10 Best Classic Diners in NYC

Diners are the romance of the 20th century American culture that is still flourishing in the country, but not so much in the big cities, like New York. NYC luncheonettes, once being the main dining source, lost their power struggling in globalization process and multicultural situation on the restaurant scene. Although, that makes the remaining greasy spoons even more valuable for public! In fact, many locals and visitors will pass the gourmet meal at some fancy restaurant to feel the atmosphere of the past age, sit in a comfortable red leather booth sipping an old-school strawberry milkshake, having a working-class style lunch at the long Formica counter and taste a simple juicy hamburger, devoid of any additional ingredients and flavors.

Each and every one from the list below proved its best classic diner status with an endless assortment of delicious comfort food of American, Greek, European and Mexican origin, friendly staff and long-running term. If you decide to trade the regular chain experience for the nourishing and nostalgic portion of omelettes and Kale salad some day, we should make sure you pick one of the best options in the city.

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#1. Bel-Aire Diner

Considering the diner experience, it’s always a good idea to check out the locations, where they thrive without a city framing. Bel-Aire Diner, the only Long Island spot featured in this list, has everything a standard American diner is loved for. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners are cooked fairly well. The diner works 24/7, so satisfy you comfort food mania any time you like.

 31-91 21st St, Long Island City, NY 11101

#2. Ellen's Stardust Diner

Theatre District is nothing but an assemblage of dining spots of any kind: some of them are small and intimate, others large and crowded, like Ellen's Stardust Diner. This is the luncheonette to visit, at least once in a lifetime. Certainly, retro interior style and numerous pages of American comfort food wait for you here, but above all, there is one specialty – the signing waitstaff. By the way, gluten free options are available, so, nothing can stop you from having this fun.

 1650 Broadway, New York, NY 10019

#3. Lexington Candy Shop

Would you like to go back in time and find yourself in an authentic comfortable booth sipping a cherry Coke? Do you know that in Lexington Candy Shop they still make it the old-fashioned way – a shot of syrup and then a portion of seltzer? Choose trendy Lex Ave direction to fall in memories for a little diner renaissance, a little bit upscale, but definitely worth it.

 1226 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10028

#4. Brooklyn Diner

If Manhattan doesn't come to Brooklyn, Brooklyn comes to Manhattan. The verification of that truth appears on the edge of Hell's Kitchen, West 57 Street, with sparkly “USA Brooklyn Diner” sign on it. With its delicious hit of chicken pot pie, mind-blowing burgers and yummy desserts the place is a mecca for those who enjoy traditional American food at a reasonable price. By all means, it holds an exemplary diner style.

 212 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019,  155 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036

#5. Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop

Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop can easily claim for the iconic diner title. First, it’s quite aged. Just imagine, the classic Jewish diner is “raising New York cholesterol since 1929”! Second, it managed to preserve the authenticity: classic entourage of red leathered seats and long lunch counter, looking a bit shabby, reminds of the epoch. Third, the range of sandwiches, along with other dishes, is unbelievable. One more thing that makes it so special: located in the Flatiron district (right opposite the building itself), it seems quite unnatural to its current trendy dining scene.

 174 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

#6. La Bonbonniere

One more perfect example of the old school luncheonette in NYC. Nothing special in the interior: large Formica counter, blue bar chairs and plain plastic furniture. In fact, La Bonbonniere shows no respect for any kind of décor arrangement. Genuine diner food and immodestly low prices – that’s what old city residents come here for. It may take you a while to get through the endless menu list, which is the essence of classic American dining, with some specialties like burgers, made on the open griddle. Lick your chops staring at the retro milk shake blender at the bar.

 28 8th Ave, New York, NY 10014

#7. Tom's Restaurant

Probably, not the best reviews among the American diners in NYC, but still, one of the most visited spots on Morningside Heights. The blue-and-pink lights have sticked to this area as one of the landmarks, which significance grew even more since this diner was featured in the Seinfeld TV series. However, opened in 1936, the place has a lot more to be remembered for. Tom's restaurant is regularly busy with a crowd of tourists and locals in the afternoons, who come not only to check its history on the walls but also to try the fluffy pancakes and archetypal chocolate egg cream.

 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025

#8. Johny’s Luncheonette

Clinging together with a small group of others that has survived since the true diners’ era, Johny’s Luncheonette successfully keeps the original style. Certain adjustments have been made to the menu in order to make the offer more adequate to the present situation: Greek pitas and Mexican burritos complemented the burgers just fine. Gigantic portions, low price range and trendy Chelsea location make the restaurant a hectic target for locals and tourists.

 124 W 25th St, New York, NY 10001

#9. Joe Jr. Restaurant

If you want a 100% original burger, Joe Junior Restaurant will accomplish the task. Obviously, they keep a secret of how to make beef-bun-cheese combination taste so perfectly, as all fancy gastronomies and fast food chains cannot compete. Naturally, one can find the whole range of food here, like fried calamari and steak. The place itself still preserves the spirit of the past era, when a diner was a common source of eating.

 167 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003

#10. Empire Diner

Though closed in December 2015, this one deserves its place on the list. The enthusiasm of clientele, picking the diner as their favorite, cannot lie: this is one of the New York’s best establishments of the kind. Located in voguish Chelsea since 1946, it passed the final rebirth in 2014 under the management of Amanda Freitag. Despite complicated ownership, the place has always represented an iconic diner setting due to its themed Art-Deco design sharped with a black-and-white color scheme. The food represents a slightly upscale version of a standard diner menu and comes a bit pricey, but delicious.

 210 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

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