fare and enough leftovers to feed an army. At Rye Ridge Deli, pampering is a patient skill, meaning if you don’t see it on the extensive menu, you can create it. You know what I mean—anything on the side, with a new ingredient, without a new ingredient, toasted light, or hold the carbs. It’s almost like you can see the Seinfeld foursome sitting in a booth discussing “nothing” and yet “everything” because the menu is like a book and the eavesdropping is so universal (like going to Florida without going to Florida, if you know what I mean).

For those who want to indulge, there are sweet stacks of challah French toast, a nova-and-onion or pastrami omelet, an oversized plate of matzoh brie (yes, kids, this is what Grandma served at Passover and you can get year-round!), or a toasted pumpernickel bagel with what seems like a pound of cream cheese. While you’re deciding which decadent, high-fat dish to choose, your heart-healthy spouse can happily opt for egg whites scrambled with broccoli and a cup of steaming coffee with skim milk.

The oversized platters are pure deliciousness and remind me of my childhood, when I could indulge in oozing-with-cheese blintzes and chocolate ice-cream-sundae pancakes and not worry about my ever-expanding hips. Instead, these days, I get joy watching my kids order to their heart’s content while I nosh on a bowl of berries and silently toast my grandmother.

Order Up: 126 S Ridge St, Rye Brook (914) 937-2131; breakfast served 7:30 am to closing (usually 9 or 10 pm).

Where to Take the Kids (And Not Worry When They Spill Something)
Wobble Café, Ossining

How can you not love a place where children are welcomed with open arms? This homey cottage-like café has a worn, comfy sofa and a play area complete with used books and toys where little ones can color and sit on the floor while you savor the warmth and flavor of the rich, dark coffee (bonus: the beans are available to go).

The place has a “welcome to our kitchen” mood, thanks to husband/wife owners Rich Foshay and Beylka Krupp, who think of their restaurant as an extension of their home and proudly display kids’ (yours and theirs) artwork on the walls. This doesn’t mean you need children to come here—it’s also adult-friendly with a wide-ranging menu that leans toward healthy and vegetarian.

The food choices are as whimsical as the décor: “Egg-centric” options such as the Breakfast Strudel (eggs baked in puff pastry with onion, pepper, tomato, and cheddar, as well as ham or bacon, if you wish); the Migas (two scrambled eggs, crispy tortilla strips, pinto beans, veggies, and chorizo topped with cheese, pico de gallo, and homemade pickled jalapeños); also available for vegetarians; and the Pain Perdu (big, fat slices of baguette stuffed with fruit and cheese and dipped in egg and fried golden brown with real maple syrup—have you noticed how real maple syrup has fallen off many menus of late?). Strawberry, blueberry, banana, granola, or pecan pancakes also are available, as is the popular egg in a hole (an egg fried in the center of a slice of bread and served with home fries) for little ones. After all, if your kids are happy, aren’t you?

Order Up: 21 Campwoods Rd, Ossining (914) 762-3459; breakfast served Tuesday through Friday from 7 am to closing (4 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 pm on Thursday and Friday); from 8 am Saturdays and Sundays (it’s open until 4 pm on Sundays); closed Mondays.

When you want a taste of the middle east (and Need Something Kosher)
Open Table Restaurant & Deli, Eastchester

The fragrant spices of the Middle East are alive and well at this kosher deli, scheduled to re-open this month after a renovation. The place feels like an Israeli diner plucked from Jerusalem, and Chef Dror Zoharg is a mulit-tasker extraordinaire, cooking up an array of breakfasts, all the while barking orders in Hebrew to those in the back or front for extra pita, more tomatoes, or a leaner cut of pastrami. The fact that he cares so much about whether you like the food—especially the Israeli creations—makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into someone’s kitchen. Granted, the small restaurant doesn’t look terribly eye-catching from the street, but, inside, it’s friendly and casual with a modest décor and patrons who seem to know one another (I can tell because a few just nodded to the chef and he knew what they wanted). There’s a counter with stools where you can sit and watch Chef Zoharg cook up his magic, or you can opt for one of the tables.

A must-order from the “Good Morning Wake Up” menu is the shakshuka, two eggs poached in a traditional Mediterranean red sauce served in a cast-iron pan with a side of pita. Talk about breakfast being the most important meal of the day! After having this admittedly off-the-beaten-track start to my morning, I felt deliciously warm inside. Also not to be missed are the hand-cut fries, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend the falafel, the hummus, and the burgers. American options like pancakes and eggs also are available, though being adventurous may prove to be more fun than you thought.

Order Up: 33 Mill Rd, Eastchester (914) 361-1822; breakfast served from 10 am to 2 pm every day but Saturday, when the restaurant is closed.

Where to Go Post-Kids-Soccer Game
Brickyard Bistro, New Rochelle

Brickyard Bistro lives up to its name by offering a secluded backyard garden ideal for warm spring days when you’ve spent the bulk of your morning cheering your kids from the sideline of a softball or soccer game. There’s also a cozy brick-walled exposed interior should you prefer to be indoors after a long morning in the sun. Wherever you decide to sit, the ambience is relaxed, which, in itself, is pleasing. For the most part, the dishes are basic—eggs served any way you like them (poached, scrambled, Florentine, Benedict, or as an omelet). More satisfying is the stuffed challah: two slabs of thick bread with mashed bananas and/or strawberries (the fruit depends on what’s in season; in winter, you might get sliced pears) slightly caramelized and piping hot in the middle.

For those watching their waistlines, there are also tasty crêpes with cottage cheese, honey, and mixed fruit. A variety of lunch offerings, in the spirit of the “Modern American Mediterranean Bistro” this is, are also on the menu. Mainly, we like that you’re never rushed, giving you plenty of time to recoup (the coffee helps) from your busy morning.

Order Up: 16 Division St, New Rochelle (914) 481-5365; breakfast served Saturdays 9 am to 4 pm; Sundays 10 am to 4 pm.

When You Want to Impress a Client
The Lobby at The Ritz-Carlton Westchester, White Plains

Just because you didn’t sleep here among the 400-thread-count Frette linen sheets and get to wrap yourself in the hotel’s signature terrycloth bathrobe doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be entitled to a five-star breakfast experience. The Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton, with its central fireplace and living room ambience, is elegant yet comfortable and definitely discreet when it comes to discussing important business.

On the menu, classic breakfast treats done up gourmet-style, including almond-milk pancakes, raisin brioche French toast, and a gorgeously fresh sliced fruit plate with cottage cheese and banana bread. Need something strong while listening to a sales pitch? Try the illy latte or cappuccino with a side of assorted muffins or Swiss bircher muesli. Hopefully, the warm-you-up-from-the-inside offerings will lead to a sealed deal (or at least a second meeting).

Order Up: Three Renaissance Sq, White Plains (914) 946-5500; breakfast served 6:30 to 11 am daily.

When Shopping in Greenwich
MÉli-Mélo, Greenwich, CT

On any given morning, most breakfast lovers share the same dilemma: sweet or savory? At Méli-Mélo—which means “hodgepodge” in French—the answer is both. Give yourself time so you can linger over freshly squeezed orange juice, which arrives in a tall glass, the bright liquid glistening in the morning sun.

The new, sunny eatery, which takes inspiration from the Brittany area of France where owner Marc Penvenne is from, is not only welcoming—with killer cappuccinos that will no doubt put an extra spring in your step—but transports you to another place. Make sure to order one of the Viennoiseries (French for Viennese specialties): flaky croissants, puffy brioches, mini baguettes, pain au raisin, and the ever-sweet Kouign-Amann, a slightly sticky roll that is a specialty of the restaurant. Also worth trying are the organic omelets with fines herbs or the mini yogurts with house-made granola. Everything from the vegetable juice (they have a new wheatgrass juicer) to the pain au chocolat to the house-made preserves is high quality. Come with your kids for a taste of churros with thick, hot cocoa Callebaut from Belgium or warm your soul with a Valhrona hot cocoa with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Of course there is plenty to take home. What had been the popular take-out/eat in storefront with just about 15 seats has been expanded into a full-blown restaurant with 50 seats, a new, expanded menu, and an emphasis on local-farm-to-table cuisine. It feels like a sensuous slice of France slipped into Greenwich Avenue. The fact that it’s next to the Apple store—meaning you can let your kids play while you eat—is icing on the cake.

Order Up: 362 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich, CT (203) 629-6153; breakfast served from 6:30 to 11: 30 am Monday to Friday; 8 am to 11:30 Saturdays and Sundays.

Places to Get Your Buzz On

For times when nothing but a high-octane java jolt will do, indulge your craving for caffeine with one of the myriad local coffeehouses located throughout Westchester. Each of the places listed here offers a neighborly vibe, and you can often pick up snippets of area gossip—not to mention oversized muffins, bagels with a schmear, or fresh soups, wraps, and salads.
➜ Coffee Labs Roasters: 7 Main St, Tarrytown (914) 332-1479
➜ Peekskill Coffee House: 101 S Division St, Peekskill (914) 739-1287
➜ Slave to the Grind: 58 Pondfield Rd, Bronxville (914) 961-7777
➜ The Black Cow Coffee Company: 51 Maple St; Croton-on-Hudson (914) 271-7544; 7 Wheeler Ave, Pleasantville (phone not set at press time)
➜ Provisions: 209 Wolfs Lane, Pelham (914) 738-6622

Larchmont writer Jeanne Muchnick, author of Dinner for Busy Moms and Managing Editor at Project You (projectyoumagazine.com) doesn’t like anyone talking to her in the morning until she’s had a cup of coffee (jeannemuchnick.com).

 

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