You loved our winter edition of the “NYC Pancake Diaries,” and the spring edition too. For the forthcoming autumn season, allow us to introduce five indulgent versions of this scrumptious brunch dessert for your future weekend brunching adventures. Bon appetit!
For ladies who brunch
- Dessert destination: Cafe Clover, West Village/Soho, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Quinoa pancakes ($16, plus tax/tip). The “perfect” brunch spot must check a number of boxes. First, the venue must be buzzing, but not to the extent that one has to use a microphone to project one’s voice or install a hearing aid to listen to one’s fellow dining companion. Second, the seating must be comfortable enough for more than a rapid-fire eating session – that is, the chairs should be plushly upholstered, because nothing is worse than feeling like you sat on concrete during a 2-3 hour-long brunch session. And third, aside from competent wait staff, the food should be an assortment of healthy and indulgent, to cater for different moods. We h-a-t-e places that serve either fifty variations of eggs or avocado toast or acai bowls, or conversely, an assortment of fried meats only. Cafe Clover checks all the above boxes, and has become one of our favourite brunch spots, especially when we wish to continue the day afterwards by strolling the West Village or Soho area. And its pancakes, a case in point of balancing sweet and healthy simultaneously.
An excuse to have bourbon in the morning
- Dessert destination: Due West, West Village, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Bourbon Maple ($16, plus tax/tip). With its wide windowed frontage overlooking a leafy West Village side street, sumptuous velvet banquettes, and touches of marble and dark wood tones, the rather classy-looking Due West is another easy proposition for a carefree weekend brunch. Because early autumn days still allow for such an al fresco rendezvous, consider the promise of pancakes served toasty warm in a heavy skillet. Somewhat of a denser and drier cake-like texture than we ordinarily prefer, generous dousing with bourbon maple syrup is a must here.
The Instagram influencer’s favourite
- Dessert destination: Freeman’s, East Village/Lower East Side, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Buttermilk Pancakes ($17, plus tax/tip). Located at the end of a laneway stained in graffiti, Freeman’s is hidden, yet also not hidden. It is a place you could accidentally stumble upon, yet it is also one of the most Instagrammed spots in the entire NYC. It’s a place you might visit with your under 35-year-old friends, but not with your parents. Inside, Freeman’s is a dark dim cavern pulsing with a boisterous crowd. As with most Instagram hotspots, the food generally, does not exceed expectations. The pancakes here are limper and thinner than our ordinary preference, but those cinnamon-dusted, baked apple cubes garnishing the dish evoke daydreams of apple-picking escapades in upstate NY…away from the maddening brunch crowd.
Prepping for hibernation
- Dessert destination: Cafe Fiorello, Upper West Side, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Toasted Hazelnut Maple Pancakes ($16.50, plus tax/tip). One of our all-time favourite dinner restaurants in the city, and a place we routinely depend upon when near the Lincoln Centre arts and cultural precinct, Cafe Fiorello is old-school American-Italian hospitality at its best. Think dim golden lights, oak wood wall panelling, charming service staff, and generous bordering on gargantuan portion sizes. Truly timeless. During the day, it also offers one of our favourite pancakes. At Cafe Fiorello, the pancakes are akin to a Stearns & Foster pillow — ridiculously plush, lavishly smothered in a hazelnut chocolate sauce. Words alone do not suffice. Date brunch perfection, the Italians never really knew constraint when it came to food…and nor do we! 🙂
Rustic Gramercy chic
- Dessert destination: Friends of a Farmer, Gramercy, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Pumpkin Pancakes ($18, plus tax/tip). A few blocks away from the ultra-exclusive, residents-only Gramercy Park, this cafe is rather different from the rather posh terrace homes nearby. Akin to a cosy country lodge instead, it happened to be one of the first brunch spots that we visited on our arrival in NYC some 3-4 years ago. How time flies, indeed. We will always remember our first introduction to America’s addiction to all things pumpkin come autumn. Brunch here is a hearty one, fit for a lumberjack. You get pancakes, sausage, potatoes, and eggs. A beautiful palette of savoury and sweet, and of autumnal brown, orange and golden hues.