Einstein Bros Bagels
Around 8:30 on weekdays at the South Boulevard location, suits and ties give way to the jeans and black shirts of South End creatives. They come for the broad bagel selection (try the asia- go), fluffy cream cheese, and coffee that exceeds expectations. It's a small place, but big windows reveal South End architecture and the downtown skyline. On weekends, ultracasual, sleepy-haired Dilworthians mingle with South Enders, reluctantly starting their days.
1501 South Blvd., 704-333-4370
Owen's Bagel & Deli Shop
This twenty-four-hour spot looks like Americana diner meets the Acropolis with its Greek-inspired décor. But as soon as the helpful waitress flashes a smile with a, "How we doin', honey?" you'll feel right at home. Order the Skyland Special. It includes eggs, bacon or sausage, grits or hash browns, pancakes, and coffee for just $6.95.
4544 South Blvd., 704-522-6522
The menu you love at lunch and dinner is well represented during Sunday brunch—including the hearty veggie burger, zesty crab cake salad, and the just-sweet-enough iron skillet corn- bread (which tastes even better with a carafe of the rich, fragrant French- pressed coffee). Joining your favorites are top brunch selections like shrimp and grits, crab cake Benedict, and brioche French toast (note: the latter has a tendency to sell out during busy brunches, so arrive early or have a second-choice dish at the ready). 1315 East Blvd., 704-343-0131; 9886 Rea Rd., 704-544-0131; 17830 N. Statesville Rd., Cornelius, 704-896-0131
Owen's Bagel & Deli Shop
Sure, you sit at picnic tables on concrete floors in a warehouse-like space with writing scribbled on the walls and use paper utensils, but that's half the fun of this family-friendly bagel shop that offers free Wi-Fi and good music. There are more than ten kinds of bagels, which can be piled high with your favorite toppings and spreads. For a sweet treat with a fun name, try the Booty Bagel ($2.95) —- creamy peanut butter, fresh banana, honey, and raisins piled on a bagel.
2401 South Blvd., 704-333-5385
Every weekday from 7 to 10 a.m., the friendly folks at the Dowd YMCA cafe serve up a cafeteria-style breakfast that's guaranteed to start your day off right. The usual suspects are here, including eggs made to order, plus biscuits and gravy and more healthful fare like smoothies, yogurt, and oat- meal (though this is not the place for a coffee snob). Some early-morning exercisers eat here every day, and the Dowd is also a popular power breakfasting spot.
400 E. Morehead St., 704-716-6100
Yes, you can find tasty brunch dishes and drinks here, but what has made this second-story restaurant one of the city's favorite brunch spots for years is its delightful style. Whether you're outside on the breezy, elegant patio or around a table inside the charming bistro, the vintage vibes make this the perfect setting for a leisurely weekend brunch. Enjoy the complimentary warm butterscotch scones while you decide between dishes like the Bananas Foster French Toast ($9) or the Omelet Primavera, featuring goat cheese, herbs, and roasted veggies ($9). 1820 South Blvd., 704-332-8149
The brunch menu at this historic Dilworth home turned restaurant will tempt you to order from the lunch side. Salads, panini, and tasty starters like the homemade pimento cheese could tempt you away from tradition- al brunch items like scrambled eggs with applewood-smoked bacon or house-made granola. Whatever you do, make sure to try one of the sides, such as the chickpea and feta salad ($2.75) and some of the creamiest grits in town ($2.75).
300 East Blvd., 704-332-6507
Pike's Soda Shop
It might seem strange to find one of the city's best brunch buffets in a place that typically serves tuna melts and milkshakes. But on Sunday mornings you can pile your plate high with home-style dishes like broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes, roasted chicken, and macaroni and cheese, all for $13.95. We dare you to try to save room for one of those famed milkshakes.
1930 Camden Rd., 704-372-0092
Big Daddy's Burger Bar
Bring your brood — you're likely to see a few kids still in pj's at either location — and settle in on the patio or one of the interior booths. You can use your little ones as an excuse to order the menu items you secretly want, like the buttermilk flapjacks. You can order them plain, but try one of the liberally studded chocolate-chip stacks topped with enough powdered sugar, warm maple syrup, and whipped butter to make you feel like a kid again (three for $6). 1626 East Blvd., 704-714-4888; 15105-A John J. Delaney Dr., 704-919-2700
Art's Barbecue and Deli
Art's opened in 1976, and it has changed little since. And that's a good thing. Tile floors, linoleum tables, counter service … you know the look. Art's is the kind of place where after the first time you eat there you want to become a regular and work your way through the impossibly long breakfast menu. But start with the livermush and egg biscuit ($3.30). Trust us. 900 E. Morehead St., 704-334-9424
If you love this deli's sandwiches, pre- pare to start craving its daily breakfast options. Here you can build your own breakfast "sammy" with scrambled local eggs and an impressive selection of cheeses, proteins, and veggies all on your choice of carb — the tomato-basil wrap is a favorite (starting at $1.50). Not a meat eater? Try one of the tasty vegan options like the tofu and vegetable scramble with sesame seeds, walnuts, red peppers, onions, and carrots ($3.50).
1515 S. Tryon St., 704-332-7782 2007 Commonwealth Ave., 704-334-6209
Mexican for your first meal of the day is completely doable with this popular spot's spin on brunch classics. Try the Mexican toast, a delectable twist on the French favorite, sprinkled with Mexican cinnamon and stuffed with sweetened cream cheese ($8). The restaurant doesn't stray far from classic Southern favorites, though, with cheesy and creamy Anson Mills grits being offered with every dish.
1511 East Blvd., 704-331-9222 7708 Rea Rd., 704-752-9797