Photography by John Fortunato
Anything goes with the nebulous meal known as brunch. Not quite breakfast, not quite lunch, this versatile (and often decadent) feast is hard to take advantage of during the week, but come Sunday, it’s a treat worth waking up for (though not until at least 11 or 12). Brunch is the ideal compromise when your mate/kids/girlfriend want bacon and eggs, but you prefer a lightly tossed chicken Caesar. Brunch, by definition, offers two glorious meals in one, meaning you don’t have to choose between your favorite morning pick-me-up and your midday meal. So have your cake (er, French toast in this case) and eat it too; in Westchester, there are lots of choices deserving of a lingering Sunday afternoon.
Moroccan-style brunch items from Zitoune include French toast with caramelized green apples and sweet, spiced berries (center); and (clockwise from bottom left) beignets, vegetarian omelet, and homemade bread with olive tapenade.
Those who order, say, eggs Benedict or a cheese omelet every time they go out for breakfast may find themselves dipping into new territory at Moroccan restaurant Zitoune (1127 W Boston Rd, Mamaroneck 914-835-8350) Sunday brunch served from 11:30 am to 4 pm; prix fixe at $15 for adults, $7.50 for children, or à la carte), where the menu is so inventive that the usual brunch items sound boring. You’ll find it hard to choose between the sweet Moroccan beignets (deep-fried dough served with honey); couscous El Fassi (couscous Fez-style with caramelized onions, raisins, and chickpeas); or lamb brochettes (marinated lamb cubes on a skewer with homemade potatoes and Moroccan spiced mayo), all of which is served on gorgeous, colorful plates. The ambience is casual, with a sultry Arabian atmosphere: vibrant tiles, gauzy fabrics, a billowy canvas ceiling, and cushioned sofas (ask for the red couch or the more private blue one towards the front). Every piece of furniture, down to the flooring, comes direct from Morocco and the attention to detail makes you want to book a trip right then and there (literature provided by Cynab Voyages, a Moroccan tour company, is available on a small desk out front).
Dobbs Ferry newcomer The Cookery (39 Chestnut St, Dobbs Ferry 914-305-2336) Sunday brunch 11 am to 3:30 pm) quickly has become a neighborhood hit, with people spilling out the door on weekend nights waiting for a table. But come on a Sunday and you’ll get right in, and be treated to the same simple, delicious food created by former Zuppa Chef David DiBari. There’s nothing standard on this menu and DiBari himself readily admits he’s still playing around as he and the neighborhood adapt to each other. So far, though, everything’s a winner, starting with hanger steak and eggs with goose fat potatoes and caramelized onions, ricotta pancakes, and white lasagna with béchamel, ricotta, mushrooms, and ham. It’s the kind of artistic menu that has you craning your neck and saying, “Ooh, that looks good!” each time the waiter walks by with another table’s order. Be warned: you will be tempted by a lot, by such delectables as ricotta pancakes with dulce con leche, Tuscan French toast with bananas and Nutella, and frittata with potatoes and onions, truffle oil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. DiBari even has his personal favorite: “pizza rustica,” classic Easter pie, because why wait for Easter to indulge in something you love? The room is bright, cheerful, and kitchen-themed with adorable mason jars filled with pots of sugar (and a votive candle inside), and a huge table in the front with a rack of pots and pans hanging overhead like a chandelier. Even more poignant: the table, once his grandmother’s, dates back to his youth and was where he hid his Matchbox cars as a kid. Fun to see how far he’s come.
Bistro Citron (2 Weaver St, Scarsdale 914-574-5564) Sunday brunch 11:30 am to 3 pm) is trying. It has a sunnier presence than its predecessor, Backals (the old Heathcote Tavern), with bistro tables on the front patio, and cozy red cushioned banquettes along the interior walls. And the décor inside is still as striking and gorgeous as ever. For now, brunch is a quiet affair filled with French-accented entrées like croque madame and monsieur, protein-filled crêpes, a variety of les moules (mussels), and numerous omelets. There’s potential for sure, with warm hearty bread served as soon as you’re seated, with a choice of chicken pâté and butter. Sip on a mimosa and watch the gorgeous white platters of various sizes piled with artsy-looking entrées go by before deciding on what to order. In some cases, the presentation is so pretty that you almost don’t mind the fact that, when your order comes, some dishes are missing a side of potatoes or need more toast (the quiche of the day, chicken and mushroom, disappointed, not because it wasn’t delicious, but because the tart size was way too small for a hungry bruncher). Go for the egg dishes like oeufs Benedict or oeufs Florentine aux truffles, as they are the heartiest. They also have banana and cinnamon pancakes served with maple syrup and jelly. At press time, the restaurant was in the midst of tweaking its menu. The nine-month-old space (a former brothel) is a neighborhood institution despite its many incarnations, with plenty of parking and a happy-to-serve-you vibe.
When you take your seat at The Barn at Bedford Post (954 Old Post Rd, Bedford 914-234-7800) brunch Saturdays and Sundays 9 am to 3 pm), stop for a moment and take in the Zen-like surroundings. By then, one waitress will have filled your cup with hot coffee, while another will be standing by to take your cocktail order (try the sweet tea with Chambord or the Valencia with OJ, cava, and thyme). And that impeccable standard of service will continue all morning. This rustic space, which has a warm, homey vibe that feels plucked straight out of California (as opposed to just off Route 121), has a calming ambience that makes you want to sit here all day and revel in the gorgeous surroundings and soul-warming tastes. And you can, as you move from breakfast entrées like house-made pecan-cranberry granola with organic yogurt to banana pancakes with caramelized pecans and New York maple syrup, to spring vegetable chopped salad or a citrus-cured wild king salmon. Kids will be happy, too, with the options of scrambled eggs, brioche French toast, chicken fingers, and grilled cheese. And if you time it right (meaning come on Saturday as there are no classes Sunday), you can leave your partner with the kids while you opt for a yoga class upstairs.
There’s a bacon-and-eggs-and-pancakes brunch, and then there’s the gastronomic playground that is Nessa (325 N Main St, Port Chester 914-939-0119) brunch on Sundays 11:30 am to 3 pm). Here, brunch means dining in a sultry dining room with gauzy curtains, fresh flowers, and the “buzz” of close-together tables from which you can eyeball what your neighbor is getting before making your final decision. Choose from potato pancakes with spiced apples, whipped ricotta, and Acacia honey; a roasted hedgehog mushroom-and-fontina omelet; poached eggs with roasted apples, caramelized onions, chicken-apple sausage, and Béarnaise; or a ham-and-egg panini. If you’ve been here for dinner, you know this place has several different personalities: a happening spot with quartinos and the din of chatty patrons at night, a laid-back place reminiscent of Manhattan’s Little Italy in the summer with it’s bocce court out back and patio tables and chairs for watching, and this: it’s quieter laid-back Sunday brunch where you’re never rushed, and kids are welcome (the restaurant even offers a variety of “children’s cereal” on the menu). We like all its moods but find it especially nice in the mornings when you can greet the day with a strong espresso and inch-thick cinnamon-raisin fried toast.
You’ll want to pace yourself at X20 Xaviars on the Hudson (71 Water Grant St, Yonkers 914-965-1111) Sunday brunch from 12 to 2 pm is prix fixe at $38 per person) where your meal comes with a starter, an entrée, dessert, passed hors d’oeuvres, and unlimited Champagne. Not to mention one of the most stunning vistas in Westchester. This is brunch at its best, the kind of place to come with family for a special occasion and drink in the gorgeous waterfront panorama (every table has a view of the Hudson), along with the stunning cuisine of Chef Peter X. Kelly (an Iron Chef winner). Service is impeccable, often with more than one waiter accommodating your needs. First things first: the Champagne poured into a delicate fluted glass followed by a splash of OJ, and then a choice of breads—blueberry muffin, sourdough roll, or pumpkin—before the chef’s amuse bouche is brought to you. On my visit: chilled cava melon soup dusted with fennel pollen and sashimi tuna served on yellow watermelons. And then, just as you’ve placed your order, more food arrives served from platters by the waitstaff: coconut shrimp with Dijon mustard sauce; roast rack of baby lamb, crispy tuna roll, wild-mushroom ravioli. Entrées tend to be more lunch-oriented than brunch, which is fine, because for $39 you’re getting a well-thought-out gourmet meal that will leave you too full for dinner later on. (I opted for a char-grilled five-spice-rubbed skirt steak while my husband got the poached eggs with creamed spinach.) Take fair warning: with dessert included, and the meal spaced out like a true dining experience should be, you will want to try everything (including what’s on your dining companion’s plate) and you will want to come back. This is a brunch that’s habit-forming.
Rue des Crêpes (261 Halstead Ave, Harrison 914-315-1631) Saturday and Sunday brunch served from 10 am to 4 pm) has a “girl vibe” to it, the perfect place to catch up with a friend, sip a mimosa, and feel like you’ve been transported to the cobblestoned streets of France. The decorations are whimsical and imaginative, with the back room decorated like a Parisian street scene. There are real shutters jutting out of the wall, along with antique doorknobs, painted lamposts, and colorful flower boxes. (There are even stars on the ceiling that glitter at night.) It’s cute and inviting, making the décor alone one reason to visit (just don’t be fooled by it’s narrow pastry-shop entryway; the beauty is in the back). The solid price is another: a prix-fixe menu of $17 buys you your choice of Champagne, mimosa, OJ, or lemonade, a wide range of house-made crêpes like jam (choice of four jams a day with whipped cream) or French omelet with fruit salad or crêpe quiche with salad, and coffee, tea, or soda. You also can go à la carte and order smoked salmon (light cream cheese, capers, and scallions); oven-roasted chicken and grilled veggies; or sliced steak. Just don’t come if you’re in a rush: the service can be slow. But once you pair one of the amazing fruit tarts with a strong café au lait (or another glass of Champagne), you won’t mind so much.
Need something stronger than coffee to get you going? Crabtree’s Kittle House (11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua 914-666-8044) prix-fixe Sunday brunch is $34.50, $17.95 for children 12 and under, 12 to 2:30 pm) has the best eye-opener around: a row of food stations set up with every item you can imagine. The minute you step into this gracious 200-plus-year-old home, you feel special from your first sip of Champagne to your last lingering spoonful of three-chocolate terrine. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed here—there’s a lot to choose from—but the staff is helpful and eager to explain the selections. Luckily, towards the end, when you’re too full to move, desserts including Crabtree’s famous Alsatian cheesecake, blackberry-Cabernet and pomegrante sorbets, and crème brûlée, are served tableside. And nowhere on earth will you find a greater selection of fine wines and libations. It’s the perfect motivation to rise and dine.
No doubt you’ve heard about the amazing views at 42 (The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, One Renaissance Sq, White Plains 914-761-4242), brunch served Sunday 11 am to 3 pm; prix fixe at $45 per person) and about the fabulous food of Chef Anthony Goncalves, also known for his other White Plains creation, Peniche. It’s all true. But what you may not know is that the best time to enjoy this opulent setting, with panoramas that stretch from the Hudson to the Sound, is on a crisp Sunday morning when you feel the warm sun on your face, while enjoying the wintry scene below. You almost feel a bit regal, like a queen looking out at her subjects (just ask for a window table when you make your reservation). Brunch is served in three leisurely courses: first, second, and dessert, with portions that don’t overwhelm so you actually savor everything you taste. Where else could you find “PB&J” served with Cassis, brûléed bananas, and a berry smoothie? Or find a Portuguese breakfast of cornmeal bread, poached egg, Portuguese linguica, roasted baby peppers, and heirloom tomatoes? Don’t worry, picky eaters, there are offerings for you too, including a bagel with lox and cream cheese, a burger and (my fave) pancakes served with blueberry-raspberry preserves, whipped cream, and blueberry syrup. The only “downside”: the restaurant doesn’t validate parking so, if you don’t want to pay the additional $10 valet fee, park on the street.
Craving a hearty serving of atmosphere spiced with a pinch of romance? Set in a cozy boîte with a Parisian accent, Le Jardin du Roi (95 King St, Chappaqua 914-238-1368) breakfast served from 8 am to 4 pm) features a soothing respite from a stressful week. It’s the kind of place that beckons you with big bowls of café au lait and a menu so ooh la la you might find yourself attempting your high school French when you order. Opt for croissants aux jambon et fromage” (ham-and-cheese croissant with fresh fruit salad); céréales avec lait ou yaourt (Swiss muesli with milk or yogurt and topped with fresh fruit); or the Américain (eggs any style served with bacon and home fries). We also like the le croque madame (a traditional French open-face ham-and-cheese sandwich served with an egg sunny-side up and fries) and la saumon fumée (smoked salmon with hard-boiled egg and tomato on a baguette with pesto and homemade mayonnaise, served with a side salad). Handmade crêpes are also a must, with daily specials both as main courses and desserts. (Kids, especially, will like the crêpe spread with Nutella.) Breakfast is served all day and, if you’re lucky, you might have a Clinton or Vanessa Williams sighting; they live nearby.
The Olde Stone Mill (2 Scarsdale Rd, Tuckahoe 914-771-7661) brunch Saturdays 12 pm to 3 pm and Sundays 11 am to 3 pm) touts itself as “a new beginning to an historical landmark,” and it’s true. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine George Washington and his troops downing a beer and filling their stomachs with warm stews before heading back in the cold winter night to cross the Hudson. Actually, George didn’t sleep here—or stop here—but thanks to the dark varnished woods and finished copper of the tavern bar, the 200-year-old timber posts and beams of the main dining room and the original stone hearth, it feels like he easily could have. Built in the early 1800s as a cotton mill on the west bank of the Bronx River, it’s had many reincarnations over the years. The history envelops you, though the food and service are the big draws. The brunch menu is an even mixture of lunch and breakfast items, so you can opt for the classic smoked salmon platter and a toasted bagel or an 6-oz steak topped with sunny-side-up eggs. For the kids (or the kid in you), there’s apple-stuffed French toast, challah bread stuffed with caramelized apples and served with bacon and warm maple syrup. What’s nice about dining here is that the menu is set up for sharing. If you order a combo platter for two, you can get a variety of items: the French toast, the chef’s quiche, and eggs Florentine or another option. It’s an entertaining way to get a little taste of everything.
Lunch items are fine for brunch, but breakfast is king at Underhill’s Crossing (74.5 Pondfield Ave, Bronxville 914-337-1200) Saturday and Sunday brunch from 11 am to 3 pm), where the most popular dish on the menu is eggs in all its incarnations. That means spiced-up huevos rancheros with diced tomatoes, polbano peppers, and spiced herb sausage, along with corned beef hash fritters (eggs over easy with roasted tomato hollandaise); egg-dipped challah French toast (in a batter that also includes Grand Marnier), salmon frittata, and Norwegian salmon with scallion-scented eggs, beefsteak tomato, capers, diced onions, and a grilled bagel; and grilled Angus sirloin with farm-fresh eggs.
How can you not love a place where breakfast is served all day? Wobble Café (21 Campwoods Rd, Ossining 914-762-3459) feels like “home.” This is the kind of neighborhood eatery every town wishes it had: a ’50s luncheonette so low-key and inviting that it feels like a hurricane deposited it from rural Vermont. Owned and operated by husband and wife Rich Foshay and Beylka Krupp, it boasts a comfortable living room vibe, complete with kids’ coloring area and sofa where families can hang with a cuppa joe (there’s no liquor license here, but you’re free to bring in Champagne to add to your OJ). The bohemian ease extends to its creative menu where you’ll find dishes divided into “egg-centric,” “home fry add in’s,” “flat top” (meaning pancakes and French toast), “sammi’s” (hamburger, PB&J, grilled cheese and the like), paninis, and salads. Some of my family’s faves: the pain perdu—a big fat slice of baguette stuffed with fruit and cheese, dipped in egg and friend golden brown, served with butter and real maple syrup, or the breakfast strudel—an egg-stravaganza baked in puff pastry, with onion, pepper, tomato and cheddar. Most dishes cater to vegetarians, as well as kids, and have interesting names, fun presentations, and a sense of whimsy. The “Toad in a Hole” is perfect for little bites, one egg fried in the center of a slice of bread and served with home fries. There’s even “green eggs” (two eggs gently poached in creamed arugula), and we haven’t even discussed the lunch options (my weakness: the Vermonster panini with apples, arugula, and cheddar with maple garlic aioli. I add chicken to it for some extra protein). And for a bruncher who enjoys a pick-me-up, there needs to be a few words of homage here to the coffee—so rich and served piping hot that I often buy a pound to take home (they sell it to go). The only downside is actually turned into a positive here. It gets so busy on Sundays that the restaurant has a policy: call and give them your cellphone number and they’ll let you know when your table is close to ready.
Le Château (Rte 35 near Rte 123, South Salem 914-533-6631) brunch is served 12 to 3 pm Sundays; three courses, one Champagne or mimosa included, at $38 for adults, $17 for children under 12), the century-old Tudor-style manor house, is quiet and very French, with a hostess that often greets you with a hearty “bonjour.” The menu is substantial with items like crispy crêpe of shiitake mushrooms with leeks and Champagne truffle, hanger steak au Poivre, and a quiche of the day. There are also plenty of American options like homemade waffles served with rich maple syrup and berries compote, “create your own omelet,” and the classic poached eggs Benedict. Come on a sunny Sunday and enjoy the panoramic views of the Hudson Valley from the generously proportioned windows. For a brief shining moment, it’s easy to feel you’re a Rockefeller invited to dine at your friend’s estate.
It doesn’t serve sophisticated fare, but Antun’s of Westchester (35 Valley Ave, Elmsford 914-592-5260) brunch served Sundays from 11:30 am to 3 pm.; $23.95 adults, $16.95 4 to l0) is economical. For $23.95, you can sit here all day with a bunch of friends, drink unlimited Champagne, gab away the day, and go up to a food station as many times as you like. The cuisine is familiar: salad, melon, and strawberries, cheese (in cubes with toothpicks), beef (with lots of gravy), omelets, crêpes, and a variety of pound cakes and rolls (with condiment size jellies and butters on the side). There are also scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, ziti, chicken, rice, and ham, among other options. The dessert table, with red velvet cake, white coconut, and a variety of chocolate offerings, is the best part. The ambience? It’s busy, boisterous, and filled with parties of six, eight, and more (we sat next to one of 20), with the majority celebrating birthdays, bridal showers, and anniversaries. Expect lots of cameras flashing. Call first. On days they’re hosting large events, brunch may not be available.
At Doral Arrowwood (975 Anderson Hill Rd, Rye Brook 914-939-5500), a prix-fixe buffet brunch is served in the Atrium in two seatings: Sundays, 11:30 am and 1:15 pm; $36.50 for adults; $18.50 for kids ages 4 to 10.
BLT Steak at the Ritz-Carlton, Westchester (3 Renaissance Sq, White Plains 914-467-5500), serves a special Sunday brunch from ll:45 am to 2:30 pm with a variety of à la carte options including brioche French toast and prime rib.
A Champagne buffet brunch is offered at The Renaissance Hotel’s 80 West (80 W Red Oak La, White Plains 914-694-5400) restaurant, Sundays from 11:30 am to 3 pm; prix fixe at $38; $19 for kids ages 5–12, and $2 for kids under the age of 5.
Larchmont writer Jeanne Muchnick is a big fan of brunch dishes, everything from the simple (scrambled eggs, toast, home fries) to the sublime (couscous Fez-style with caramelized onions, raisins, and chickpeas). When she’s not eating, she’s often writing about eating. Her food-related stories have run in The Journal News, Rockland Magazine, The Daily News and more.