The Very Best Breakfast Spots in the U.S.

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Photo: Courtesy of Polly's Pancake Parlor

Bacon. Scrambled eggs with hot buttered toast. Cereal swimming in pools of milk. These breakfast classics instantly evoke those nostalgic memories of waking in the morning to your mom dressing stacks of pancakes with maple syrup or heating up a skillet, waiting for that pat of butter to bubble.

After all, there's nothing quite like breakfast — people around the world echo the sentiment that it's the most important meal of the day. But there's more to breakfast than just its eminence. It's reminiscent of the good 'ole days, ones replete with leisurely mornings and those spent dashing off to school, of skinned knees and mini marshmallows floating in hot chocolate. And, of course, it's worth mentioning that breakfast simply tastes good.

The United States is rife with breakfast spots, but these are the ones worth seeking out. You'll find a pancake paradise off I-93 in New Hampshire, where grains are stone-ground right on site. And in Indianapolis, you'll dine at a brunch-only restaurant, home to inventive pastries and wildly imaginative riffs on the beloved classics. So pull up a chair and start nursing that mug of coffee — it's time for breakfast.

01 of 12

Russ & Daughters Cafe: New York City, NY

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Courtesy of Russ & Daughters

Breakfast in New York City simply isn't breakfast without noshing on a bagel swiped with a thick layer of cream cheese and towering sheaths of pink lox. The famed Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side has remained NYC's worthy destination for smoked salmon and whitefish since 1914, but in 2014, the appetizing store opened a cafe just around the corner. Here, you can build your own bagel sandwich with smoked fish, cream cheese, tomatoes, and capers, or opt for other appetizing Jewish specialties like chocolate-babka French toast and latkes crowned with applesauce and sour cream.

02 of 12

Phoenicia Diner: Phoenicia, NY

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Kevin Trageser/Courtesy of Phoenicia Diner

Just off Route 28, the Phoenicia Diner remains a breakfast destination for Catskill skiers looking to fuel up before hitting the slopes, and summertime tourists traveling throughout upstate New York. Elevated twists on classic diner fare zoom out of the kitchen: French toast slices are covered in fresh fruit and drizzled with local maple syrup, while personal-sized skillets brim with ingredients like house-cured grass-fed brisket, pimento cheese grits, and locally smoked trout, all topped with the requisite runny eggs.

03 of 12

Willa Jean: New Orleans, LA

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Courtesy of Willa Jean

At Willa Jean, you're here for the biscuits. Chef Kelly Fields expertly laminates the dough with thick sheets of butter, crafting flaky biscuits often likened to croissants. These tremendous square biscuits might be flecked with pimento cheese, covered in Tabasco honey — this is Louisiana after all — or showered with sausage gravy. Order at least one for the table (although you'll undoubtedly ask for seconds), then dive into a bowl of brisket and cheesy grits or a brioche roll with Tabasco-buttered crawfish tails and chili garlic. On your way out, stop at the counter to load up on squat banana bread loaves, monkey bread, and chocolate chip cookies.

04 of 12

Kihei Caffe: Maui, HI

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Courtesy of Kihei Caffe

There are far too many worthy options to choose from at Kihei Caffe, a casual breakfast and lunch spot not too far from Kalama Park on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Here, stacks of buttermilk pancakes are freckled with macadamia nuts, pineapple, coconut, or chocolate chips. The breakfast burrito wobbles with eggs, cheese, home fries, salsa, and guacamole. And the pork fried rice is flush with a slew of pork products — Portuguese sausage! Ham! Bacon! — and crowned with a sunny-side-up egg. You'd be remiss not to order one cinnamon roll for the table: flaky pastry dough lined with cinnamon and sugar, capped off with sweet cream icing.

05 of 12

Plow: San Francisco, CA

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Courtesy of Plow

You may be slapped with an hour and a half wait at Plow, Potrero Hill's breakfast gem, but this farm-to-table American restaurant is worth camping out for. There are the beloved lemon ricotta pancakes, for one, and custard French toast, piled with strawberry rhubarb compote and pillows of vanilla mascarpone cream. For those looking for something a little less sweet, try the corned beef hash, or the Plow, which gives you the best of the kitchen: two eggs, coins of lemon ricotta pancakes, sausage patties, bacon or chicken apple sausage, and spice-flecked potatoes.

06 of 12

Paperboy: Austin, TX

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Courtesy of Paper Boy

The only thing that emerges out of the black Paperboy trailer is breakfast — and that's a good thing. The menu here is limited to only a couple of items, but that's just right; the kitchen has certainly earned its right as a breakfast king. Opt for something small like toast swiped with mascarpone and a dusting of cinnamon-sugar crumbles, or try something more substantial, like the Texas Hash (braised pork shoulder, sweet potato, onion, kale, poached egg, and pecan mole) or the migas (goat carnitas, pico de gallo, cotija, serrano hot sauce, and grilled tortillas). Each dish is slipped into a brown-paper tray, ready to be consumed at one of the tables outside, accompanied by a cup of coffee.

07 of 12

Palace Diner: Biddeford, ME

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Greta Rybus/Courtesy of Palace Diner

The teeny Palace Diner is housed in a vintage boxcar that was built in 1927. Although the Pollard car itself has been around for nearly 100 years, the diner squeezed inside is a relatively new haven for elevated diner fare. Grab a seat at one of the 15 swiveling bar stools, then order corned beef hash, slabs of brown-butter banana bread, and the Lumberjack Breakfast (silver dollar flapjacks, two eggs, breakfast meat, and Palace potatoes). You'd be remiss not to ask for another side of the famed Palace potatoes, which have generated quite the reputation in Biddeford; this beloved snack is first blanched, smashed, and then fried.

08 of 12

Half & Half: St. Louis, MO

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
J Pollack Photography

Anything sweet is the move at Half & Half, the Clayton breakfast hotspot backed by husband-and-wife team Liz and Mike Randolph. It's hard to say no to warm cinnamon doughnuts, accompanied with their own pot of melted chocolate, and Clara Cakes, golden-brown pancakes smeared with raspberries, mascarpone, and granola. The big attraction, though, is the kitchen's thick-cut, soaring stacks of French toast, which can come doused in melted white chocolate and blackberry compote, and finished off with a showering of graham cracker crumbles.

09 of 12

Milktooth: Indianapolis, IN

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Courtesy of Milktooth

There's something charmingly seductive about a restaurant that knows exactly what it wants — and that's the case at Milktooth, Indianapolis' breakfast paradise. The restaurant, housed in a former garage, is open four days a week and solely serves brunch. You'll find various sweet options, like a cinnamon sugar waffle, delicately arranged with candied kumquats and drizzled with malted butter, as well as plenty of savory dishes, like a house challah bun around slow-roasted porchetta with pork au jus and a sunny-side-up egg nestled on top. Plus, the divine pastries — think spinach and feta croissants, lemon cardamom morning buns, and chiffon cake — which can be ordered at the table or picked up at the pastry counter on your way out.

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Bread Furst Bakery: Washington, D.C.

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Courtesy of Bread Furst

Open the doors of Washington, D.C.'s Bread Furst Bakery and you'll be greeted with a whoosh of the most wonderful smell: fresh bread being baked. The American bakery is home to a slew of breads, from fruit and nut bread to crackly baguettes, and pastries like monkey bread and flaky croissants, so picture-perfect they should be exhibited in the nearby National Gallery of Art. Come weekends, pair warm pastries with brunch items like vegetable frittatas and a messy egg and cheese sandwich bookended by an English muffin.

11 of 12

Onefold: Denver, CO

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Courtesy of Onefold

Breakfast at Onefold is kissed with Asian and Mexican flair. There's a mountain of bacon fried rice, after all, perched beneath two duck-fat fried eggs, and breakfast burritos swell with eggs, fried potatoes, asadero cheese, and meat. It's hard to go wrong with anything boasting eggs at this sliver of a restaurant, which can be prepared in just about every way, from poached in congee to scrambled atop house-made taco shells.

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Polly's Pancake Parlor: Sugar Hill, New Hampshire

Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.
Courtesy of Polly's Pancake Parlor

There's nothing quite like slicing into fat stacks of pancakes in a circa-1830's building as you gaze up at the New Hampshire mountains. Polly's Pancake Parlor, though largely unassuming, is home to some of the best buckwheat, whole wheat, and cornmeal pancakes you'll find in New England, made from flours that are stoneground in-house. Drizzle them liberally with maple syrup (also crafted in house) found in sticky glass servers atop each table. If pancakes aren't your thing — though how could they not be, especially at Polly's — stick with the grass-fed steak and eggs and be sure to order a side of locally smoked bacon.

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