New-wave diners

A handful of prominent toques are turning the short-order canon on its head. TONY explores three riffs on the classic New York diner.

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  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Duck confit at the Bowery Diner

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Bowery Diner

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Bowery Diner

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Bowery Diner

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Bowery Diner

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Bowery Diner

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Mac & Chicharron at Coppelia

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Coppelia

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Frita Cubana at Coppelia

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Coppelia

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Coppelia

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Parm

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Ice-cream cake at Parm

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Parm

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Parm

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Parm

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Parm

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Duck confit at the Bowery Diner

The nouveau coffeeshop

The Bowery Diner

The talent: Mathieu Palombino captured critical acclaim with his masterful Neapolitan-style pies at Motorino. The classically trained, Belgian-born cook could have churned out another mobbed pizzeria. Instead, he decided to hone his comfort-food chops, tackling the sprawl of a late-night New York diner with chefly polish.
The digs: The spot has cushy booths, stainless-steel paneling and neon-pink signs, but it ain't your grandpa's hash house. The expansive space, rigged with arty blown-up photos and soaring ten-foot-high ceilings, is only two weeks old, but it already has the makings of a downtown hot spot, with modelesque hostesses, fashionable crowds, and tables filled with champagne and raw-bar platters.
The grub: Palombino's bill of fare bridges the gap between the American diner and its French equivalent, the bistro, where coffee and casual eats are also plentiful. Francophiles can get their fill with a glimmering raw-bar tower (standard $72, deluxe $102), chewy escargot-style whelks drenched in garlicky liquefied butter ($12), and an intensely salty duck leg confit ($21) served in a bed of curly fries cooked in the bird's own fat. Flag-waving eaters might want to stick with hefty sandwiches, like a Reuben ($16) stuffed with ten-day-brined and ten-hour-smoked pastrami, homemade kraut and melted Gruyre, on Orwasher's rye. Or opt for the juicy cheeseburger deluxe ($15), featuring a brisket-and-chuck double patty encased in a squishy potato roll with tomato slices and shredded lettuce. Patriots of any persuasion will enjoy the excellent, addictive fries, which are double-cooked in peanut oil to achieve a crispy golden brown.

  1. 241 Bowery, (between Rivington and Stanton Sts), 10012
Book online

The Cuban luncheonette

Coppelia

  • Critics choice

The talent: Mexico City native Julian Medina, a protg of Richard Sandoval, came to prominence with upscale cantina Toloache near Times Square and buzzy downtown gem Yerba Buena. At Coppelia, he brings his Latin sensibilities to bear upon greasy-spoon eats.
The digs: Yellow-painted walls, aqua shutters and colorful patterned tiles add some old Havana glamour to familiar diner trappings like swivel stools and glass cake domes.
The grub: Much of a diner's charm is rooted in its reliability. In this regard, Coppelia hits all the right notes with 24-hour service, an all-day breakfast and a 71-item food menu peppered with homey standbys like omelettes, tuna melts and cheesecake. As with any proper diner, it devotes a whole section to burgers, including the outstanding Frita Cubana ($8.95). The thick patty (a rich mix of sirloin, short ribs and skirt steak) is seared to a perfect medium-rare, sandwiched in a potato bun, and topped with melted Swiss, tomato, Boston lettuce and a heap of spiced, shredded roasted pork. In the Mac & Chicharrn ($9.95), another elegant comfort-food riff, Medina cloaks toothsome elbow macaroni with a silky sauce of American and cheddar cheeses, plus crispy nuggets of pork skin and belly. Although American standbys are well represented, South American dishes dominate the offerings. You can find traditional selections, such as ropa vieja (slow-cooked shredded beef in tomato sauce, $17.95) and the Cubano sandwich ($8.95), alongside more impressionistic plates like the Fetuccini con Rabo ($16.95)—a luscious braise of oxtail and tomato mixed with cream, green peas and a few strands of pasta.

  1. 207 W 14th St, (between Seventh and Eighth Aves), 10011
More info

The Italian deli-diner mash-up

Parm

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The talent: Fine-dining vets Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone shook up NYC's food establishment with their debut venture, Torrisi Italian Specialties, a deli by day and a serious prix-fixe restaurant by night. The pair recently shifted their hoagie-shop offerings to this retro offshoot next door (the flagship location now offers all tasting menus, all the time).
The digs: The setting is straight out of a chrome-plated '50s diner: When we visited, a brassy waitress sporting bright lipstick and bejeweled cat-eye glasses took our order. Perch on a vinyl stool at the Formica counter for a view of the cooks wearing white paper hats in an open kitchen.
The grub: Parm's menu recalls red-sauce Italian, but you'll also find fare to match the throwback decor. In the afternoon, dig into a meatball Parm (roll $8; hero $11) blanketed in house-made mozzarella, or the jaw-stretching Saratoga chicken salad club ($12), both served in waxed-paper–lined red plastic baskets. In the evening, check out the nightly changing special, Torrisi and Carbone's nod to the classic blue plate. The Wednesday pork chop pizzaiola ($25) showcases a juicy porcine slab—cooked low and slow in a CVap moist convection oven and seared in a skillet—smothered with a delicious mess of tender, tangy peppers and onions. Desserts also draw from diner and Italian deli traditions. Coffee cake ($4) smacks of Americana, zeppole (plain $5, jelly $6) reps the old country, and the showstopping ice-cream cake ($10) straddles the two: Inspired by both the molded Italian frozen dessert spumoni and Carvel's icy treats, each six-inch-long slice looks like it was pulled from a spinning pastry case, with tricolor layers (green pistachio, pink strawberry and dark-brown chocolate), white rosettes of whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles and a maraschino cherry on top.

  1. 248 Mulberry St, (between Prince and Spring Sts)
More info

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