Best Breakfasts: Central

Satisfy your taste buds with the most savory, sweet and scintillating dishes in Central Jersey.

Love at First Bite: The open-face egg sandwich comes fully loaded at Lovin’ Oven.
Photo by Jason Varney

Brick Farm Market, Hopewell
Nearly every sip and bite comes from Robin and Jon McConaughy’s sustainable Double Brook Farm, just down the road, or from other local producers. The McConaughys set up their restaurant and market in a 1930s auto repair shop they turned into a postmodern, bi-level food hall in 2010. Order roast pork and potato hash with fried egg ($6), and almost everything on the plate hails from DB. Soft polenta with braised greens comes with a poached DB egg. Exquisite quiches, sweet and savory croissants, muffins, sticky buns, Danish, rolls and breads are produced by head baker Karen Child, formerly of Lawrenceville Bakery. 65 E Broad St, 609-466-6500—Pat Tanner

The Buttered Biscuit, Bradley Beach

About a dozen tables wedged into this small, wood-floored room give the Biscuit its literal buzz, and floor-to-ceiling windows and ornate mirrors fill the place with light. The namesake biscuit (like the muffin or scone) is house-made and comes with cinnamon honey butter ($1.95). The grill does wonders for two usual suspects, caramelizing ruby-red grapefruit and house-made crumb cake, buttered before taking the heat (each $2.95). Protein choices include the Cali Crab (crabmeat, avocado, jack cheese and salsa, $9.95), the SSM (Swiss, spinach and portabello mushrom omelet, $8.95) or the Bradley breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs, jack cheese, black beans, sausage, avocado and salsa ($8.95). 700 Main St, 732-807-4069—Tara Nurin

Button’s Creperie, Lawrence Twp., Stockton 

7Cute as a you know what, this crepe specialist has won hearts at the old-school Trenton Farmer’s Market in Lawrence and at the new-agey one in Stockton. The plate-size Breakfast Crepe, made with owner Lauren Sabogal’s original or gluten-free buckwheat batters, may spoil you for toast. Tucked inside is ham (from Pulaski, Trenton’s longtime Polish vendor), organic eggs and your choice of cheese. Pick any or all the seasonal sautéed veggies for your veggie crepe. Go nuts with a Nutella-banana-caramel crepe, a cinnamon French toast crepe, or the Walsh, a lemon-sugar crepe. Trenton Farmer’s Market, 960 Spruce St, Lawrence Twp, 609-865-5063; Stockton Farmer’s Market, 19 Bridge St, 609-216-5112—PT

Cafe 72 by Cugino’s, Ewing
Blink and you’ll miss it. Which would be a shame, because this nondescript storefront is a hidden gem. The hardwood-floor interior has a counter and commodious booths, which you’ll need for the heaping portions. The Cafe 72—two eggs, potatoes, meat, coffee—is an $8 classic. Also trusty: pancakes, egg sandwiches, six Benedicts. Or rock out with cannoli French toast (stuffed with cannoli cream, crowned with Nutella syrup, $9), fig waffle (batter enriched with dried figs, $8) or tiramisu pancakes ($9). Service is prompt and attentive, and the French roast coffee is continuously refilled. You’ll push away from the table asking yourself, Who knew? 72 West Upper Ferry Rd, 609-882-0087—Dick Friedman

Caffe Galleria, Lambertville

Super-fluffy buttermilk pancakes burst with blueberries. Add honey-glazed ham sautéed till crisp, or a side of sautéed tofu marinated in soy and garlic and flecked with crisp bits of onion and basil. To the superb oatmeal you can add candied pecans and dried cranberries, but the nutty flavor and texture wants to shine on its own. Owner Dawn Raia makes first timers feel like regulars. 23 North Union St, 609-397-2400—PT

The Fine Diner, Clinton 

Why do owners Mike and Jen Aiello call their signature dish Mighty Fine French Toast? Maybe because it is. Made from brioche, it’s topped with caramelized apples, walnuts and raisins and warm cinnamon cream cheese ($7.50). But it’s not the only showstopper at this rustic little restaurant. The outrageous home fries, made from red bliss potatoes, are deep-fried! The Omnivore omelet (spinach, onion, bacon, cheddar and Swiss) is off-the-charts satisfying ($8.25). 1 Old Highway 22/West Main St, 908-238-1637—Lauren Barbagallo

Full Moon Café, Lambertville

“Their French toast almost made me cry—it is that good.” So said a recent patron at this funky-friendly establishment a few steps from the Delaware River. The baguette combo French toast comes with two eggs, bacon or ham ($10.75). There are 10 Benedicts, including jumbo lump crab ($11.75); 15 omelets ($10.75, $11.25), including some off-the-beaten (egg) path, like the Prairie (bacon, Granny Smith apples, onion, brie) and the Green Hornet (black beans, pesto, tomato, onion, feta). 23 Bridge St, 609-397-1096—PT

Gronsky’s Milk House, High Bridge

WCTC-AM morning host Bert Baron swears by Gronsky’s pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich. “I’m from Jersey,” he says with a laugh. “What else would I eat?” Perhaps a cheddar omelet with sautéed sweet onions ($6.42) or blueberry pancakes that hang off the plate ($5.08). The cow paintings on the walls haven’t changed since Jackie and Steve Gronsky opened the ice cream and convenience store in 1978. “We make everything fresh,” says son Todd, who now runs the business. “Our secret ingredient is butter—plenty of it. We even put it in the ice water.” In truth, what he does do with the butter is whip pumpkin purée and cream cheese into it to plop on hot pumpkin pancakes. 125 West Main St, 908-638-6030—Cara Birnbaum

Hudson Café, Atlantic Highlands

This popular hangout features cold-brewed iced coffee and limitless refills of hot coffee from Shore roaster Booskerdoo. Other draws include chef Ryan Strubbe’s banana-bread French toast with sliced bananas ($9.25); brioche French toast with maple butter ($8.75, add caramelized bananas and pecans for $2.50); and veggie-rich Spiked-Up Egg-White Scramble with fresh fruit ($8.75). Strubbe will soon join his wife and her three sisters in ownership of the Hudson. One of the sisters, Janine, who fills takeout orders, has been known to pop a complimentary peanut butter cookie into the bag for repeat customers. 25 First Ave, 732-872-2300—TN

Lovin’ Oven, Frenchtown

The Zen-hippie vibe is sincere and in synch with the food, which always features local, seasonal ingredients. Egg dishes come with garlic rosemary potatoes and choice of toast, muffin, scone, bagel, warm tortillas or (here it comes, the do-not-miss) sweet potato biscuit. Primo, too, are huevos rancheros with black bean chili, salsa, avocado, queso fresco and two fried eggs ($10) and vegan and gluten-free applejack pancakes with apple compote and organic maple syrup ($11). Treats like avocado BLT on pumpernickel ($12) and Baja fish tacos ($14) with avocado can be plucked off the fully available lunch menu. 62 Trenton Ave, 908-996-7714—PT

Le Peep, Edison, Randolph
Banana split for breakfast? Le Peep’s fills a sundae dish with yogurt, fresh fruit and granola ($5.99). Or stay savory with biscuits and sausage gravy ($5.49) or Desperado skillets (chorizo, green chilis, salsa, potatoes, onions, cheese and two basted eggs, $8.49). The Great Lite Way is Peepspeak for egg-white omelets. Though part of a Colorado-based chain, the two NJ Peeps are locally owned and, like all Peeps, chef driven. 561 Rte 1, Edison, 732-819-7666; 477 Rte 10, Randolph, 973-442-7337—TN

Mariner’s Cove, Brielle

“Breakfast!” announces the colorful, if faded, sign out front. “200 omelettes. German potato pancakes.” The oversize, multipage, plastic menu fills in the details. Herbed shrimp, chili, pork roll, jalapeño cheese, portabellos—the ways to fill your omelet seem infinite. For relief, peruse the German potato pancakes. Portions are massive. While you eat, absorb the plethora of model ships, cars and planes, ceramic roosters, Disney figurines and weathered signs that adorn the wood-paneled walls. In the words of one sign, “Have an Eggs-cellent Day!” 712 Union Ave, Brielle, 732-528-6023—TN

Market Roost, Flemington

Carol and Norman Todd—she a pastry chef, he a CIA-trained chef—give you much to feast your eyes on after you order at the counter, help yourself to coffee and sit down to await your reliably excellent food. The walls are chocka-block with artfully displayed edibles and implements for sale. Quiche is no cliché here. Norman’s crust is croissant-flaky and flavored with lemon and Parmesan. The ethereal custard-and-Gruyère filling is spiked with goodies like bacon, caramelized onions or roasted parsnips and carrots ($12.50). Baked open-faced sandwiches ($10.50) are a treat, especially the maple-cured ham, pear, Havarti and honey mustard on marble rye. Carol’s baked goods, especially her scones (lemon currant, cranberry pecan, apricot almond, chocolate cappuccino chip) tend to sell out fast. 65 Main St, 908-788-4949—PT

Mockingbird Café, Basking Ridge
On weekends, lines form at Kathy and Tom West’s cozy café, opened in 2010. Draws include lemon ricotta cakes with lemon curd ($9); souffle-like Dutch Babies (oven-baked pancakes with berries and whipped cream, $8); and brioche French toast with Rice Krispies crust ($8). A Cowboy is a skillet of eggs, potatoes, bacon, cheese and a hot biscuit ($8.25). Lighter? Try Peapack Porridge (the Wests used to run the Limestone Café in Peapack), wild-rice porridge with hazelnuts, dried fruit and citrus zest ($7). 60 South Finley Ave, 908-766-1106—LB

My Kitchen Witch, Monmouth Beach

When Karyn Jarmer owned a catering business in Manhattan, clients like Rosie O’Donnell and Kathie Lee Gifford dubbed her the Kitchen Witch for her ability to pull off culinary magic under stressful conditions. Jarmer continues to cast a spell. Choose from house-made granola, signature thick-cut smoked and brown-sugar-baked bacon, the Eggs Bene’witch (griddled olive bread with fat-free lemon-artichoke spread, organic arugula, poached eggs, $8.95) and omelets like the Hocus Pocus (organic spinach, olives, red peppers and goat cheese, $8.95) and No Place Like Home (Vermont cheddar and apples, $8.95). Dangling from the ceiling, straw witches ride mini-broomsticks, and signs warn, “Do not make me call my flying monkeys.” 29 Beach Rd, 732-229-3033—TN

PJ’s Pancake House, West Windsor
A literal wake-up call for Princeton Junction’s formerly moribund Acme Shopping Center, this inviting spinoff of downtown Princeton’s venerable PJ’s has comfy wooden booths, soft lighting, a spiffy six-stool hardwood counter—and (not insignificantly) free parking. Choose from 20 kinds of pancakes ($7.95-$9.65), including a three-choice sampler ($9.85). Most appetites find the short stack plenty. Kids of all ages lap up the gooey toppings. Latke lovers will nod sagely over the crisp potato pancakes. Protein loaders can tackle omelets or a spicy huevos rancheros wrap (both $9.95). 64 Princeton-Hightstown Rd, 609-799-0688—DF

Teresa Caffe, Princeton

Breakfast, served only on weekends, is called brunch but begins at 9 am. By whatever name, it would be a shame to miss this fine Italian-influenced menu in a trattoria setting. Poached organic eggs become a bubbling feast of prosciutto cotto (flavorful Italian cooked ham), béchamel and Gruyère on grilled ciabatta. Custard for the brioche French toast is enriched with Grand Marnier and ricotta dolce. A frittata gains crunch from bits of toasted whole wheat spaghetti. But the unique, crowd-pleasing attraction is breakfast pizza ($14-$15), crusts chewy-crisp from the stone oven: Arugula Cream, with fontina, pine nuts, eggs and black pepper; Prosciutto Cotto, with spinach pesto, cream, mozzarella and eggs; Roasted Tomato, with pancetta, peperoncino, oregano, eggs and pecorino; and Wild Mushroom, with mozzarella, scrambled eggs, truffle oil and thyme. No reservations. 23 Palmer Square East, 609-921-1974—PT

Toast, Montclair, Asbury Park
Customers swoon over owner Amy Russo Harrigan’s sumptuous lemon-poppy and blueberry muffins. The secret, she says, is dispensing with the ruffled paper cups, instead pouring the batter directly into well-buttered muffin tins. Harrigan, who comes from a family of diner owners, knows comfort food. She adds sliced grape tomatoes, house-made salsa and sour cream to her best-selling California scramble of Monterey Jack and avocado ($9.95). She herself is partial to the spiced carrot-cake pancakes made with coconut, raisins, honey and walnuts ($10.95), which she terms, “more of an adult pancake.” 700 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, 973-509-8099; 516 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, 732-776-5900—CB

The Turning Point
Kirk Ruoff created the first Turning Point in Little Silver in 1998. Now there are eight (with a ninth, Sea Girt, opening soon). All share the same clean, airy look and classic menu, with a Theresa’s Good For You section featuring oatmeal and egg-white dishes with veggies or fresh fruit. Order coffee and you get an entire carafe to refill at will. Little Silver, Holmdel, Manalapan, Long Branch, Hoboken, Westfield, Brick, Marlton, Sea Girt—LB

Wildflour Bakery Café, Lawrenceville

Last year the Victorian house that had been the Lawrenceville Inn morphed into this artisan bakery and self-service café featuring savory and sweet crepes, breads and pastries. They taste so good that many customers barely notice (or care) that everything is gluten-free. Owner Marilyn Besner, trained at New York’s Natural Gourmet Institute and French Culinary Institute, developed her own flour blends. Savory crepes are made to order from buckwheat flour or more delicately textured rice-lentil flour. Fillings are vegetarian or vegan and come with an unusual condiment, muhammara, a Middle Eastern pesto of roasted red peppers and walnuts. Buttermilk pancakes, scrambled eggs with toast (rye and pumpernickel are standouts), granola, smoothies—everything is made on site. 2691 Main St, 609-620-1100—PT

Zoe’s Vintage Kitchen, Atlantic Highlands

Proprietor Lou Dakoglou named Zoe’s for the Greek word for life, which he celebrates with modern food at retro prices. Eggs Florentine and Bliss (a cloud of scrambled eggs and cream cheese with diced bacon and chives on English muffin) come with home fries and fresh fruit. At $6.75, they about top the price list. The Polish omelet (one of 10 varieties) combines kielbasa with American cheese for a real melting pot. 77 Center Ave, 732-708-9637 (ZOES)—PT

Click the links below to view the rest of our Best Breakfasts package.

Best Breakfasts: North

Best Breakfasts: South

Big Rig Breakfasts

Artisanal Scrapple?

Click here to leave a comment
Click to enlarge images
Read more Eat & Drink articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown