The first rule of brunch is that there are no rules. From mid-morning to late afternoon, anything goes. Sweet stacks of pancakes appear on the menu next to juicy burgers, and as long as you put a fried egg on top, anything, even a pizza, can be turned into brunch. Coffee and cocktails are on the opposite ends of the beverage spectrum, yet there they are served alongside one another. No one ever questions the fact that the mimosas are bottomless or that Bloody Mary’s are a meal in a glass, but for brunch, you can get them both before 5 o’clock.

The fact that rules don’t constrain brunch makes it limitless. “It’s eggs, it’s pancakes, it’s French toast, it’s sandwiches and salads,” says Robert De Abreu, co-founder and co-owner of Sabrina’s Café. Aside from the endless possibilities ranging from sweet to savory, De Abreu says that there’s one surefire way to know that the meal you’re eating is indeed a brunch: the vibe. To De Abreu, brunch is a comforting meal that you share with people you care about in a space that’s welcoming and homey.

Restaurants put a lot of planning and effort into setting the menu, setting the tone, and setting the table come brunch time. Good music along with a rich menu creates a chill but also indulgent atmosphere, says De Abreu. At Cake in Chestnut Hill, owner Grey Heck’s comforting and approachable menu, served in an elegant Victorian-era greenhouse, makes everything feel a bit more upscale.

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Though their styles are different, De Abreu and Heck agree that the key component to the brunch time energy is a keen staff. “A lot of the customers are people that have been coming in for years, so there’s a lot of relationships between the customers and staff,” says Heck. “It’s definitely a small community.”

There are tons of incredible brunch spots in Philadelphia that offer decadent dishes with a side of generous hospitality. The best part is that there’s a brunch for any mood, whether you want to keep things light and simple with fresh salad greens or go big and bold with a syrupy stuffed French toast.

Here’s where to feed your brunch-time imaginations in Philadelphia.

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Ants Pants Cafe

In a brunch world where more is added to make over-the-top dishes, Ants Pants likes to keep things simple. Taking a page from Sydney cafe culture, the Australian-inspired spot creates dishes that maintain the original state of fresh ingredients, as Liz Fleming, co-owner of Ants Pants Café, describes. “Rather than serving overwhelming dishes, Sydney has a very simple approach, like poached eggs on sourdough with mushrooms and avocado. That’s where the inspiration came from.”

A customer favorite, Fleming says, is a sandwich of avocado, arugula, golden beets, pickled onions, and maple bacon topped with an over-medium egg and garlic aioli between two slices of focaccia. In a very Australian fashion, the coffee list is extensive and includes a variety of Australian classics like the Long Black and the Flat White, all made with Elixr beans.

📍2212 South St., 📞 215-875-8002, 🌐 antspantscafe.com, 📷 @AntsPantsCafe, 🕑 Daily 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Booker’s Restaurant & Bar

The Southern-inspired brunch menu at Booker’s Restaurant & Bar has a stick-to-your ribs quality that is downright comforting. This is the spot in Philly to get Southern-style grits served three ways: classic shrimp and grits, fried fish and grits, and beef andouille sausage with shrimp and grits. For something sweet, grab a cheesecake French toast, indulge in the chef special pancake of the day, or order from the dessert menu, which features a decadent fudge chocolate cake and a carrot cake with layers of cream cheese. For the optimal brunch experience, sit outside and enjoy the views of Booker’s lush streetery.

📍5021 Baltimore Ave., 📞 215-883-0960, 🌐 bookersrestaurantandbar.com, 📷 @Bookers.WestPhilly, 🕑 Brunch: Wed.-Sun. 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner, Wed.-Sun. 5-10 p.m.

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Honey’s

Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat is a brunch mainstay in Philadelphia. The BYOB blends Jewish staples with classic Southern cooking to create a menu of comforting meals. The concept of a “Southern Jewish” menu comes together flawlessly with dishes like the Bubby’s Brisket Breakfast, featuring a salty, savory brisket gravy generously poured over a biscuit served with eggs and potato, and the Honey Cristo, a take on the Monte Cristo made with challah French toast, Lancaster County ham, Swiss cheese, and sunny-side eggs. The latke potato pancakes are a must-have.

📍800 N. 4th St., 📞 215-925-1150, 🌐 honeyssitneat.com, 📷 @HoneysSitnEat, 🕑 Mon.-Sun. 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

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Jezabel’s Argentine Café & Catering

For an Argentinian brunch, head to Jezabel’s in West Philadelphia. Flavorful empanadas, ranging from the spicy beef to the Fugazza empanadas stuffed with leeks, onions, and cheese, are what Jezabel’s is known for, but the menu also offers a variety of Argentinian pastries. The buttery medialuna croissants are delightful with a fresh cup of coffee, but for a heartier, more savory bite, ask for the Mafalda, a medialuna ham and cheese sandwich. Don’t leave without getting alfajores de maizena to go— the dulce de leche filled shortbread cookies are a sweet way to end a tasty brunch.

📍206-208 S. 45th St., 📞 215-554-7380 🌐 jezabelscafe.com, 📷 @jezabels.phl, 🕑 Thur.-Mon. 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Fitz and Starts

Fresh pastries don’t draw nearly as much brunch-time attention as they deserve, but at Fitz and Starts, baked goods are front and center. They offer an assortment of sweet and savory pastries that all pair perfectly with the Ultimo coffee they brew as well as with the fresh-squeezed juices and boozy brunch drinks. Try the buttery and flaky almond croissant, a hazelnut-pear financier, or the ham and cheese pithivier. Pro tip: Order a few pastries to get a taste of the bakery’s range. It’s hard to just have one.

📍743 S. 4th St., 📞 215-278-2736, 🌐 fitzandstartsphilly.com, 📷 @fitzandstartsphilly, 🕑 Brunch and bakery, Wed.-Fri. 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 9 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner, Thur.-Sat. 5-9 p.m.

Sabrina’s Café

Sabrina’s Café is a Philly classic. For 20 years, the iconic brunch spot has been serving up indulgent meals meant to satisfy all of your cravings. The banana-stuffed French toast made with thick slices of challah bread and topped with a vanilla bean syrup is one of the original dishes and a favorite among the regulars.. Owner Robert De Abreu says his favorite is the Kick A** Burrito generously stuffed with scrambled eggs, bacon, black beans, corn, potatoes, spicy jalapenos, guacamole, pico de gallo, pepper jack, and Queso Bravo. It’s an entire breakfast platter wrapped in a roasted red pepper tortilla.

📍714 Haddon Ave., Collingswood; 1804 Callowhill St.; 227 N. 34th St.; 50 E. Wynnewood Rd., Wynnewood, 📞 Collingswood: 856-214-0723, Art Museum: 215-636-9061, University City: 215-222-1022, Wynnewood: 484-412-8790, 🕑 Collingwood: Sun.-Thur. 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Art Museum and University City: Mon.-Sun. 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Wynnewood: Mon.-Thur. 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Fri.-Sun. 8 a.m.-4 p.m., 🌐 sabrinascafe.com, 📷 @sabrinascafe

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Café y Chocolate

Great coffee is a major pillar of a successful brunch, and at Café y Chocolate, the Cafe con Chocolate is a cornerstone. Two shots of espresso mingle with a spiced Mexican hot chocolate topped with a dash of cinnamon. It’s the kind of drink you feel all over your body. The warmth of the mug in your hands, the hot chocolate on your tongue as the aromatic spices warm you to the core and radiate throughout the rest of your body. If the double shot of espresso is a bit more caffeine than you’re looking for, try the Chocolate Oaxaca.

Brunch here leans toward the savory side with egg-filled burritos and omelets with a side of black beans, lettuce, and tomato. There’s even a plate of brunch nachos piled high with layers of refried beans, traditional Mexican cheese, lettuce, diced tomato, sour cream, and your choice of meat and eggs. But, if you’re a fan of huevos rancheros, Café y Chocolate is the place to get it. Crispy fried corn tortillas are drenched in a smoky, tangy salsa verde and topped with three perfectly cooked sunny-side up eggs.

📍1532 Snyder Ave., 📞 267-639-4506, 🌐 cafeychocolate.com, 📷 @cafeychocolatepa, 🕑 Sun.–Wed. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thur.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Aksum Cafe

Aksum Cafe’s brunch menu blends the culinary influences of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, creating Mediterranean dishes that are bursting with flavor. The Moroccan chicken and waffles adds a hint of spice to the fried chicken, which goes surprisingly well with a bit of sweet syrup. You can also get a traditional eggs Benedict, an open-faced English muffin with poached eggs and creamy hollandaise sauce, or level it up with a bit of smoked salmon.

📍4630 Baltimore Ave., 📞 267-275-8195, 🌐 aksumcafe.com, 📷 @aksumcafe, 🕑 Thur.–Fri. 4-10 p.m., Sat. noon-10 p.m., Sun. noon-7 p.m.; brunch available all day Sat.-Sun.

Sam’s Morning Glory Diner

In a city full of trendy restaurant concepts, sometimes a classic diner hits the spot. Though fresh salads and hearty sandwiches are part of the menu, Sam’s Morning Glory Diner is a destination for those who lean toward the breakfast end of the brunch spectrum. Pancakes, or glory cakes as they call them, are stacked high and loaded with a pile of strawberries, blueberries, and bananas with an option to add chocolate chips. The menu also has several frittatas to choose from, including a smoky and salty smoked salmon frittata with goat cheese.

📍735 S. 10th St., 📞 215-413-3999, 📷 @morning_glory_diner, 🕑 Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-2 p.m, Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

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Café Ynez

Mexico City is a world-renowned culinary destination, and at Café Ynez, you can find the flavors and influences of Mexico’s capital city on Washington Avenue. Brunch at this casual spot is a true union of breakfast and lunch. Dishes like the chilaquiles topped with fried eggs and huevos con chorizo, a platter of scrambled eggs with spicy chorizo with rice, cotija cheese, and guacamole, take classic Mexican-inspired dishes and pull in elements you’d find in a hearty breakfast. Instead of ordering coffee, try the cafe Condesa, a sweet and cinnamon-tinged horchata with a shot of espresso.

📍2025 Washington Ave., 📞 215-278-7579, 🌐 cafeynez.com, 📷 @cafeynez, 🕑 Tue.–Thur. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; brunch, Tue.–Sat. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

K’Far

It’s hard to define what Israeli cuisine is. How can you when its influences consist of hundreds of cultures over thousands of years? But K’Far does an excellent job of expressing Israeli cuisine in a contemporary way, creating familiar dishes with traditional ingredients and spices. Creamy shug labneh is spread across toasted kubaneh bread and topped with avocado, tomato, and a dusting of za’atar for an Israeli-inspired avocado toast. The sticky buns are generously coated in crushed pistachio, making for a sweet and nutty pastry. The smoked salmon sandwich evokes the Jewish deli classic and presents it on an elongated Jerusalem bagel. Between the baked goods, the kubaneh toasts, the exceptional coffee, and the bagel sandwiches, brunch at K’far is light but satiating and flavorful.

📍110 S 19th St., 📞 267-800-7200, 🌐 kfarcafe.com, 📷 @kfar_cafe, 🕑 Wed.-Sun. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Cake

There’s brunch, and then there’s Sunday brunch, an affair that’s still casual but with a touch of elegance. At Cake in Chestnut Hill, dining inside the elaborate Victorian era greenhouse evokes the sense of a leisurely garden party. The menu features a wide variety of dishes, ranging from a sweet brioche French toast topped with fresh strawberries and a vanilla mascarpone to an earthy French frittata of braised leeks, tarragon, mushrooms, and brie. Grey Heck, owner, says that customer favorites vary from week to week, but you can never go wrong with the crab cakes served with a poached egg, roasted asparagus, and a fragrant saffron Hollandaise. Bring a bottle of your favorite brunch-time beverage because Cake is BYOB.

📍8501 Germantown Ave., 📞 215-247-6887, 🌐 cakeofchestnuthill.com, 📷 @cakeofchestnuthill, 🕑 Tue.-Sat. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; brunch, Sun. 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Thirsty Dice

To Thirsty Dice owner Matt Hendricks, a great brunch is a step beyond the everyday. “There is something deeper and more meaningful about brunch. It’s as much about where you go as it is who you are with.” And what better way to enjoy time with others than with brunch and board games. Every Sunday, the game cafe offers up a delectable menu of brunch bites and a library of over 800 games from which to choose. Dig into a plate of Southern chicken and waffles (a customer favorite) while playing Yahtzee or strategize your fleet in Battleship while sipping on bottomless-ish mimosas. It’s capped at six mimosas per person, which is not fully bottomless, but still a decent amount of the brunch cocktail.

📍1642 Fairmount Ave., 📞 215-765-2679, 🌐 thirstydice.com, 📷 @thirstydice, 🕑 Tue.-Thur. 3-10 p.m, Fri. 3 p.m.-midnight, Sat. noon-midnight, Sun. 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; brunch, Sun. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

3 Monkeys Cafe

Brunch is a meal that already pushes the boundaries, but the dishes served at 3 Monkeys’ Cafe are over the top. Scrapple sliders takes Philadelphia’s favorite breakfast meat and serves it with fried eggs and spicy ketchup on Hawaiian sweet rolls. The Fruity Pebbles French toast is a nostalgic taste of the iconic childhood breakfast cereal paired with cinnamon and vanilla-dredged brioche. And the Texas Brisket huevos rancheros levels up the brunch classic with braised brisket and smoked cheddar.

📍9645 James St., 📞 215-637-6665, 🌐 3monkeyscafe.com, 📷 @3monkeyscafe, 🕑 Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-2 a.m.; brunch, Sun. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

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Suraya

There’s no wrong time of day to go to Suraya, but brunch, in particular, is pretty special. The Lebanese menu features traditional morning meals, like the ful mudammas, a fava bean stew topped with poached eggs, along with spiced meat dishes, like the halabi kebabs made with ground lamb, seasoned with chili peppers, cinnamon, coriander, and paprika. Much like the Taste of Suraya offered on the dinner menu, brunch is accompanied by a mezza of fresh taboule salad, muhammara, creamy labneh, smokey baba ganoush, and Suraya’s classic hummous. For a lighter brunch, order the pastry basket, a selection of sweet and spiced pastries, like the rose pistachio cruller and the chocolate and almond financier.

📍1528 Frankford Ave., , 📞 215-302-1900, 🌐 surayaphilly.com, 📷 @surayaphilly, 🕑 Mon.-Thur. 5-9:30 p.m., Fri. 5-10:30 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10:30 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10:30 p.m.; brunch, Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

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About the writer

Kae Lani Palmisano is the Emmy Award-winning host of “WHYY’s Check, Please! Philly” and of the food history series “Delishtory.” She is also a food and travel writer, podcaster, recipe developer, and home cook exploring the journey food takes to get to the plate.