rowing up in New York, I went to a diner every Sunday after church with my family, alternating between Three Guys and the iconic Jackson Hole. Sometimes I would have a Belgian waffle, other times, a bowl of chicken and rice soup with a toasted bagel on the side. I always ordered a large vanilla milkshake to wash everything down.
Diner food, in many ways, feels like the opposite of the dishes served at New York’s growing population of Instagram-famous brunch spots. Even though I’m not at all sick of avocado splayed artfully on a piece of toast (yet), when I wake up on a weekend morning and ask my tastebuds what they want to consume, the answer is frequently something greasy. Something I’ll smell in my hair for the next three hours. Something warm and comforting, heavily processed and utterly unpretentious, served beside a paper napkin and an enormous shaker of sugar. The more mediocre Yelp reviews, the better.
For the purpose of giving my tastebuds some new options, I asked Team Man Repeller to share their favorite New York greasy spoons. Most of them were specific to Manhattan and Brooklyn, so let’s get a broader list going in the comment section! Where do you go when you’re craving a cowboy with spurs and Eve with a lid on it (diner talk for a Western omelette with fries followed by a slice of apple pie)?
Lindenwood, 2870 Linden Blvd, Brooklyn, NY 11208
Recommended by: Crystal Anderson, Operations Manager
Why? I’ve shared some pretty absurd moments with my favorite people here. Also, it’s as diverse as the border of Brooklyn and Queens itself. In one corner you might find an older couple enjoying dinner and each other’s company, right next to a bunch of teenagers sharing a plate of fries!
Go-to order: Trust me when I say this: Get the seafood. I know. I know. Seafood at a diner sounds awful, but truly their seafood offering is THE BEST! The crab legs and the baked clams are out of this world.
Any tips? Don’t expect them to roll out the red carpet. This isn’t a hip place with Edison lights. It’s so much better.
West Village, 28 8th Ave, New York, NY 10014
Recommended by: Amelia Diamond, Head of Creative
Why? I went here for one really fun hungover breakfast situation with friends, which sealed the deal for me, but this place is: alarmingly fast (which means they can seat you quickly, too), so much more affordable than most other West Village breakfast spots, and it has very good chocolate chip pancakes.
Go-to order: My weekend-breakfast usual: two sunny side up eggs, side of bacon well-done, buttered rye toast and hash browns, but I also ate half of my boyfriend’s chocolate chip pancakes because the best breakfast combo is savory and sweet.
Any tips? It’s cash only! And you will 100% smell like the diner when you leave it, so plan accordingly.
Williamsburg, 518 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Recommended by: Elizabeth Tamkin, Market Assistant
Why? It’s what you picture when you think of a classic old-school diner — comfy booths, neon lights, etc. The service is also really quick.
Go-to order: I love the grilled cheese (extra grilled with one slice of mozzarella and a sprinkle of feta, plus tomato and ketchup on the side) (I’m Sally from When Harry Met Sally), and if someone else gets fries, there’s no stopping me from stealing a few. My other favorite order is an omelet loaded with veggies — they’re enormous. Oh, and the chicken soup is great, too. I order it from Seamless when I’m sick.
Any tips? Sit at the counter or a booth by the front windows where you can experience the A+ ambience I’m trying to sell you on.
West Village, 207 W 14th St, New York, NY 10011
Recommended by: Patty Carnevale, Head of Partnerships
Why? It’s a Cuban diner with excellent cocktails, nachos and breakfast served all day!
Go-to order: The short rib nachos (previously mentioned here), though the guacamole with plantains or huevos rancheros are both regular orders as well, and whatever mezcal cocktail they have going on.
Any tips? It’s 24 hours! Go whenever!
Upper East Side, 1550 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Recommended by: Leandra Medine, Founder
Why? It’s probably special because when I was in college, I used to meet my mom there every Friday morning for breakfast (I grew up two blocks away on East End Ave). We would both get eggs and talk about our respective weeks and laugh and sometimes cry. There was yelling and fighting every so often. I wouldn’t take back any of it. Independent of this though, it was a true diner experience in that a) there is genuinely food to satisfy any craving you might be experiencing including those of the 90s dieter-nostalgia variety (see: cottage cheese and melon), and b) it feels like the neighborhood’s living room: the regulars are always seated at the same tables, you could spot a newcomer from a mile away and after awhile, you could even predict what people will order and how they will amend/specialize those orders.
Go-to order: Gracie’s Omelette. It is a combination of artichokes, mushrooms, tomatoes and Swiss cheese and even though they say it’s made with three eggs, I am pretty sure it’s five. It also comes with a healthy serving of potatoes next door and not one, two or even three slices of toast but !4! plus a deluge of jam selections. It’s a real bang-for-your-buck meal that goes on forever if you want it to, which is perfect when you are spending quality time with someone you love.
Any tips? You have to order a yogurt muffin at least once. Also, if you are pregnant and morning sick and only able to keep down specific varietals of rice pudding, I feel confident saying that you can add one more (theirs) to your daily intake.
Park Slope, 324 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Recommended by: Nora Taylor, Managing Editor
Why? It’s super old-school (you feel like everyone is smoking even if they’re not), the food is okay, there’s a cute counter and TRULY delish donuts.
Go-to order: The glaze donuts are fantastic but all of them are pretty pretty good.
Any tips? Cash only! And I think you can only order half a dozen donuts at a time? Someone told me that once so I’ve literally never tried to purchase one single donut, but now that I’m typing it out I realize it’s probably untrue.
Gramercy, 239 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10003
Upper West Side, 2454 Broadway, New York, NY 10024
Recommended by: Louisiana Gelpi, Visuals Assistant
West Village, 385 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014
Upper West Side, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025
West Village, 597 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Recommended by: Harling Ross, Fashion Editor (a.k.a. me!)
Why? It’s the perfect specimen of New York diner in that the menu is vast, the food comes almost instantaneously and once you’re seated, that table is essentially your property for the day. You could sit there reading your newspaper with a constantly-refilled coffee mug until dinner service and I swear no one would bat an eye.
Go-to order: I have two, depending on my mood. If I want sweet, I order the “Berry Good Waffle,” which is a waffle topped with greek yogurt, assorted berries, toasted almond slices and honey. If I want savory, I order an omelette with spinach, broccoli, mushrooms and turkey sausage with wheat toast and half an avocado on the side.
Any tips? Real maple syrup costs extra. Annoying, but 100% worth it.