To date, we have written three diary entries of of NYC’s best pancakes, yet only one for the breakfast dessert that is the French Toast. Oh no! Allow us to remedy this terrible neglect asap with the following second volume of scrumptious French Toasts for your brunch dreaming! We did a quick check and all of the below dessert destinations are still in business in NYC, albeit may be offering outdoor dining (and possibly, limited indoor dining) for the present. If you visit in the near future, let us know how your experience was! Enjoy!
A breath of spring
- Dessert destination: Cafe Mogador, East Village and Williamsburg branches.
- Short and sweet story: Orange Blossom French Toast. When brunching at Cafe Mogador, you might be tempted to go with the Middle-Eastern-accented savoury offerings, and we wouldn’t begrudge you that. But perhaps, as a dessert side, don’t overlook Cafe Mogador’s French Toast. It’s a “lighter” affair (certainly compared to the other French Toasts featured in this review below), with citrus wedges scattered on soft bread, and drizzles of orange blossom-scented maple syrup. You could possibly walk away from this breakfast dessert without much guilt at all. Sweet simplicity.
For an adventure
- Dessert destination: Wayan, Soho/Nolita, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Pandan French Toast ($18+ tip/tax). Being of South-East-Asian heritage, we are generally sceptical of restaurants purporting to “add a creative edge” to what is – in our humble opinion – already amazing native culinary fare. It was with this wariness that we ventured into Wayan for brunch one day… and did we quite literally, eat our words. Yes, Wayan is more expensive than what you would find at a bustling hawker store or a sleek restaurant in one of the glittering metropolises in South East Asia. But, just as tapas is not really tapas outside of Seville, and how pizza is far different in Italy than what we are used to outside of Italy, it would be unfair to expect the identical “same.” And being in NYC where South East Asian cuisine is strangely, rather under-represented, Wayan was a wonderful surprise. And although a deceptively small log, its Pandan French Toast, with caramelized pineapple and kaya jam…well, wow.
- Dessert destination: JoJo, Upper East Side, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Classical French Toast ($19+ tip/tax). As we no longer live in the vicinity, we don’t frequent uptown as much as we used to in our first year in NYC. It’s really only the changing seasons of pretty spring and fiery fall that lure us back to the area, and even then, mostly directly to Central Park. Yet, uptown has some real dessert gems – and affordable places too. Indeed, it’s not all $200+ pp Michelin-starred dinner places. JoJo is one such gem, exuding a “fancy dandy” air, yet still very accessible. We dined here for a casual weekend brunch with our girl gang, but it’s also that rare spot in NYC which your parents will love to visit. Indeed, we couldn’t help but smile (or smirk) a little when we saw quite a few dainty old Upper East Side ladies dressed in furs, pearls, block heels, and enviably-coiffed grey hair dotting a few tables. As for the brunch food options, you must not miss JoJo’s French Toast. It’s a classical interpretation – the French Toast itself is built like a brick, yet so luscious, oozing almost like a tres leche cake. It is festooned with curls of bacon spearing through a fortress of decadently caramelized apples.
Crunching through a breakfast dessert
- Dessert destination: Blackbarn, NOMAD, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Cornflake Crusted French Toast. If you are in the mood for some beautiful people-watching and some live music on a weekend brunch, look no further than Blackbarn. And certainly, look no further than its Cornflake Crusted French Toast. Yes, you read that right. Coat said French Toast in cornflakes, brulee the whole thing, and you achieve both crunchy and pillowy textures in one hit. Slap on an orb of mascarpone cream, lace the creation with caramel and icing sugar, and well…say goodbye to lunch and dinner for the day.
One way to an intense sugar high
- Dessert destination: Buttermilk Channel, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
- Short and sweet story: Pecan Pie French Toast ($15+ tip/tax). There must be something about brunching in Brooklyn. You all know that our absolute favourite pancakes in all of NYC has to be Sundays in Brooklyn’s malted caramel pancakes (see here, for previous review). As for equal decadence in a French Toast, Buttermilk Channel – also in Brooklyn – offers the most memorable French Toast that we have had to date in NYC, after more than three years here. The French Toast at Buttermilk Channel is smothered in a thick, sticky molasses syrup, and dotted with caramelized pecans. If you manage more than a quarter, we bow down to you as greater dessert addicts than us.
- Dessert destination: Nomad Hotel Rooftop, Nomad, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Stuffed Almond French Toast ($19+tip/tax). Sometimes, to feel like you are in the glamourous Manhattan that Hollywood has persistently beamed across cinema screens, you just need to dress-up and do a fancy brunch. Especially more so in recent months, when one has been working from home for endless weeks, when Manhattan increasingly resembles an abandoned city, where garbage piles up and the homeless drape themselves over the streets. The Nomad Hotel – one of our favourite luxe places pre-Covid – has come to the rescue, with what must be one of the most sumptuously decorated outdoor spaces. See here for photos of the spectacular setting. Request a seat on the adjacent terrace or under the chandeliers, and order the Stuffed Almond French Toast. It is essentially a decadently moist, almond apple cake of a breakfast dessert.