On January 4, 2019, I celebrated 10 years of Pop.Bop.Shop. In that anniversary post, I asked for you, my fantastic readers, to share what you'd like to see here on the blog in year 10. Several people commented that they'd love a series of top 10 lists, highlighting my best discoveries over the past decade. The idea is brilliant (I'm a little embarrassed I didn't think of it myself), and in my 2019 New Year's resolutions post, I committed to sharing one top 10 list every month.
I'm excited to quick off this new series with a list of the 10 best brunch spots. This was an extremely hard decision, since brunch is my favorite meal. I was able to narrow it down to 15, but cutting those final five felt like torture. I imagine the experience is similar to making a wedding guest list.
We're going to do this David Letterman-style and start with #10 and work our way up to #1.
10. Cheeky's (Palm Springs, CA)
In June 2018, I flew to Palm Springs, CA with an incredible group of girls. The weekend was in honor of a friend's 35th birthday and we went big (here's the house we rented). We landed in the middle of the night (literally) so our first meal in Palm Springs was brunch. We went to a place called Cheeky's, which came highly recommended by locals and tourists.
We sat on the outdoor patio, which had misters to keep diners from overheating. We were revived (after our 1:00am landing) by strong ice coffee and even stronger Bloody Marys.
All of the egg dishes were incredible. Pictured here: the heirloom tomato tartine with arugula, bacon, fried eggs and lemon aioli, and the herb omelet stuffed with boursin cheese and served with asparagus and cherry tomato salad.
The star of the entire meal was actually something we ordered on the side - the sticky taters. They are tater tots tossed in hoisin sauce and garnished with sesame seeds and scallions.
We were talking about these taters for months.
9. Butchers & Bakers (Farmington, CT)
A few times each year my college besties and I try to plan reunion weekends. In the early years, we were clustered together - three girls in Boston, two in New York City. Now we're spread out all over New England, making the planning of these getaways much more logistically complicated.
In November 2018, we decided to meet up in West Hartford, CT. The first day we explored the downtown area, going out for lunch, bopping in and out of stores, and enjoying a wine tasting at a local shop. The next morning we drove one town over to Farmington, CT to dine at Butchers & Bakers.
When I learned they had a DIY Bloody Mary bar, I was pretty sure I would love the place.
My love grew when our waitress delivered a cinnamon roll the size of a human head. I actually felt my eyes bug forward.
All of the savory dishes were fantastic, from the eggs benedict to the egg sandwich packed with fried mortadella, house made salami, sunny side up eggs, melted provolone cheese and pickled pepper relish.
As we were walking out, we all agreed we'd drive to Farmington just to have this meal again.
8. Summer House Santa Monica (Chicago, IL)
I made my first-ever trip to Chicago, IL in June 2016. One of my best friends from Boston moved there and she was my tour guide for the entire weekend. One our first full day in the Windy City, we went to Lincoln Park for brunch.
When we walked through the doors of Summer House Santa Monica, the first thing I saw was their rosé cart. Yes, people. An entire bar cart / cooler, completely filled with rosé. Be still my heart.
We were seated out front, on the outdoor patio, and we both got a nice tan over the course of the meal. We started with burrata (as you do), and then I had avocado toast, topped with poached eggs and served with a side of McDonalds-level French fries.
All other avocado toasts can bow down to this one.
As if all that wasn't enough, on the way out we swung by their bakery section. They have an entire case of brownies, Rice Krispie treats, and a plethora of cookies. I may have pressed my face to the glass.
Is there anything better than having a delicious brunch and then walking home with a bag full of cookies?
7. Herringbone at Aria (Las Vegas, NV)
I love Las Vegas. When I worked on the PR team for Zappos, I was in Vegas every few weeks for several years. After I left that job, it took nearly three years for me to get back to Sin City. The reason for my trip? The Backstreet Boys concert.
That weekend, we stayed at the Aria Hotel on the strip, which I highly recommend. Because they don't have a show or musical act, and the casino is small, the hotel is much more tame. It really is just the people staying there that are walking in and out. The morning after the concert, we headed to Herringbone for brunch.
The restaurant is located directly off the hotel pool, so every seat has a great view.
We decided to split two dishes, the breakfast burrito and the orange ricotta chocolate chip pancakes.
Looking back at the original blog post, my friend said, "These could be the greatest pancakes I have ever had. They are so fluffy! This is definitely a plate that you lick."
For the view and that stack of pancakes, Herringbone is a must.
6. Eating House (Miami, FL)
My parents and sister moved to Miami, FL in 2005. Each time I visit them, I try to squeeze in at least one new restaurant during my trip. When I flew down for my birthday weekend in September, I was excited to head to Eating House in Coral Gables to experience their Instagram-famous brunch.
I went with my sister and brother-in-law and we came hungry. I had already prepped them that I wanted to try to Cap 'N Crunch pancakes, but we had no idea how much we'd enjoy the savory food too.
Here are the glorious pancakes, which I described in my original review as, "Four of the fluffiest pancakes you'll ever taste in your life, swimming in a sea of condensed milk, topped with vanilla butter and a sprinkle of Cap 'N Crunch cereal."
We also tried the olive oil fried eggs over Sullivan Street Bakery bread, with pesto cream sauce, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil (my sister and I both ordered that), and the braised pork calentado.
On the side, we shared an order of the tater tots, which were seasoned with Eating House's dry rub (the same one they use on their fried chicken) and served with a side of Coca Cola ketchup.
These were addicting and we popped them like candy.
I loved this meal so much that we went back over Thanksgiving weekend and ordered the exact same things!
5. Esselon Cafe (Hadley, MA)
In January 2016, the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council hosted me for a day of fun in Western Mass. They created an itinerary, and my BFF and I couldn't wait to start making our stops. It felt like we were on a scavenger hunt.
Our first location was Atkins Farm in Amherst, MA, where we were introduced to the most yummiest apple cider donuts. This is such a specialty at Atkins that they have a donut drive-through window!
We had to limit ourselves on how many donuts we could eat, because our next stop was Esselon Cafe in Hadley, MA for brunch. We were greeted by the owner, Mark Krause, who was so lovely and gave us a tour of the property, inside and out.
We learned that Esselon roasts all their own coffee, so of course we had to each get a coffee drink. We decided on a latte and an ice mocha.
Mine was the ice mocha topped with whipped cream, obviously.
We also sampled some pastry, including this delightfully buttery chocolate croissant.
The pasty is actually from Woodstar Cafe in Northampton, MA. Mark shared that many of the local businesses really try to support each other.
Next we had a true feast: sweet potato pancakes with bourbon whipped cream, veggie eggs benedict, and the classic breakfast - two eggs, bacon, a potato pancake and toast.
With every bite, we became more enamored.
Before we left, Mark insisted that he send us off with a bag of cookies to go. He also encouraged us (if we had time) to stop at the Mill Valley Milk Company & Farm Store, which was a highlight of the trip.
Since that initial visit in January 2016, I've probably been back to Esselon at least five times. I will make any excuse to go there!
4. The Smith (New York, NY)
One of my 2018 New Year's resolutions was to get back to New York City, and that was largely motivated by a desire to get back to The Smith. I've eaten there countless times over the years, including one extra memorable meal at their Lincoln Center location when we were seated two tables away from Ben Affleck.
I have dined at The Smith for both brunch and dinner, but brunch is where they really shine. They have one of the best brunch menus, offering an equal balance of savory and sweet, and breakfast and lunch. After all, that is where the word "brunch" comes from = breakfast + lunch.
Here's a smattering of some of the best: the smoked salmon benedict, pancakes with apples, walnuts and white rum caramel, potato chips with blue cheese fondue, fried green beans with ranch dressing (my kryptonite), and roasted tomato soup baked with cheese.
Are you drooling?
In addition to their four New York City restaurants, they are now open in two locations in Washington D.C. I hope Boston is next!
3. Seta's Cafe (Belmont, MA)
Seta's Cafe is located at the corner of Hillside Road and Belmont Street, which is not only the Watertown / Belmont town line, but the top of my street. The cafe is named after its owner, Seta Dakessian, who became very well known on the local farmer's market scene, selling packaged goods - hummus, baba ghanoush and grape leaves.
I went for the first time in May 2018 with my best friend from college for our weekly Thursday night date. While we enjoyed everything we had for dinner (za'atar and cheese flatbread, falafel wrap and falafel bowl with French fries) it was clear that the real star was the brunch menu.
Two weeks later, I went back for brunch, this time with a friend from work. We both ordered the mezze bowl, and we shared the lemon ricotta pancakes with fruit compote.
If you follow me on Instagram (@mollygaller, please do!), then you've seen that mezze bowl about 20 more times. This has become my favorite local brunch spot, and I go as often as I can. The mezze bowl is a perfectly poached egg, patatas bravas, grilled halloumi cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, labne cheese and pita bread.
While I am not usually a fruit girl (this is well documented), I have to say, those lemon ricotta pancakes could convert any fruit hater.
Each pancake is the size of a dinner plate, and they are wonderfully fluffy. The citrus flavor from the lemon helps balance the richness of the ricotta. The berry compote on top ties it all together and tastes better than any syrup could.
I'm there at least twice a month, so if you ever want to go, just holler!
2. The Painted Burro (Somerville, MA)
Of all the restaurants on this list, I have been going to Painted Burro the longest. My very first trip there was in April 2012, nearly seven years ago. I learned about it because it was the second venture of the owners of Posto (just a few doors down), a place I already knew and loved for pizza.
Though my first meal at Painted Burro was dinner, the regulars know the best dishes (and cocktails!) are actually at brunch.
I begin every brunch at Painted Burro with the Hair of the Dog, a cocktail served in a giant beer mug, made of iced coffee horchata, RumChata, and espresso liqueur. They pour in the booze tableside, just to make sure you see it going in there. Bottoms up!
My go-to dish is the morning taco plate. It's two corn tortillas topped with scrambled eggs, avocado, pico de gallo, crema, and cotija cheese. You also get a side of home fries, which are always nicely seasoned.
That said, sometimes I cheat on the taco plate with one of the specials. Often they have omelette specials that are stuffed with veggies and topped with cheese and avocado.
Did I mention they also bring complimentary chips and salsa?
I could eat at the Painted Burro every weekend and never get sick of it. If you haven't experience the spiked horchata, you need to remedy that stat.
1. The Breakfast Club (Allston, MA)
I thought long and hard about which brunch spot deserved this coveted, number one spot. Should it be the best egg dish? The most decadent pancakes? A great Bloody Mary? Ultimately, I decided to go by one measurement - when I wake up in the morning on a Saturday or Sunday, and I have no plans, what is the one place I want to eat? The Breakfast Club.
The Breakfast Club in Allston, MA is owned by George Athanasopoulos. I've gotten to know George over the years, and he is one of the hardest working guys in the business. The restaurant is only closed two days a year - Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
What makes The Breakfast Club so special is its menu. Not only does it have items named for each of the characters in the movie, but it has a large selection of omelettes, benedicts, pancakes, waffles and milkshakes. Yes, you read that correctly, they serve milkshakes at brunch.
Here is the Thin Mint milkshake, made with the classic Girl Scout cookie. I love the rainbow sprinkle rim, it makes it feel extra festive (as if having a milkshake at brunch isn't celebration enough!).
On the sweet side, the pumpkin pecan pancakes are a must. They usually rotate these onto the specials menu in October.
The Nutella French toast is one of George's top picks. The dish comes topped with fresh strawberries and bananas.
For egg dishes, my go-to is the florentine eggs benedict with spicy hollandaise sauce. I dunk my home fries into the spicy sauce too!
I think The Breakfast Club's mug really sums it up, "Being bad never tasted so good."
I hope you enjoyed the very first top 10 list! I have several themes in mind for future lists, but if there's one you'd really like to see, please leave your request in the comments below. I love hearing from you!