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America's Best Brunches (PHOTOS)

Posted: 01/15/12 08:00 AM ET

If everybody's working for the weekend, then brunch is our reward. Unlike grab-and-go breakfast, the best brunches are drawn-out, indulgent meals in good company that inspire you to shake off those covers and then linger over another round of Bloody Marys.

America's best brunch spots deliver that kind of pick-me-up first and foremost through their food, whether it's reinterpreting classics, highlighting regional flavors, or simply churning out the most delectable comfort dishes around. But atmosphere counts, too, as does the approval of locals. In San Francisco, that can mean satisfying cravings for fresh goat cheese on toast with lavender oil, while a New Orleans spot specializes in Cajun-inspired fare like hearty sweet potato and duck hash with a cornbread waffle. Other brunch restaurants even rethink the Pop-Tart.

Yet not all chefs look forward to brunch time. In his nonfiction book Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain, a former line cook, called brunch "punishment" for the B-team cooks (whose supervision is at a minimum) and a "dumping ground" for the week's leftovers. For diners, it's the possibility of crowds or a long wait that can be the biggest brunch turnoff. But these brunch haters remain a vocal minority pushing against the tide of enthusiasm expressed by present-day fans on sites like iheartbrunch.com and brunchlove.com.

In their celebratory spirit, here are the coast-to-coast spots most likely to cheer up everyone in your brunch party.

- Nina Fedrizzi

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Locanda Verde: New York City
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This restaurant in Tribeca’s Greenwich Hotel has all the qualifications for generating buzz: a star chef (Andrew Carmellini), a celebrity backer (Robert De Niro), and an upscale-meets-casual design (exposed-brick walls, chalkboard menus, studded leather bar seats). But it’s the inspired seasonal Italian menu that keeps locals coming back for seconds. Plates teem with polenta waffles with mascarpone cheese, zucchini frittatas with roasted tomato, and pastries from renowned chef Karen DeMasco.


Standout Dish: Locanda’s signature ricotta cheese paired with truffle honey and burnt orange toast.


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Photo: Courtesy of Locanda Verde
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