Where to have a sweet or savory brunch and eat it, too.
Editor’s note: Brunch, the casual midday meal typically eaten Sundays, offers the best foods of breakfast and lunch menus. But, did you know that brunch didn’t catch on in America until the late 1930s? In fact, it was in 1939 that our sister papers featured articles with headlines such as “New form of entertaining is the popular ‘brunch.’” To celebrate 80 years of dining on late morning/early afternoon meals of eggs Benedict and smoked salmon in the UpCountry, we asked Stephanie Gravalese, of Stephanita Eats (Stephanita.com), to suggest a few brunch spots worth visiting.
By Stephanie Gravalese
It’s a winter wonderland in the UpCountry! While it’s the season for Netflix and low-key evenings, weekends offer the perfect reason to get out of bed: brunch! Not quite breakfast, not quite lunch, brunch as the meal is low pressure and doesn’t expect you up at the crack of dawn or limit you to sweet or savory choices: pancakes with maple syrup or corned beef hash? Coffee or bloody mary? You don’t have to choose! Ready to rustle yourself out of bed for a leisurely late morning or early-afternoon meal? Check out my UpCountry picks of where to have your savory, sweet and eat it, too.
In Southern Vermont …
Sonny’s Blue Benn Diner
314 North St., Bennington, Vt.
Open: Monday-Tuesday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wednesday-Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Blue Benn Diner, a Bennington staple located just outside the center of town, was recently named by Yankee Magazine as one of the 15 Best Diners in New England, and we can see why!
It’s a 1945 rail car converted into a diner, and each booth is made complete with mini jukeboxes while the other side of the car has a traditional-style diner counter, making it a space that’s great for groups and worth the wait.
It’s another breakfast-all-day-style spot, and the menu offers breakfasts classics such as omelets and pancakes, and the cornbread French toast, made from Blue Benn’s corn muffins ($6.25) to savory specials such as a tofu scramble and huevos rancheros. There’s something here for everyone.
Chelsea Royal Diner
487 Marlboro Road, West Brattleboro, Vt.
Open: Monday-Sunday, 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
While the Chelsea Royal Diner has been located on Route 9 for the past 30 years, this West Brattleboro spot has operated as a diner since 1939.
The all-day breakfast menu is a perfect complement to the lunch and dinner options, making it a perfect stop for brunch. Sweeter brunch highlights include Belgian waffles, with the options to add toppings in the batter (I went cranberry and walnut). Top that with rich Vermont maple syrup and you’re golden.
The savory pick here is the diner’s specialty, the Cajun Skillet Breakfast: served right off the grill on a hot cast-iron skillet is grilled eggs, peppers, potatoes, sausage with two eggs over easy and choice of toast ($9.99). It’s all the savory breakfast flavors in one dish. Make sure to grab a booth in the vintage 1938 Worcester Diner car — it’s the best seat in the house.
Up for Breakfast
4935 Main St., Manchester, Vt.
Open: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Located in downtown Manchester Center, Up for Breakfast is for early risers. Open only until 1:30 p.m. on the weekends, those who can get out of bed early will be welcomed by a menu focused on local ingredients and hearty brunch options.
Savory options include Eggs Scandinavian: smoked salmon and wilted spinach topped with poached eggs, and stone ground mustard hollandaise sauce served on sourdough toast ($12.95).
A sweet menu highlight is Morning Glory Pancakes, made with a cinnamon-based batter filled with coconut, raisins, pineapple, carrots, apple and nuts ($8.25). The Venison Blueberry sausage is a can’t miss, with other sausage options including Duck with Apple Brandy, Elk with Pear and Port Wine and Wild Boar with Cranberries.
In the Berkshires …
Pleasant & Main
1063 Main St., Housatonic, Mass.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Pleasant and Main is located in the village of Housatonic, and every corner is filled to the brim with French country decor. Everything has its place and is a feast for the eyes. From vintage bottles and stained-glass windows to the photographs and ephemera on the walls, take your time and explore the space.
Brunch options include breakfast classics as well as an extensive crepe menu with sweet and savory fillings. On my visit, I opted for the red cherry pancakes with maple syrup ($7.50), with a savory highlight the Croque Monsieur with grilled ham and swiss cheese (&10), or add a fried egg and make it a Croque Madame.
Make sure to check out the outdoor space around the back! While it’s not currently outdoor dining season, it’ll be the perfect place for summer brunching.
In the Pioneer Valley:
17 King St., Northampton, Mass.
Open: Monday-Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Jake’s, a popular spot in downtown Northampton, serves breakfast all day, with lunch starting at 11 a.m.
Some brunch highlights include the El Paso Ranchero: on a base of refried black beans, jalapeno cornbread is topped with Monterey Jack cheese, two eggs, pico de gallo and sour cream ($9.75); the Country Benedict: buttermilk biscuits smothered in chorizo sausage gravy; and the Pork Belly Benedict the base of bread and topped with slices of fried pork belly, egg, two eggs topped with hollandaise sauce ($14) and holds a frequent spot on the specials menu.
Jake’s is known for its extensive hash menu and is also worth checking out.
Ready to explore the UpCountry’s brunch options? Now that it’s winter, make sure to call ahead to confirm hours. You never know what Mother Nature is going to bring! Some spots are cash-only, so check before you go and allow plenty of time, as many of these spots do not take reservations. Happy brunching!
Stephanie Gravalese is a freelance writer and photographer, writing mostly about food and travel. Her work has been featured in various publications including the Berkshire Eagle, and Rural Intelligence. Follow her along her food adventures on Instagram at @stephanitaeats. When not tracking down the best brunch spots, she can be found in Pittsfield, Mass.