NYC boasts some of the best culinary experiences in the world, but sometimes eggs benedict, a bowl of curly fries, or a stack of blueberry pancakes at one of these must-try diners is better than a Michelin meal.
Sliding into a booth or perched on a barstool, poring over a laminated menu, trying to decide which comfort food is the most comforting. The sizzle of the grill and the sputter of the fryer. The mouthwatering aroma of burgers and bacon, two in the afternoon or two in the morning. Diners have been an American staple since the late 1800s, and NYC claims some of the country’s most iconic, embracing the diverse cuisines and cultures that have become benchmarks of the city’s foodscape. Here are 10 of the best diners in New York City for a flavorful, nostalgic experience that will make you feel right at home in the Big Apple.
You won’t find a classic cheeseburger or a side of sausage at this kosher East Village eatery, but you will taste the world’s best homemade challah French Toast. The smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel is one of the tastiest in the city – which in New York. B&H is one of the oldest lunch counters in the city, serving up Eastern European home cooking (think blintzes and perogies) alongside NYC classics (egg salad sandwich and grilled cheese) since 1938.
127 2nd Avenue, Manhattan
Lexington Candy Shop
The Upper East Side is the land of plenty for classic diners, but Lexington Candy Shop takes the cake for a true vintage look and feel. The eatery opened in 1925 as a luncheonette sporting classic soda fountains, and has been owned and operated by three generations of the same family. In the intervening decades, they have proudly maintained the diner’s old-world appeal and appetizing menu. Whether you’ve craving a fresh creamsicle freeze, malted milkshake, or perhaps something on the savory side, enjoying a meal here is a chance to step back in time.
1226 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan
Nestled in the heart of Chinatown, Golden Diner takes the dishes New Yorkers love and adds Asian flair. Think chicken wings but Korean fried, or lemongrass avocado toast. Even the cocktails have an Eastern twist: try the Yuzu Palmer or Soju Bloody Mary. Of course, all the breakfast essentials are on the menu: fluffy pancakes, breakfast burritos and loads of vegan options. It’s all part of what gives Golden Diner its authentic local feel.
123 Madison Street, Manhattan
The best thing about a good old-fashioned diner? When it’s open 24 hours a day. For almost 100 years Kellogg’s has been serving Williamsburg patrons classic American cuisine with a Greek twist. There are also Italian and Mexican offerings, plus an enticing glass case displaying cheesecake, tiramisu, and other delights to satisfy the most insatiable sweet tooth. Kellogg’s seems to have remained suspended in the 1950s, with its quaint baby blue façade and retro neon signage. For a midnight craving or a Greek yogurt kind of morning, this establishment is sure to satisfy your appetite, any time of day, any day of the week.
518 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn
Hankering for some traditional Ukrainian food? Never tried it before? Then a trip to Veselka on 2nd Avenue is a must. This 24-hour East Village eatery boasts Ukrainian-inspired specialties like varenyky/pierogi with an extensive selection of fillings (plump, handmade dumplings, boiled or fried), hearty bigos hunters’ stew, veal goulash, and the ‘Kozak’ bowl that includes grilled kielbasa sausage. Ukrainian cuisine certainly can be a meaty affair, but there are plenty of vegetarian options, like the mushroom and sauerkraut pierogi and meatless borscht. A copious brunch is served on weekends and holidays. Of course, if you just want to order pancakes at 3am, that’s your business.
144 2nd Avenue, Manhattan
As far as diners go, Tom’s is the jewel of Harlem, owned by the same Greek-American family since the 1940s. Its claim to fame? As the local haunt of Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer in the hit sitcom Seinfeld. Also a favorite for Colombia students, this Upper West Side establishment offers all the classics made with sustainable produce, along with gluten-free and organic options. Kitsch value aside, the relaxed, friendly ambiance is perfect to enjoy a generous helping of bacon and eggs, a decadent hot chocolate, or Tom’s unbeatable cinnamon roll pancakes.
2880 Broadway, Manhattan
Bel Aire Diner
Foodies flock here for the extensive menu with over 500 homemade choices from seafood and sandwiches to signature cocktails. Others come for dinner and a show. Bel Aire Diner, a Queens favorite, has curated a unique diner experience complete with outdoor entertainment. What’s on the program? Local musicians, drag shows and drive-in movies are just the start. If you’re looking to savor your steak and eggs in style, this creative hub is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (including holidays).
31-91 21st Street, Queens
Tick Tock Diner
Heading in or out of the city? Tick Tock, New York’s largest diner, is just across the street from Penn Station. The atmosphere is worthy of a TikTok video; the restaurant’s walls are lined with vintage posters, and the brightly colored booths are bathed in the neon lighting we’ve come to love about classic American diners. With all-day breakfast, an impressive range of cakes and shakes, and generous portions at affordable prices, this Manhattan dining experience will not disappoint. Be sure to try the disco fries and great balls of fire (mac and cheese balls with sriracha dipping sauce).
481 8th Avenue, Manhattan
Make sure to plan your trip to Johny’s in the morning: this luncheonette is only open until 2.30pm. It’s worth it, though, especially if what you’re jonesing for is an authentic NY-style, messy, melt-in-your-mouth sandwich. With playful names like Do Me An “Ava” and the Curious George, you won’t know which ‘wich to try. Johny’s limited space grants barstool seating only for a cozy solo or duo lunch, but they offer delivery for larger groups. The plus side to eating in: you might get to meet Johny himself!
124 West 25th Street, Manhattan
This Brooklyn diner, unconfusingly named ‘Diner’, opened under the Williamsburg Bridge before it was cool to be under the Williamsburg Bridge. Forget what a diner should look like, because this one is in an authentic 90-year-old Pullman railcar. The menu offers a small selection that changes daily, along with the seasonal ingredients. The kitchen’s relationship with local farmers ensures delicious and fresh options like winter citrus salad or a grass-fed burger. Glide across the intricately tiled floor to sit on a bar stool or settle into cozy booths by the window. Or for those gorgeous NYC spring and summer days, take an outdoor table and bask in the Williamsburg sunshine.
85 Broadway, Brooklyn