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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

11. Square Diner

Restaurants Diners Tribeca

It doesn’t get more old-school than Square Diner, a 1000-square-foot, train-car style joint that’s been feeding the increasingly moneyed TriBeCa neighborhood for over a century. Opened in the 20s, the diner was constructed by the famed Pullman Dining Car Company, and is now a legitimate historical artifact complete with stainless-steel trimmings, red-vinyl cushions, and glass-block windows. On the food front, popular orders include the hamburger, ham-and-cheese sandwich, and homemade carrot cake.

Mike’s Coffee Shop
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jenny C.

12. Mike’s Coffee Shop

Restaurants Diners Clinton Hill

A time-honored staple of the Clinton Hill neighborhood, Mike’s churns out affordable, generously-sized plates for students from the nearby Pratt University, along with longtime residents, and NYC culture vultures. Chicken and waffles and ultra-fluffy pancakes are two of the main draws, but don’t miss a Reuben sandwich—corned beef with sauerkraut and melted Swiss on rye—and fountain classics like old-school milk shakes and ice cream sodas (just FYI, it's cash only).

Academy Restaurant
Photograph: Lauren Spinelli

13. Academy Restaurant

Restaurants Diners Fort Greene

A steadfast standard of the neighborhood, Academy Restaurant has held strong in Fort Greene’s rapidly changing surroundings. As new eateries and coffee shops pop up, Academy, with it’s unassuming exterior and equally as modest interior, could easily be overlooked if not for the massive signage out front. The food is always hot, the staff is always accommodating and the menu is damn cheap for the area.

14. Alpha Donuts

Restaurants Bakeries Sunnyside

Old-school Queens lives on at this round-the-clock, cash-only Sunnyside diner nestled beneath a 7-train platform. The best of the goodies advertised on its faded yellow signage are of the fried cruller variety, offered alongside Irish breakfast platters loaded with eggs, sausage, beans and fries.

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Robyn Lee

15. Anopoli

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Bay Ridge

On a sweltering summer day, ducking into Anopoli Ice Cream Parlor and Family Restaurant for a heaping sundae of homemade ice cream is the quintessential way to beat the heat in Bay Ridge. Melting into those gorgeously crafted green booths and soaking in the beauty of the tiled mosaic floors and carved woodwork of the 117-year-old diner, all while spooning decadent mouthful after mouthful of pistachio ice cream, and you’ll understand why everyone here is so darn content.

Colonnade Diner
Photograph: Sarah Williams

16. The Colonnade

Restaurants Diners Staten Island

Owned and operated by the Platis family since 1975, this Staten Island–fabulous joint boasts all the accoutrements of a typical NYC diner, plus a neon-accented private-party room. (Can’t you totally imagine an ironic hipster wedding there?)

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

17. Coppelia

Restaurants Cuban Chelsea

Craving something late-night but don't want the usual eggs and burger fare? Chef Julian Medina of Toloache and Yerba Buena brings Latin American comfort food to 14th Street 24 hours per day. Made to look like a classic Havana diner, the restaurant serves Caribbean and South American classics with unobtrusive twists, including arroz con pollo, lomo saltado and rope vieja.  

18. Dizzy’s

Restaurants Diners Park Slope

Dizzy’s is everything a local diner should be: A comfortable hangover haven, a purveyor of delicious and enormous portions, and an indispensable part of the neighborhood. Their "Eggs Ben A Diz" with chorizo is an ancho-lime-hollandaise–dripping wonder, while their buttermilk biscuit and sausage gravy will require at least two naps to fully recover from. Dizzy’s is already popular enough to require a second location—don’t be surprised if you see more of them in the coming years.

Genas Grill
Photograph: Laura Gallant

19. Gena’s Grill

Restaurants Dominican East Village

This six-seat–counter and three-table spot run by a mother and son serves real-deal, traditional Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican grub, from roast chicken to Cuban sandwiches to platanos maduros (sweet plantains). Forget those Latin fusion or semi-Caribbean joints claiming to offer authenticity. This family luncheonette puts them all to shame. 

20. Lexington Candy Shop

Restaurants Diners Upper East Side

Given its fancy Carnegie Hill location, it could be a too precious, preserved-in-aspic diner, but despite its 1920s looks, Lexington is still a working-man's lunchroom that sells Lottery tickets at the cash register. In addition to the usual diner fare—burgers, egg creams—it has old-fashioned items like Lime Rickeys and liverwurst sandwiches. Tip: There's an unmarked bathroom in the back that only regulars know about.

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