Monday, August 18

Classic Diners of New York City

New York has more than its fair share of fine dining establishments, and many delis to be sure, but sometimes nothing heals the soul better than the cheap sandwiches, fries, omelets and around-the-clock banana pancakes served up at a classic NYC greasy spoon. Of course, diners are more than just 24-hour griddle factories; the best ones double as a fading oasis of simple 1950s ambiance — one that's being drowned out by chain sub shops and vegan burger bistros. After spending $40.00 on burgers and fries on our first trip to New York City, 21 years ago, Mr. P and I decided to seek out and find a few homey diners. Places we felt at ease, comfortable in our jeans and to enjoy good food without breaking the bank. Luckily, New York City has got many classic diners to choose from — here are ten of the city's best.

ODESSA: For a plate of cheap pierogi, this East Village eatery is a prime 1 a.m. dining experience. It seems unjust to plug anything other than the dough-ey balls of potato and cheese wonder they serve at all hours—try the sweet potato, meat, cheese, mushroom or spinach for $6.50, a combination of any for $7—but they've also got buttery omelets and melt-in-your-mouth challah french toast sure to satisfy any late-night craving.
Odessa is located at 119 Avenue A at 11th Street in the East Village (212-253-1470).

WAVERLY RESTAURANT: Waverly's been a Greenwich Village staple since the '70s, and although a major renovation in 2011 stripped it of some of its rundown charm, the classic slick vinyl booths, yellowed ceiling lights and neon outdoor sign still remain. Waverly's food has never been mind-blowing, but it's still a fun throwback if you find yourself on Sixth Avenue looking for a tuna sandwich and side of fries at an odd hour. Stick with their classic and double-decker sandwiches or a basic omelet with hash-browns, and be sure to take advantage of that bottomless $1.50 coffee, day or night.
Waverly is located at 385 Sixth Avenue at Waverly Place in Greenwich Village (212-675-3181).

TOM'S: This little Christmas light-filled eatery located right on the edge of the Prospect/Crown Heights isn't the place for eating curly fries at 3 a.m. The decor and menu are a little more refined than those of its greasy-spooned peers, and it's only open through the early afternoon. But Tom's has earned its reputation as the neighborhood's go-to breakfast spot, serving up fluffy pancakes, creamy milkshakes, eggs and other mouthwatering morning delicacies to hoards of hungry locals daily. Be forewarned: breakfast lines are loooong, especially on weekend mornings. But the food is worth the wait, plus Tom's' employees will feed you free coffee and snacks as you wait.
Tom's is located at 782 Washington Avenue between Sterling and Lincoln Place in Prospect Heights/Crown Heights in Brooklyn (718-636-9738).

VIAND CAFE: The Upper East Side Viand outpost is a neighborhood favorite, and though it's a little ritzier than some of the late-night pancake and corned beef dives in NYC, it's a clean, comfortable little spot to grab a quick turkey sandwich and some waffle fries. They serve fancier daily specials like Pollo Francese ($19) and veal sorentina ($21), but it's best to stick with the basics.
Viand is located at 1011 Madison Ave between 78th and 79th Street on the Upper East Side (212-249-8250).
NEPTUNE DINER: Queens is the motherland for good Greek diners, and Neptune is one of the best of the bunch. The Astoria eatery has all the classic diner fixings like a menu that covers all the basics, display cases filled with cakes and pies and old-school clientele. They serve all the usual diner goods, but they do Greek food best. Try a chicken or lamb gyro for $6 or spring for a big $10 gyro platter with fries.
Neptune Diner is located at 31-05 Astoria Boulevard in Astoria, Queens (718-278-4853).

MARKET DINER: For the Hells Kitchen neighborhood, this midtown diner serves eggs, hash browns and other diner fare around the clock. Market Diner boasts speedy service and engaging, wise-cracking waiters, along with massive hamburgers, fluffy stuffed french toast and no lines to get seated. It's a refuge for neighborhood folks looking for a late-night meal or Midtown office workers who are looking for a quick lunch.
Market Diner is located at 572 11th Avenue between 43rd and 44th Street in Hells Kitchen (212-244-2888).
SQUARE DINER: The triangle-shaped Square Diner, yes, is an oasis amongst the luxury high-rises and newer restaurants of TriBeCa. The burgers are fantastic, their corn beef hash is delectable, the portions are plentiful, and the service is friendlier than you'd expect. For a moment, you could imagine you were somewhere near Hyde Park, and not down the block from the Holland Tunnel.
Square Diner is located at 33 Leonard Street between Hudson and Varick Street in Tribeca (212-925-7188).

TOM'S RESTAURANT: To be honest, Tom's Restaurant is not the best diner in the city. But Tom's has two or three things going for it over every other establishment on this list. They have the BEST thick and creamy milkshakes of any diner in the city. Tom's has been around since the 1940's—which means it's one of the longest running family-owned diners still around. And most importantly, Tom's is Monk's Cafe from Seinfeld. Every New Yorker or visitor owes it to themselves to visit it at least once just to see the hallowed portrait of Kramer.
Tom's Restaurant is located at 2880 Broadway at West 112th Street on the Upper West Side (212-864-6137).

PARK PLAZA: Park Plaza is like the diner you'd find in suburbia. The Brooklyn Heights establishment is family-owned and operated, and just survived a recent fire. They serve up a huge array of food, 24 hours a day, which you can get delivered, but then you'd miss out on the diner experience. They've got the classic diner bar chairs where you can order up a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. If you like your grilled cheese buttered perfectly, and a cheap side of crispy onion rings to go with it, then this is your place. But they've also got seven pages of other items, from soups and salads to grilled chicken to breakfast all day long.
Park Plaza is located at 220 Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn (718-596-5900).
El Greco Diner: This Sheepshead Bay's establishment has mastered the art of going big. Everything from the menus to the portions to the layout of the restaurant is gigantic, and the prices aren't exactly tiny either. It's not a fancy place, but it's no greasy spoon. El Greco serves a seemingly infinite variety of wraps, deli sandwiches, deluxe sandwiches (try the Fried Jumbo Shrimp sandwich), as well as the traditional diner fare, including about a million salads, pastas, Mediterranean specialties and fresh seafood. Seriously, the menu is insane. The locals, mostly Russian, love it for its variety and reliability, but visitors have become fond of it for its ample outdoor seating—pleasantly situated by the water—and its ideal summertime location.  
El Greco is located at 1821 Emmons Avenue, Brooklyn. (718-934-1288).

NYC, diners, greasy-spoons, 24/7, late-night dining, around-the-clock, ambiance, comfort, food, heal-the-soul

The details in this post were accurate when published. Check the links provided above.

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