The Very Best Breakfast Spots in the U.S.
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.
Russ & Daughter’s Cafe: New York City, NY
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 & Daughter’s 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 where you can sit and eat instead of grabbing and going (and waiting hours to be served). Here, you can pull up a chair and build your own bagel sandwich with smoked fish, cream cheese, tomatoes and capers, or opt for other Jewish appetizing specialties like chocolate-babka French toast and latkes crowned with applesauce and sour cream.
Phoenicia Diner: Phoenicia, NY
Just off Route 28, the Phoenicia Diner remains a breakfast destination for Catskill skiers looking to fuel up before hitting the slopes, coupled with summer tourists traveling throughout upstate New York. Elevated twists on classic diner fare zoom out of the kitchen: thick waffles are swirled with cornmeal and drizzled with local maple syrup, and personal-sized skillets brim with ingredients like house-cured grass-fed brisket, polenta, smoked bacon, all topped with the requisite runny eggs.
Willa Jean: New Orleans, LA
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 and crackly boudin (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 shrimp and grits or braised short rib flush with caramelized pearl onions and crispy garlic. On your way out, stop at the counter to load up on squat banana bread loaves, sticky buns and chocolate chip cookies.
Kihei Caffe: Maui, HA
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. Here, stacks of buttermilk pancakes are freckled with macadamia nuts, pineapple, coconut, and 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 icing.
Plow: San Francisco, CA
You may be slapped with an hour and a half wait at Plow, Potrero Hill’s breakfast gem, but the 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 mountains of brown-sugar-roasted apples and pillows of vanilla mascarpone cream. For those looking for something a little less sweet, try the house duck confit hash, or the Plow, which gives you the best of kitchen: two eggs, coins of lemon ricotta pancakes, sausage patties, bacon or chicken sausage, and spice-flecked potatoes.
Hominy Grill: Charleston, SC
Hominy Grill is squeezed into a tall red-painted house, with soaring windows streaming sunlight into the ground floor dining room. Sitting down at one of the wooden tables feels like you’ve been welcomed into someone’s home, one where the kitchen cooks up incredible Southern classics: bowls teeming with sesame fried catfish and grits, fried green tomatoes drizzled with ranch, and bread-pudding French toast soaked in bourbon caramel sauce. If you’re looking for something to launch you into a post-breakfast nap, try the Charleston Nasty Biscuit: a soft biscuit is severed in half, loaded with a hunk of crispy fried chicken and Cheddar cheese, then slathered in sausage gravy.
Paperboy: Austin, TX
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 (sweet potato, pork shoulder, poached egg, and almond romesco) or the chilaquiles (chips nestled with goat chorizo, cotija, salsa roja, and a sunny egg). 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.
Palace Diner: Biddeford, ME
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 (scrambled eggs, crackly, blackened bacon, a towering array of pancakes and 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.
Besaw’s: Portland, OR
Besaw’s has been serving the Portland community since 1903, but the menu has certainly changed, thanks to chef Dustin Clark’s recent takeover of the kitchen. Breakfast dishes are cheeky and simply fun, like enormous rounds of buttermilk sourdough pancakes smeared with cream cheese frosting, toffee sauce and brown sugar- and cinnamon-toasted walnuts. You’ll also find things like butternut-squash French toast, chicken & waffles, and an opportunity to build your own breakfast spread, replete with options running the gamut from cider-braised oatmeal to green chile- and bacon-mac & cheese.
Half & Half: St. Louis, MO
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 doughnut holes, 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 chocolate and torched marshmallows, and finished off with a showering of graham cracker crumbles.
Milktooth: Indianapolis, IN
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 six days a week and solely serves brunch. You’ll find various sweet options like a sourdough pearl sugar waffle, delicately arranged with coffee-poached pears and drizzled with wild-rice horchata syrup, as well as plenty of savory dishes like cranberry-walnut bread, cloaking gooey melted gouda and raclette and drizzled with black truffle honey, a sunny-side-up egg nestled on top. Plus, pastry chef Zoë Taylor makes a host of divine pastries (think blue cheese and potato Danish, sourdough-pear coffee cake, and cranberry-coconut pop tarts), which can be ordered at the table or picked up at the pastry counter on your way out.
Bread Furst Bakery: Washington, D.C.
Open the doors of 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 chocolate-cherry 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 French toast and a messy bacon, egg and cheese sandwich bookended by an English muffin.
Onefold: Denver, CO
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.
Polly’s Pancake Parlor: Sugar Hill, New Hampshire
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, especially at Polly’s), stick with the grass-fed steak & eggs, and be sure to order a side of locally smoked bacon.