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The best diners in NYC

In a city that constantly reimagines itself, these diners in NYC remind us that some things should never change

By Dan Q Dao and Time Out New York editors

New York City is flush with top-rate fine-dining restaurants, but even we highbrow Gothamites like to trade white-linen tables for weathered Formica from time to time. Enter: the diner, those all-day havens of squeaky leather booths, sizzling flattop grills and stick-to-your-ribs comfort fare. From the best bagels in the a.m. to fried chicken in the p.m., these are the best diners in NYC.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

Best diners in NYC

the waverly
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Mark Garbowski

1. Waverly Restaurant

Restaurants Diners West Village

This cash-only, all-hours establishment is a stubborn holdout of the old-school Village—after all, the West Village now ranks among NYC’s priciest ’hoods. Whether you’re up early before work or coming in after a night spent clubbing, the highlight of the menu remains the tried-and-true eggs, cooked to your liking and served right on the skillet.

Toms Restaurant
Photograph: Laura Gallant

2. Tom’s

Restaurants Diners Prospect Heights

A Brooklyn institution since the 1930s, Tom’s staying power can be attributed to several factors, one of which is the free coffee and bites passed out to the long line of folks waiting to be seated. Flapjacks are served here in a sweet-corn–studded, whole-wheat variety as well as a lemon-ricotta version, which you can wash down with some of the best egg creams in town.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/John P.

3. Odessa

Restaurants Diners East Village

You may not be able to tell from the outside, but this nondescript diner has been the borscht-dishing savior for many a sozzled East Villager. Opened in 1965 as a café and bar, Odessa expanded in 1994 to include a restaurant next door. The original wing of the diner closed in 2013 due to a rent hike, but the spirit of Odessa is alive and well in those 1994 digs. Owned by first-generation Greek immigrant Mike Skulikidis, who purchased the dive from a Ukrainian friend, the restaurant is now known for its wonderfully tacky decor—gotta love those gauche framed landscapes—and a vast list of diner fare that’s accented by Eastern European favorites like potato pierogi and meat- or veggie-stuffed cabbage. That’s right, hot and fresh pierogi 24/7.

Photograph: Sean Ellingson

4. Bel Aire Diner

Restaurants Diners Astoria

The king of Queens diners is this stainless-steel Art Deco beauty. Owned by the Dellaportas family—the patriarch, Archie, first acquired the diner after immigrating to New York in 1972—the restaurant is now a legend in the borough. Like many Greek-owned diners, the 24-hour establishment punctuates its menu of oversize burgers and fried foods with home-cooked specialities from the homeland: Spinach pie, moussaka and pastitsio are notable favorites. In fact, in true diner fashion, there are roughly 920 items on the menu, so you should be able to find something you like.

White Mana
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jazz F.

5. White Mana

Restaurants Diners New Jersey

This burger-centric Jersey City icon and its sister Hackensack outpost, White Manna, were both opened by Louis Bridges, who bought the original diner at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  Mana’s distinctive octagonal building—with the cook in the middle of the room—was even named a local landmark. Now, seven decades later, the around-the-clock restaurants are still known for their griddle-seared patties cloaked in molten cheese and crowned with steamed onions.

6. Veselka

Restaurants Contemporary European East Village

Whether it's 5am on a Friday night or 11am on a Sunday morning, since 1954, this family-run, 24-hour spot has been holding it down for what's left of the East Village's Ukrainian past. Servicing a neighborhood that has more bars than any other in all of NYC, Veselka (Ukrainian for "rainbow") offers both solid American diner standards like eggs and pancakes and well-made Eastern European standards like pierogi, cheese blintzes, borscht and potato pancakes. 

Kelloggs Diner
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Tarnie

7. Kelloggs Diner

Restaurants Diners Williamsburg

For over 40 years, Williamsburg’s 24-hour standby has been known for a highly varied clientele, depending on the time of day and day of week. Not to miss on the veritable tome of a menu is a house burger—amped up with bacon, mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and sautéed onions—and one of the house confections (cheesecake, tiramisu) displayed proudly in a rotating case.

Cozy Soup ’n’ Burger
Photograph: Yelp/Aaron S.

8. Cozy Soup ’n’ Burger

Restaurants American Greenwich Village

Established in 1972, this diner touts its titular offering of burgers with the slogan: “36 Ways to Serve Burgers.” A hop-skip from NYU’s sprawling Greenwich Village campus, find undergrads and village locals scarfing down those patties—including innovative takes like the Santorini Burger (sauteed spinach, feta cheese) or and the Pizza Burger (pizza sauce, melted mozzarella)—washed down with endless refills of coffee. 

Tick Tock Diner
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/John R.

9. Tick Tock Diner

Restaurants Diners Hell's Kitchen

Billing itself as “The Largest Diner in New York City,” this 280-seat colossus has catered to the Midtown commuter crowd at Penn Station across the street. Opened in 1997, the restaurant sticks true to traditional, gut-sticking diner fare that’s complemented by items from Italian, Greek, and Tex-Mex canons. In true diner fashion, breakfast is an all-day offering and includes: over a dozen omelet preparations, farm eggs any style, and Belgian waffles.

Pearl Street Diner
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Arthur O.

10. Pearl Street Diner

Restaurants Diners Financial District

This over half-century-old diner’s neon sign is a shining beacon amidst the towering gray facades of the Financial District, beckoning weary suits to its temple of all-day comfort food. Breakfast is the forte here, along with 40-something varieties of burgers to the worker bees perched on its original metal stools. Curiously, it’s one of the few remaining classic stand-alone diners in town, and it’s not letting go of tradition anytime soon.

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