The Best Breakfasts in Boston
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Chicken and Waffles
Chef Matt Jennings has never been shy about brandishing regional pride: His Pats hat is as much a part of his uniform as an apron. And then there’s the name Townsman itself, a badge of honor for any dyed-in-the-wool New Englander. But come Saturday morning, Jennings likes to shake things up, bringing a regional touch to soul-warming southern staples. The results are gloriously South by Northeast: cheesy Anson Mills grits stippled with harissa-spiked chicharrones, a teepee of gravy-soaked chicken-fried hanger steak sheltering a five-minute egg, and pickle-brined fried chicken thighs (pictured) partnered with pumpkin waffles and a piquant maple pipérade.
120 Kingston St., Boston, 617-993-0750, townsmanboston.com.
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We can all agree that dim sum is the ideal cure-all for the indecisive and the weekend woozy. The arguments begin when we try to decide where to go. China Pearl? Hei La Moon? Winsor Dim Sum Café? How about a sprawling restaurant/keno lounge in Malden? No joke. Sun Kong—its pushcarts overflowing with crispy-tender turnip cakes, bamboo steamers sheltering the most succulent shumai, and pot after head-clearing pot of sweetened chrysanthemum tea—has now eclipsed Chinatown’s big three. Fair warning: Servers can be stingy with offal and other adventurous proteins, so order those braised chicken feet with conviction.
275 Eastern Ave., Malden, 781-388-9900, sunkongrestaurant.com.
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Financial District fantasy: wheeling and dealing over a leisurely power breakfast. Financial District reality: praying there’s time to scarf down something before your blood sugar plummets like the Dow Jones. Enter the breakfast burger (pictured) at Wheelhouse, a speedy counter-service spot. Available until 3 p.m., it comes swaddled in a palm-size paper sleeve, perfect for harried corporate strivers on the go. But, time permitting, we suggest lingering over each coffee-crusted patty layered with bacon, cheese, and fried egg—something that’d run down to your loafers, if you let it.
63 Broad St., Boston, 617-422-0082, wheelhouseboston.com.
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For the type-A bruncher, there’s no better weekend spot than Cinquecento, with its restorative Roman spread and front-row access to SoWa market. The $12 prix fixe is a steal, but the real attraction here is the parma cotto, which features creamed spinach in a nutmeg-laced pecorino béchamel, slivers of rosemary Leoncini ham, and two fried eggs. Feel free to leisurely soak up every last yolky remnant, because with five hours of free parking, there’s no rush to join the vintage-hunting hordes.
500 Harrison Ave., Boston, 617-338-9500, cinquecentoboston.com.
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A seductive alternative for the Benedict-fatigued, Loyal Nine’s lobster popover (pictured) partners poached eggs, sweet shellfish, and a pool of smoked hollandaise, all astraddle a split shell of eggy-rich bread. But what sorcery makes for the perfect popover, a dish inspired by the Sunday suppers of Marc Sheehan’s Massachusetts childhood? The chef credits the Ossabaw pork fat that’s mixed into the dough—just one of the many nose-to-tail applications Sheehan utilizes with his weekly allotment of Vermont-raised swine.
660 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-945-2576, loyalninecambridge.com.
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With a custom-built Le Panyol wood-fired oven as chef John Paine’s lone cooking vessel, pizza will always command top billing at Brewer’s Fork—no matter the time of day. On Sunday mornings, that means sourdough pies heaped with everything from fennel sausage to runny eggs oozing between channels of home fries. Not to be missed is the “Dude-Bro,” a deconstructed Jersey-style breakfast sandwich with pork roll (from Moody’s in Waltham); Tabasco-infused ketchup; and a mixture of mozzarella and American cheese, something the chef likens to “a low-rent Mornay sauce.”
7 Moulton St., Charlestown, 617-337-5703, brewersfork.com.
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Gruel & Unusual
What’s the secret behind this cream of wheat, the most sought-after cauldron of porridge since Oliver Twist? —Jacqueline Cain
“People always guess butter,” says Sheila Borges-Foley, whisking equal amounts of farina and sugar into a bubbling 5-gallon pot of cream of wheat. A complimentary first course since her family opened its Union Square restaurant in 1983, the papas has developed a near-mythical reputation locally. Borges-Foley explains that the porridge accumulates flavor like a stew or sourdough starter, simmering in a Crock-Pot for up to seven hours. And like the free tremoços her father offered at his tavernas in Portugal, there’s a mouth-watering hint of salt. As she bounces between stations in her subterranean kitchen, the amiable chef admits to opaque quantities of whole milk and cinnamon, but otherwise she remains mum on the Neighborhood’s signature dish. “Only because it doesn’t matter,” Borges-Foley says. “It’s the simplest ingredients on God’s earth.” Maybe so, but there has to be something more than just the protracted cooking time. “It’s here, it’s warm, it’s comforting,” she says. “The fact that people wait to get in here amazes us always. We don’t want you to be starving. We want you to be happy.”
25 Bow St., Somerville, 617-623-9710, theneighborhoodrestaurant.com.
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The bloody mary has been a part of our Sunday routine since circa 1900, when some crazy bastard looked at a can of stewed tomatoes and saw a panacea for the dreaded hangover: a dialectical delicacy that’s both a drink and a meal, the impetus as well as the antidote. Sure, modern-day garnishes have gone a little overboard—we’re looking at you, cheeseburger headdress—but we have been wowed by Kendall Square barkeep Curtis Hancock’s ingenious bloody mary cart. His cabinet of wonders harbors several house-infused spirits, skewers of jerky, and a battery of briny goods, all mixed tableside. Above, a look at just some of the bespoke options, including lime, lemon, and piquillo peppers, cocktail onions, Vermont cheddar cheese, celery, beef jerky, bacon, Sriracha-cream-cheese-stuffed olives, pickled okra, Grey Goose vodka, pickled eggs, cocktail olives, skewers, Tabasco, pickle brine, Worcestershire sauce, jalapeño pickle brine, cornichons, house-made bloody mary mix, and tomato juice.
300 Technology Sq., Cambridge, 617-576-3000, catalystrestaurant.com.