Scholars tell us that the word “brunch” was originally a slang term used at England’s Oxford University, first recorded in a newspaper article in 1895 (“When a man makes lunch his first meal of the day it becomes ‘brunch’”). It wasn’t until the 1930s, though, that the word — and the concept — started to become popular in the U.S.
The biggest brunch occasion of the year for American restaurants, Mother’s Day, has recently passed (in pre-pandemic times, eateries typically served the meal to something like 25 million adults on that holiday). Brunch is always popular, though — so much so that what was originally a Sundays-only affair now extends to Saturdays and holidays, and in some cases has become a daily specialty.
The line between breakfast and brunch isn’t necessarily well-defined, of course. Does a hearty breakfast (eggs Benedict or chilaquiles, say) eaten at 9 a.m. count as breakfast or brunch? What about a bowl of oatmeal and some toast at noon? (You’ll be surprised at what people eat for breakfast around the world.)
It’s probably best not to worry about the distinction between the two meals, and to acknowledge that either can encompass a wide range of foods.
To identify the 50 best brunch spots in the U.S, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the ranking of best brunch spots on the Official Yelp Blog, which based their choices on average score and volume of reviews for restaurants in the “Breakfast and Brunch” category. All establishments listed had a passing health score as of April 16, 2021, and all were open on Sundays as of that date. Yelp limited restaurants to a maximum of three in any one metro area in the interests of geographic diversity. Information on outdoor dining and curbside pick-up is also from Yelp. Note that because of constantly changing regulations and restaurant policies concerning COVID-19, these details may be out of date and should be verified.
24/7 Tempo has drawn a list of 50 top places for breakfast and brunch around the country. Some will satisfy the traditional idea of brunch as a leisurely sit-down meal with a wide choice of dishes (many of them egg-based) and perhaps generous servings of mimosas or bloody Marys. Others are diner-casual, but with noteworthy versions of diner food; still others specialize in tacos or crêpes or breakfast sandwiches. (If those last items are your favorite, consider the best breakfast sandwich in every state everyone should try.)
Breakfast or brunch, fancy or plain, however, all of these are well worth waking up for.