In this go-fast world, brunch is an oasis of relaxation. It’s a time to shuffle off workaday cares and gather with friends or family over an irresistible array of sweet and savory dishes. It’s a way to toast the weekend, a special event, or simply a day together with friends and family. And good restaurants know this special repast deserves its own à la carte menu. In the following list, you’ll find elegant and casual settings, plus familiar and unusual dishes. Indulge in brunch, and go forth fortified for the week ahead.
1. Oak and Grain
Inn at Pleasant Lake, 853 Pleasant Street, New London, New Hampshire. (603) 873-4833; innatpleasantlake.com/new-london-nh-restaurant.
Brunch: 11:30 a.m. Sundays; reservations required.
Showcasing fresh ingredients sourced within a 90-minute drive, recent brunch options at this charming lakeside inn in a 1790 farmhouse have included pan-seared Canadian sea scallops with roasted garlic hollandaise, poached eggs, and grilled French bread. House-made butter and bread accompany all orders. Desserts such as Guinness mousse cake with strawberry compote and crème anglaise, steamed lemon pudding with blueberry compote and mint gastrique, or profiteroles with vanilla-bean custard, chocolate ganache, pistachio, or raspberry coulis can make for happy endings.
Hanover Inn, 2 East Wheelock Street, Hanover, New Hampshire. (603) 646-8000; pineathanoverinn.com/brunch.
Brunch: 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Inside the historic Hanover Inn, Pine’s airy, modern-rustic space is a pleasant surprise, and its warming open fireplace is a welcome sight on chilly days. Along with such evergreen brunch items as raw oysters, house-made granola, and a burger with Cabot cheddar cheese, crispy onions, and bacon, the kitchen turns out a changing roster of imaginative dishes. Previous seasonal menus have included house-smoked pork and coppa ham, spinach, fried eggs, and mustard aioli; spicy tuna poke wonton tacos; and smoked salmon on scallion pancakes with crème fraîche and American caviar.
3. Petite Jacqueline
46 Market Street, Portland, Maine. (207) 553-7044; bistropj.com.
Brunch: 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Join a friend for a tête à tête over cups of chocolat chaud—rich drinking chocolate served for two with peppermint sprinkles, cocoa nibs, biscotti, truffles, and brandy cherries. Or opt for gooey cheese raclette for two (24-hour notice requested) and a Bellini or French 75 cocktail. Authentically French but never stuffy, this sunny bistro is perfect for families, too. Classics include a French onion soup, a mushroom and spinach omelet, and a salad Lyonnaise of frisée, bacon lardons, shallots, and a 3-minute egg encased in light, crisp-fried breading. Many windows offer views of the street scene outside—if you can tear your attention from the food.
363 Fore Street, Portland, Maine. (207) 747-4795; cheevitdeeportlandme.com.
Brunch: 8 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Want a change from the usual brunch scene? Head to Cheevitdee (meaning “good life” in Thai). The Thai restaurant’s menu features “Brunch Sets,” six street-food combos served at sleek, wooden tables amid spare decor. There’s kai kata, a dish of fried eggs with bacon, Chinese sausage, ground chicken, and scallion. That's accompanied by a shrimp-pork dumpling, and doughnut-like fried dough called pathongko, which comes with a bright-green, custardy sauce made with pandan leaves. Kai kata is also paired with grilled pork skewers and sticky rice. Another favorite is jok, a traditional rice porridge with pork or mushrooms, ginger, and crisp noodles, plus a steamed pork bun and pathongko. Items may also be ordered individually.
5. The Frog and Turtle
3 Vallee Square, Westbrook, Maine. (207) 591-4185; thefrogandturtle.com.
Brunch: 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sundays.
Come for the doughnuts. Stay for French Canadian–flavored comfort foods such as the Mémère: poached eggs topped with mustard and a traditional spiced pork spread called cretons. Everything at this welcoming pub is scratch-made, most of it to order, so enjoy the anticipation (perhaps with a mimosa flight). The doughnuts are well worth the wait. Always on the menu are 13 signature varieties, plus a special. Springtime options might include strawberry-rhubarb and blueberry-lemon curd. Choose the maple syrup–dipped, bacon-coated John Candy, or the Elvis, filled with peanut butter and banana and topped with chocolate ganache. A pretzel-shaped doughnut is anointed with caramel sauce, chocolate ganache, and pretzel salt. Sausage links come fried in doughnut dough that’s drizzled with maple syrup.
136 Main Street, Brattleboro, Vermont. (802) 254-4141; duovermont.com.
Brunch: 10 a.m.–1:30 p.m. Sundays.
A deep-fried chicken-and-grits cake with tomato-caper sauce, braised kale, and poached eggs? Yes, please! The Zippy Cake is just one of the delicious day-starters served on gaily colored, polka-dotted placemats at this unpretentious corner café that’s one of Brattleboro’s premier dinner spots.
Duo’s take on eggs Benedict stacks up cider pulled pork or onion confit, wilted kale, poached eggs, crisp potatoes, and mustard cream sauce. Other popular brunch dishes include sweet potato–chorizo hash with sundried-tomato cream and fried eggs, and challah French toast with maple butter cream and maple syrup. In the spring, the daily quiche might showcase wild-foraged mushrooms and blue cheese, or leeks, peas, and Vermont cheddar. Be sure to try the addictive, house-made chips, too.
The decor is as inviting as the food. Hanging collages of vintage window frames define seating areas, and sunshine streams in through large windows on two walls.
Mimi Bigelow Steadman writes about New England regularly for AAA’s publications.
AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.