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The best places for brunch on Long Island

The curry bowl of potatoes and scrambled eggs

The curry bowl of potatoes and scrambled eggs at Cafe SJ7 in St. James. Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman

Brunch is the most relaxed meal there is. You may be in the mood for eggs or pancakes or chicken and waffles. Others may prefer to surf a raw bar or dig into an extravagant burger. The only thing we know for sure about brunch is where you should eat it. So here are Long Island restaurants with overachieving breakfast-meets-lunch menus. Each offers weekend—and sometimes weekday—brunching, and each is a terrific morning and/or afternoon destination, and all should be on any self-respecting brunch lover’s bucket list.

Big Daddy’s (1 Park Lane, Massapequa): The popular blues brunch is back at this Massapequa mainstay, featuring a special menu that’s comforting, adventurous and proudly in line with the restaurant’s focus on Cajun, Creole and Southern cuisines. The fare changes frequently, but breakfast die-hards can expect rich signature dishes like crab cake Benedict and jambalaya omelet, along with habañero goat cheese grits, pulled pork and waffles, and lots more. Meanwhile, those intent on putting morning food behind them are urged to consider Big Daddy’s gumbo, blackened gator tail, broiled oysters or Cajun burger (Angus beef with andouille sausage). This being Big Daddy’s, there is an overachieving cocktail list as well, offering everything from espresso martinis, Bloody Marys, Bloody Marias (Mary’s tequila-soaked sister), and a clever little Amaretto-and-smoked-bacon number that goes by the unassuming name Breakfast Shot. Oh, and customers can enjoy bottomless brunch cocktails for $20 with entrees. It all makes for a one-of-a-kind weekend wake-up that’s as satisfying as it is popular, a New Orleans–inspired feast of good cooking. More info: 516-799-8877, bigdaddysny.com

Tullulah’s (12 Fourth Ave., Bay Shore): "Packed with people and irony"—that’s how Newsday’s Peter Gianotti described this Bay Shore island of hipness in a 2014 review that focused on dinnertime, with all the burrata and bacon-wrapped dates that that implies. The vibe is distinctly different on weekends from 11 to 3, however, when whatever attitude Tullulah’s might otherwise evince is shrugged off in favor of a laid-back yet wildly popular brunch service. Despite a menu that contains just 15 items, a surprising amount of variety may be found. There’s the requisite avocado toast, fried chicken and waffles, and egg sandwich, of course, the latter served on a brioche, but also plenty of dishes you probably haven’t tried but should. Consider the coffee cake French toast, or the Red Eye Benny, a boosted Benedict in which coffee-glazed ham, poached eggs, tomato relish and a spicy hollandaise sauce cling together on an English muffin lifeboat. Other options include a lush mac ’n cheese with smoked gouda and an optional pork belly addition, a beef patty melt christened with Vermont cheddar on a flaky croissant, a black bean patty-graced veggie burger with avocado and sriracha aioli, a chicken apple wrap, wild mushroom hash, even a banh mi sandwich comprising Berkshire pork belly smoked on the premises. More info: 631-969-9800, tullulahs.com

The Shed (21 Main St., West Sayville): When The Shed opened in Huntington in 2017, its ornate Bloody Maries and hearty, Instagram-friendly plates made it an almost instant brunch mainstay. The West Sayville satellite, which followed a year later, transported the same beachy-slash-vintage vibes to a historic building on the South Shore, one with plenty of stone and brick inside and picnic-type seating outside. One can really indulge here — in buttermilk pancakes, brioche French toast, or a vibrant eggs Benedict with arugula and roasted tomatoes, chased by a cucumber-shrub Bloody. Or you can go the guiltless route with a veggie-filled Shed bowl (think radishes, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds and goat cheese over wild rice, tossed in a spiced-honey vinaigrette). Brunch is served 'til 4 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, but there are no reservations, so be prepared for a weekend wait. More info: 631-750-9191, intheshed.com

Red Salt Room (45 Seventh St., Garden City): Once the most sought-after reservation in brunch land—and reservations are still strongly recommended—James Beard Award–winning chef David Burke continues to hold court at the Garden City Hotel, which these days offers seatings from 11 to 1 on both Saturdays and Sundays. Held in the handsome Red Salt Room, brunch is now an a la carte affair with a few fun surprises for both adults (unlimited mimosas and bellinis are $35) and children (a special kids’ brunch menu lists French toast sticks with nutella for $12, and once-a-month "special" brunches feature age-appropriate activities and a popcorn station). Among the more creative and eclectic offerings are Burke’s candied bacon served on a clothesline, vanilla pancakes, a cubano sandwich, and a chocolate dome, while a selection of boards make for impressive shareables. A steak version comprises ribeye, sirloin and more ($68), a chilled seafood platter is a feast of fruits de mer ($60), and a smoked fish board offers salmon and crab meat with pumpernickel crostini and bagel chips ($38). More info: 516-877-9385, gardencityhotel.com

The Onion Tree (242 Sea Cliff Ave, Sea Cliff): The truth is that chef Jay Jadeja could not get himself very excited about a brunch menu of "plain old vanilla" French toast and pancakes. At his one-year-old restaurant The Onion Tree, he began to inflect brunch stalwarts with accents from his native India--French toast with spiced sugar, panna cotta with kaffir lime and passionfruit. He also revisited the comfort foods of his childhood, many of which rely on eggs: Akuri on toast, a specialty of the Parsi community in Pune, where he went to college, features eggs scrambled with green mango, green chili and Kashmiri chili. Eggs "Kejirwal," created for a member of Mumbai’s exclusive Royal Willingdon Sports Club, is an eloquent mash-up of Indian and Colonial British tastes: toast topped with homemade cashew-green-chili chutney with Dijon mustard, Cheddar cheese and a sunny-side up egg. The restaurant’s "bottomless" Mimosas, Bellinis, Bloody Marys and Bloody Marias (Bloody Mary with tequila instead of vodka) add only $5 to the three-course fixed price of $25. More info: 516-916-5353, theoniontree.com

Pretty Toni's Cafe (759 W. Merrick Rd., Valley Stream): Chef-owner Toni Clifton serves a healthier version of soul food in Valley Stream, with no pork products and limits on fat and sugar. That said, there's plenty of comfort to be had from specialties such as fried whole whiting served with eggs, grits and home fries. The French toast croissant is topped with whipped cream and berries and comes with sides of turkey bacon and sausage. Saturday is waffle day, with choices such as blueberry, chocolate chip and banana. Down-home desserts include sweet potato pie and 7UP poundcake. The Soul Brunch (named for the recorded soul, jazz and R&B piped into the comfortable dining room during the meal) is served Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 3:45 p.m. More info: 516-285-8664, prettytoniscafe.com

Cafe SJ7 (262 Lake Ave., St. James): Puffy and diaphanous, the South-Indian crêpes called dosas are one of the world's more versatile foods. At Cafe SJ7, chef Apaar Verma transforms the fermented lentil and rice (red: naturally gluten-free) batter into airy, crisp dosa waffles accented by coconut chutney and sunny-side-up eggs. That's a tip-off that the brunch lineup at Cafe SJ7, served Tuesday to Sunday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., is among the most eclectic around: Omelets, eggs Benedict and s'mores pancakes share the menu with fried chicken and waffles, cotjia-showered breakfast tacos and a curry bowl of Indian-spiced eggs and home fries with pickeld onions and peppers. The ambience is firmly modern farmhouse, with plenty of weathered wood and corrugated metal, and the drinks front is robust, running from coffee and espresso made with Variety Coffee beans to chai lattes, frappés, peppermint mocha and gingerbread-spiced lattes. When the café receives its pending liquor license, mimosas and Bloody Maries will flow, too. More info: 631-250-9331, cafesj7.com

Fortune Wheel (3601 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown):Thanks to social distancing, the atmosphere is a bit more subdued at this Cantonese restaurant, once a Hong Kong-style dim sum parlor of fierce divahood. But the weekend rickety rolling carts are still there, as are all-business servers auctioning off plate after plate of dumplings and lotus-wrapped sticky rice, sesame balls, spare ribs. Indeed, from 10 to 3 on weekends and holidays, the deliciousness rarely stops. A plate of what looks like fried Easter grass turns out instead to be a crunchy taro cake jazzed up by minced shrimp—crunchy-tender, savory-sweet, fantastic-gone. Turnip cakes are no less enchanting for a sweetness and texture that recalls overbaked flan, and pork buns arrive just as they should—fluffy as dinner rolls, hot as fire, perfectly caramelized sweet meat at the core. Nearly everything delivered by cart or oversize platter is at least worth a try, and while you can find great cooking here and there on weekdays, the place just isn’t the same. The fish tanks make the same burbling noises, the Chinese lanterns hang just as askew, and the vases of peonies are still plastically perfect in every way. Minus the dim sum flash and fun, however, Fortune Wheel feels sleepy, as if biding its time, waiting for the weekend. You should follow its lead. More info: 516-579-4700

Bruce & Son (208 Main St., Greenport): Sometimes it seems like this East End hotspot is on a mission to prove that brunch can be as interesting as any other meal. Why else would you see such exciting fare as muesli with mandarin syrup and dried elderberries, or grilled celery root on sourdough? The owners of this attractive former cheese shop went all in on morning fare a few years back, and the Greenport restaurant now serves brunch from 9 to 2:30 Friday through Sunday. The adventurous stuff is balanced by menu items sure to please traditional palates. An egg sandwich on a brioche benefits hugely from an omelet presentation, candied bacon and a tangy dijonnaise, while scones come to the table with berries and whipped ricotta, a perfect mix of sweet and tart. Those favoring the -unch side of brunch will be pleased to find smash burgers and a BLT on soft sourdough bread. All come with suggested cocktail pairings, and Bruce & Son, it must be said, has among the most interesting bar offerings of any Island brunch, including a house negroni with orange marmalade and tea-infused gin, and a lemon-beets-bay-aquavit concoction called aqua-beet. Morning teetotalers might opt for an espresso with sweet meringue, a mushroom-infused latte, and more. More info: 631-477-0023, bruceandsongreenport.com

The Breakfast Club (21 South Park Ave., Rockville Centre): The Breakfast Club’s "brunch boxes" were, initially, a Hail Mary meal pass. "At the beginning of the pandemic," said partner Maurizio Vendittelli, "when there was only takeout, there was a real void for breakfast and brunch." So his team put together to-go boxes that featured the most popular items on the menu: The Continental box includes homemade biscuits, muffins, pastries; the Griddle box includes pancakes, French toast and scrambled eggs; the Avocado Toast box includes everything you need to make your own avocado toast. All are available to feed either 2-3 or 4-6. WIth the return of indoor dining, Vendittelli has found that customers still order the boxes, sometimes to "self-cater" their own small parties at the weekend, sometimes to lighten the mood at newly reopened offices on weekdays. More info: 516-600-9462, thebreakfastclubrvc.com

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