Some people save money by packing lunch every day or quietly using their roommate’s ex’s Hulu password. But even the best attempts at frugality can go out the window as soon as the clock strikes noon on a Saturday. If you’re committed to having a great brunch without spending more than $15 for an entree, try any of these spots. Some are counter-service, some have mimosas, but all of them will make you look at most other brunch menus and think, “How expensive are eggs, really?”
Hunky Dory is as multifaceted as one of the jocks in Glee. This is an all-day cafe in Crown Heights where you can sit at the bar and drink cocktails at 11pm or hang out under the skylight with a breakfast sandwich at 10am. Even the bigger brunch plates here are all still under $13, and for $4, you can get two eggs cooked any way you want.
As long as you don’t have your heart set on a full-service East Village brunch experience, you should try some of the $9 toasts at Smor. This all-day cafe makes a bunch of different open-faced sandwiches with smoked fish and really good rye bread. Channel your inner (or outer) Danish influencer and you’ll have found your new home.
Gertie is another all-day cafe, but in Williamsburg by the JMZ at Marcy Avenue (across from Emmy Squared). Eating here is what we imagine it’d be like to live in a really nicely designed makeup bag: bright pastel walls, curved ceilings, and things you want to look at and touch. Only instead of sipping from mascara tubes, you get to eat things like English muffins with cinnamon sugar on top, and gravlax with beets. The most expensive dish on the “Morning and Afternoon” menu is an excellent $15 patty melt. It gets busy in here, but it’s a counter-service set-up, so things move pretty fast.
There are certain NYC facts most people don’t know (like that the Whole Foods in Gowanus has an amazing rooftop patio, or the Empire State Building has its own zip code). San Marzano’s inexpensive brunch isn’t a secret by any means - but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth coming here when you want $4 mimosas and $8 panini.
You’ve known about this brunch for a while, but you also know that you have to do things like pay rent and feed your cat, Pierre. Westville - which has seven locations across the city - is a reliable and relatively inexpensive choice. The food is straightforward and mostly healthy, with dishes ranging from benedicts to cobb salads. The most important detail about this particular location is that it’s right by Brooklyn Bridge Park, so you can wander over to the water after you eat (or while you wait for a table). Put on your dating profile that you’re tactfully cheap.
House Of Small Wonder is near the Bedford L Stop in Williamsburg, but you feel a little more like you’re in a treehouse when you eat brunch here. It’s sort of hidden away without much signage, and there are wooden beams and a tree growing through the middle of the restaurant. The menu is a combination of French and Japanese food, so there’s everything from a croque madame to a rotating selection of sashimi. They also have a bunch of small sandwiches for $5 each.
Egg Shop is very committed to the brunch brand, which isn’t a bad thing. It just means that almost everyone eating here is having a casual catch-up with friends, and there’s a granola and yogurt dish on the menu called “YO! GUURRL.” Other than enthusiastic-sounding yogurt, you can get a range of $13-ish sandwiches and bowls here - just know that almost all of them involve an egg of some kind (it’s in the name, after all).
If you’ve ever waited in line for the fluffy, buttery pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Co., you should know that you can get the same ones at Community Food & Juice in Morningside Heights. There might just be few more Columbia students sitting next to you. The menu here has pretty standard brunch offerings, and most dishes are around $13 (the brunch cocktails are all $12).
Maybe your friends are always looking for brunch places where they can drink multiple rounds of mimosas, eat things like chilaquiles or a breakfast burger, and not pay a ton of money for all of that. Next time, suggest Esperanto on Avenue C. The Latin food here is generously portioned (and priced), and you should try to get a table outside on the sidewalk. They have a prix-fixe brunch deal where you can get any entrée, coffee, and a cocktail for $26 (and there’s also a bottomless mimosa deal for $20).
If you’re in the Disney World part of Williamsburg and you don’t want to spend as much money as you would at the actual Disney World, Mekelburg’s Domino is your spot. Compared to the original Clinton Hill location, this one has more outdoor sidewalk seating, a bigger bar area, and a longer menu of brunch cocktails and dishes like “Mek-Muffins” and smoked salmon tartines. One thing has remained the same, though: their homemade babka is delicious. Use this place for everything from a solo brunch to a multi-family hang with kids running in every direction.
People seem to be mostly unaware of the fact that Al Di La in Park Slope is open for weekday lunch and weekend brunch. Well, it is, and the average price of the Italian dishes here is around $14. We love their pasta as much as (if not more than) some members of our extended family.
Le Bonbonniere is one of the last classic diners in lower Manhattan, which means you might see someone famous eating pancakes here. More likely, you’ll just see people who have lived in the West Village for 40 years eating pancakes here. If you and some friends want some bacon and nostalgia, you’ll love this restaurant.
This casual Bed-Stuy spot serves things like guava empanadas and a really good Cuban reuben with pastrami and pickles. The menu stays the same all day, and there’s nothing on it that costs more than $16. Sit in the back greenhouse dining area.
Jing Fong is one of our all-time favorite group brunch spots, even when we’re not keeping a close eye on our checking accounts. So it’s especially nice that you can come here with a group of eight, get a ton of good dim sum, and only drop around $20 per person. You can pick your food from dim sum carts during brunch/lunch, but there’s also a menu with larger dishes.
There’s no actual toll to get into Soho, but everything is so expensive, it sometimes feels like you need a special E-ZPass to spend time there. The loophole: brunch at 12 Chairs. This is an Israeli restaurant where you can get challah French toast or hummus falafel for $11. Just know that it’s probably going to be full of people who have also figured this out.
At Balade in the East Village, all the Lebanese brunch dishes come with homemade bread, salad, and orange juice or coffee. You can choose between options like eggs with halloumi and olives, eggs with baba ghanoush, and eggs with dates. But if you think getting all of that food means you’re going to spend $30 per person, you’re reading the wrong guide. Nothing is over $16.
Maybe it’s one of those Sunday afternoons when you’ve decided you’re too tired to process the week you just had, and also too tired to think about the week ahead. What you probably need is some time with a good, messy $12 burger. The ones here have thick, puck-like patties, and you also need an order of cottage fries to round out your experience. (There are omelettes and other brunch/lunch things on the menu, too, if you’re with someone who’s not in the mood for red meat.) Just make sure to bring cash - this location doesn’t take cards.