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The possibilities are endless when searching for the best places to eat breakfast or brunch on Long Island. (Credit: David Benthal)

They say it’s the most important meal of the day and, to me, breakfast is also right up there as perhaps the most essential component to a vacation, too.

When I arrive in town on a trip, one of my first searches is always “best breakfast in [insert city].” I’ll find the Eiffel Tower — it’s the great breakfast I fear I might miss.

I’ll devour blog posts, Yelp reviews, Google ratings, whatever trusty materials I can get my eyes on. Then I’ll start a list of consensus favorites, search locations and map out a vacation’s worth of breakfast plans. That strategy has led me to find some real gems over the years — L’Avenue in Montreal, The Mission in San Diego and Daily Eats in Tampa, to name a few.

At home on Long Island, it’s always been more about word of mouth from friends, especially as the possibilities of that first meal of the day have expanded in recent years. Everyone who lives here has their favorite bagel place or egg sandwich, but in the past decade we’ve seen so many amazing sit-down options pop up, particularly in Suffolk County. Now we seem to talk about breakfast or brunch plans almost as much as dinner.

That’s certainly true on the North Fork, where we’ve seen heavy hitters like Main Road Biscuit Co. and Sunny’s Riverhead Diner and Grill join existing favorites like Erik’s, Bruce & Son, Love Lane Kitchen and Papa Nick’s in just the past few years.

There are those times when you feel like wandering “Off the Fork,” however. And for those days, there are plenty of spectacular breakfasts being served elsewhere on Long Island, where the competition for your early morning appetite has never been greater.

Old faithful

Maureen’s Kitchen, Smithtown

It might not be the first great Long Island breakfast spot, but this legendary Smithtown diner sure does feel like it was the original talker, with everyone saying other breafast spots are good “but it’s no Maureen’s Kitchen.” I remember waiting for a table for more than an hour the first time I tried it and it sure did live up to the expectations. It started in a tiny location (think Lolly’s Hut) 35 years ago, and now this cow-themed breakfast landmark had to be mentioned first on this list.

Grant suggests: This is a flapjack kinda place and since it’s October, I’ll have to recommend the pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes special. In another time of year I’d say give the banana walnut a try or, if you’re feeling like something truly unique, order the pistachio pancakes.

Cannoli-stuffed-French-toast-at-Maureens-Kitchen
Cannoli stuffed French toast at Maureen’s Kitchen. (Credit: Maureen’s Kitchen)

Also along the North Shore

Relish, Kings Park

Hatch, Huntington

Brownstones Coffee, East Northport

The northwest section of Suffolk County is easily the best corner of Long Island for breakfast. It starts with the aforementioned Maureen’s Kitchen in Smithtown and the hits keep coming all the way to Huntington, which boasts several belly fillers, including Hatch, which made this list. In between Smithtown and Huntington, however, there’s Relish, which has the unbelievably flavorful chilaquiles verdes (two eggs any style served on top of a mound of chicken chorizo, cotija cheese, pico de gallo, avocado, cilantro and avocado), and Brownstones Coffee, which has a really nice “lighter” side to its menu, including the health-conscious green eggs and ham (scrambled egg whites, topped with avocado, grilled ham and a side of salad greens).

Grant suggests: Hatch is really great about mixing all your favorite breakfast flavors together with menu items like the country breakfast skillet (scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon, hash browns, bell peppers and caramelized onions topped with Vermont cheddar) and the Hashtag Tots and Eggs (hash browns AND tater tots covered with melted cheddar AND jack cheeses, crumbled smoked bacon AND sausage topped AND topped with two eggs.)

Brookhaven’s Best

Toast, Port Jefferson and Patchogue

Buttermilk’s Kitchen, Patchogue

Toast has long been a favorite spot for visitors to Port Jefferson and, along with Buttermilk’s Kitchen, it’s helped join other existing spots to make Patchogue a place with limitless breakfast options. The CookRoom in Middle Island recently announced its closure, but we wanted to mention it here anyway, since it would have stood alone in this spot if the grill was still on.

Grant suggests: If you’re going to a place called Buttermilk’s you’re likely to try the pancakes, waffles or biscuits. We’re gonna take it a different direction and recommend The Gump Benedict (an open faced croissant served with two poached eggs and topped with Cajun shrimp and hollandaise.)

Toast-Coffeehouse
It’s Toast Coffeehouse. Go ahead and order toast.

Feels like the North Fork

Crazy Beans, Miller Place and Stony Brook

Since it arrived in Greenport, Crazy Beans has been a top breakfast spot on the North Fork. It’s the kind of big hearty breakfast spot that makes you want to go home and take a nap on the couch. In other words, it’s excellent. But before it came to the North Fork, it built up its reputation in Miller Place and Stony Brook.

Grant suggests: Try the Stony Brook location and walk off your cheesy biscuits or huevos locos burrito with a hike at one of several great nearby parks, including the Avalon Nature Preserve, West Meadow Beach or Frank Melville Park.

Elevated brunch

The Shed, West Sayville and Huntington

This is a great spot for the wake up late and have a drink with breakfast crowd. It’s a specific lifestyle you’re leading and The Shed gets you. They don’t open until 11 a.m., but they serve eggs as part of a “brunch and lunch” menu until 4 p.m. You can also get down with their amazing chicken and waffles any time, day or night.

Grant suggests: The West Sayville location has ample, socially distanced outdoor seating. Try one of the frittatas and wash it down with a cocktail. You only live once.

Noshin’ in Nassau

Morning Rose Café, Bellmore

Thomas’ Ham & Eggery, Carle Place

Whiskey Down Diner, Farmingdale

Jam, Massapequa Park

We didn’t want to leave you short of options in Nassau County and these four give you a good mix of old (Thomas’ Ham & Eggery is where your dad bussed tables in the 60s) and the new, like Whiskey Down Diner in Farmingdale, which continues to be a bit of an underrated foodie destination.

Grant suggests: Morning Rose Café has some really special menu items from the chicken and waffles benedict to the voodoo berry lemon pancakes. Go with a group and try a little bit of everything.

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