Quick, what was on the breakfast menu for the last time you ate out in the morning? I'll bet you a dollar that there were eggs (benedict, omelet, over easy, etc.), breakfast pastries (how can I justify eating dessert for breakfast? Ok, I won't go there, but really???), something with syrup (pancakes, waffles and french toast), oatmeal, and fruit & granola.
It's really hard to think of breakfast as fine dining, and hard for me to justify a $10 bagel and cream cheese when I'm eating out when I know I can buy it at a local deli for under $2.
I have found a few gems around NYC, though, and for those who entertain clients, have friends in town, or just want to try something more fun for a change, I'm going to include a handful here.
Norma's at the Le Parker Meridien. This is probably one of the most popular and most well known breakfast places in town, so if you have never stopped in for a Saturday brunch, it's time to get out. Yes, Norma's has the traditional eggs-pancakes-granola menu, but the restaurant turns breakfast into an art. There are wonderful hot fudge sauces in addition to maple syrup, and breakfast tortillas (complete with guacamole) for those who favor something savory. And in between, there are lots of fabulous dishes to tempt your pallet. I recommend going when you have time to eat leisurely -- and go with a group that likes to share so you can try lots of different items. You won't be disappointed!
Rock Center Cafe which is next door to the famous Rock Center Ice Skating Rink. In the summer, when you first sit down you'll be given a shot of the chef's daily fruit smoothy as well as a plate of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. In the winter, the mini hot cocoa with mashed bananas is the perfect pick me up. The menu is not extensive, but you'll find some subtle variations on the traditional breakfast items: an egg white omelet is delicious with spinach, cremini mushrooms, tomatoes and goat cheese, and the white chocolate/hazelnut pancakes come with dulce de leche whipped butter. Personally, I'm a big fan of the mixed berries with whipped greek yogurt. It's an added bonus that you can sit outside during the summer months, or sit by the window in the winter and watch the ice skaters.
Sarabeth's has fun with their menu, including the "Three Bears Style" porridge. You may know them for their wonderful breads and jams so you may want to stick with something you already know, but I suggest trying the lemon and ricotta pancakes for a change of pace.
The Regency Hotel is known more for being a power-breakfast spot than for the food, but don't go there to see and be seen -- it's a good place to take clients because it's quiet, and the food is very good. There aren't a lot of surprises on the menu, but you can get your eggs exactly the way you want them. I can't say enough about the service -- you will never feel rushed, so be careful that you don't lose track of time and just decide to hang out all day!
Jean Georges -- when a client suggested we go to Jean Georges for breakfast, I was really surprised. I didn't know JG was a breakfast place, and it's even in my neighborhood! The food is better than I could have imagined -- if you want real pancakes, or an omelet stuffed with spinach and goat cheese, you can't go wrong. And I'm convinced that the fresh-squeezed orange juice was picked from a tree in the kitchen, it was so amazing. If you're too intimidated to come here for dinner, try it for breakfast first. But don't be surprised if you find yourself making a follow-up reservation on your way out.