05/03/2014 02:56 pm ET Updated Jul 03, 2014

America's Best Brunches

For many of us, there's no meal more sacred than brunch. Not only is it a celebration of the leisurely weekend afternoon, it's a time to get together with friends, shake off the events of the night before and consume far more calories (in both food and alcohol form) than should be socially acceptable. But it is, and it's wonderful. In honor of the only meal that successfully combines two meals, we present the 30 best brunches in America.

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For many restaurants, brunch is both an obligation and an afterthought. Eggs are half-heartedly poached, drowned in lukewarm hollandaise and served with a side of apathy by a crew of hung over line cooks to swarms of equally hung over diners. Brunch isn't the moneymaker that dinner is, so it's no surprise that it often doesn't receive the same culinary care and attention. Then there are the brunch haters, privileged elites whose criticism of this weekend ritual lies somewhere between snobbery and keen perception. Where does that leave the rest of us? Too often with a host of mediocre French toast and overcooked eggs, ever on the hunt for a decent meal to carry us through a soothing, mimosa-infused transition from Saturday night's party into Monday.

  • 1 #5) Momofuku Ssam Bar, New York City
    America’s best Asian restaurant launched brunch late last year, and as expected it’s everything we hoped it would be. The famous pork belly steamed buns have been joined by ones stuffed with smoked salmon, horseradish, egg, and sesame; country ham from four different farms is available; the famous bo ssäm large format feast is still available, and new menu items include Carolina shrimp and grits; fried duck and waffles with maple, sorrel, and mascarpone; duck bacon tacos with tomatillo, cilantro, and sriracha; and an out-of-character (yet insanely delicious) biscuit sandwich with Edwards ham, eggs, red eye gravy, and chicharron. David Chang, you’re officially our hero.
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    Photo Credit: Noah Kalina
  • 2 #4) Magnolia Pancake Haus, San Antonio
    Are the buttermilk pancakes served at San Antonio's Magnolia Pancake House the best in the world? Owners Robert and Sheila Fleming are convinced, and you won't find many who've eaten there who disagree. The batter is made from scratch throughout the day and includes farm fresh eggs, real butter, cream, half-and-half, and buttermilk. The menu is massive (pancakes come in blueberry, bacon, apple cinnamon, chocolate chip, pecan, and bananas Foster varieties), and other can't-miss specialties include a jambalaya omelette, crab cakes Benedict, peach and pecan waffle, and an authentic (and huge) Munich-style apple pancake.
    Photo Credit: The Magnolia Pancake Haus
  • 3 #3) The Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis
    President Obama has been known to dine at The Bachelor Farmer, and this acclaimed Minneapolis restaurant raises the bar on brunch as well. The Bachelor Farmer draws inspiration from Minnesota’s Nordic heritage, and the brunch menu carries on this tradition with Smørrebrød, or Scandinavian open-faced sandwiches with toppings such bacon confit or oyster mushrooms. Other dishes draw inspiration from fresh, local ingredients, and the cocktails are equally exceptional.
    Photo Credit: © Flickr / Erin & Ben R
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  • 4 #2) Hominy Grill, Charleston, S.C.
    A Charleston must-visit, this nearly 20-year-old landmark showcases the classic Lowcountry cooking of chef Robert Stehling as well as his dedication to using only the finest ingredients available. Stehling is taking the best aspects of Lowcountry cuisine — grits, biscuits, she-crab soup — and bringing them to new heights: Shrimp and cheese grits are kicked up with scallions, mushrooms, and bacon; biscuits are stuffed with fried chicken and cheddar and topped with sausage gravy; and fried green tomatoes are the highlight of a B.L.T along with ancho chile lime mayo. Other standouts include salmon potato cakes, an omelette filled with Charleston red rice and shrimp gravy, and housemade banana bread.
    Photo Credit: Hominy Grill
  • 5 #1) Commander's Palace, New Orleans
    New Orleanians do brunch best, and the jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace, which opened in 1880 and has been serving brunch almost as long as New Orleanians have been sipping mid-afternoon milk punch, is our pick for the finest in America. James Beard Award-winning chef Tory McPhail’s jazz brunch includes live music and beloved classics such as turtle soup, Creole gumbo, carrot cake flapjacks, praline rum lacquered quail, and Louisiana shrimp and grits. One of America’s most legendary restaurants, Commander’s could have sat back and rested on its laurels years ago, but instead they’re constantly looking to raise the bar for Creole fine dining. And there’s no better way to experience the restaurant in all its majesty than to pay a visit during its renowned jazz brunch.
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    Photo Credit: Commanders Palace

Brunch deserves more respect, and why shouldn't it? When else is it acceptable to sleep until noon and still join the ranks of socially adjusted, mature adults? At what other occasion is it not only welcome, but encouraged to have a couple cocktails in the middle of the day? But aside from the beauty of a lazy weekend brunch, we're now in a glorious time where brunch means much more than eggs Benedict. Chefs across the country are exercising their creative talent on their brunch menus, and diners are finally better off for it.

In celebration of the chefs who are going above and beyond, we've compiled a ranking of America's 30 Best Brunches. For our rankings, we looked for brunch menus that fit one or more of the following three criteria: Menus that go beyond the by-now trite stalwarts of pancakes and eggs Benedict, brunches that offer a unique and novel experience along with excellent food, and brunches where the quality of food is just as good as what the restaurant serves at dinner. Say goodbye to cold hash browns and yet another spin on the holy trinity of eggs-bread-hollandaise, and say hello to innovative dishes that showcase the best the restaurant has to offer. You wouldn't lower your standards for dinner -- now you never have to settle again for brunch.

-Dan Myers, The Daily Meal

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