New York City: 5 best restaurants for affordable brunch

Brunch in New York City is a classic weekend experience, but ordering $20 eggs benedict at Jean-Georges’ Nougatine or $18 brioche French toast at Pastis doesn’t fit into everyone’s travel budget. Here are five affordable brunch alternatives to help start your day off right.

1. Le Pain Quotidien, Central Park

I know Le Pain Quotidien is a chain, but it’s not like its Belgian Waffle dusted with powdered sugar ($4.95) is settling for an Egg McMuffin. There’s even a Waffle Window at the Central Park location, which opened in May near Sheep Meadow. The Central Park location will be open until November and then re-open in the spring.

2. Cafeteria (Chelsea)

An oldie but goodie, Cafeteria delivers solid brunch options at reasonable prices. The Silver Dollar Pancakes ($10) come with fresh berries and sweet Chantilly cream. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this Chelsea favorite also draws a late-night crowd.3. Mile End Delicatessen (Boerum Hill, Brooklyn)

Communal tables are part of the fun at Mile End, a tiny restaurant that opened in January. Located just a few blocks from an A/C subway stop, there’s a take-out window for people who don’t have the patience to wait or for those who just want to pick up an iced Stumptown Coffee ($2.50). Be warned: the restaurant often runs out of its signature smoked meat by 3 p.m., but that’s also when the place tends to clear out and you can easily grab a seat at the counter. The Breakfast Sandwich ($6) looks deceptively simple, but the bread, egg, and cheese are just an excuse to devour a slab of the Meat Hook Canadian bacon. The restaurant switches to a dinner menu at 5:30 p.m.

Alice’s Tea Cup (Manhattan)

Alice’s Tea Cup is as much about experiencing the over-the-top girlie vibe as the food. Expect lots of little girls having tea with their mothers (fairy wings are standard), gaggles of bridal showers, and the like. Even with two locations on the Upper East Side and one on the Upper West Side, prepare to put your name down on a waiting list (or leave your phone number and come back). At Alice’s Tea Cup Chapter II location, choose from pancakes ($7), crepes (from $8), and more. Other decadent options include finger sandwiches, gigantic scones, and cookies served on a three-tiered stand. You can also skip the line and order the scones ($3) to go. Pumpkin, chocolate chip, blueberry — it’s tough to pick just one.

5. Aurora Ristorante (SoHo & Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

The prix-fixe brunch menu at Aurora has great value. For $15, you can get coffee, a brunch entree (normally $10), and either a bellini, mimosa, Bloody Mary (regularly $8 for breakfast cocktails) or fresh orange juice. I’m a fan of the apple compote-stuffed brioche French toast with candied walnuts and mascarpone.

Got any other budget-friendly brunch spots in New York City? Feel free to share.

[Photos by Amy Chen]