Eldorado Apartment, Central Park West. Photo by Untapped contributor Luke Kingma on Instagram
There was a time, not too long ago, when the ubiquity of the smartphone and Instagram wasn’t part of our daily lives. The urge to document every moment and broadcast it to the world allowed urban explorers to truly take in the spectacle of a moment, lock it in memory, and move on. No need for likes, hashtagging, and retweets.
That moment came for me one summer evening when a group of us were invited to a birthday party of someone who lived in the top two floors of the iconic Eldorado apartment on Central Park West, next to the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. It was probably 2008, we were young, and pretty reckless. We were all in an indie rock band in Brooklyn at the time. Cliche, yes, but with plenty of opportunities to get in trouble.
Our new series with 6sqft, a publication on architecture, real estate and neighborhoods in New York City explores the mansions of Fifth Avenue.
New York City’s Fifth Avenue has always been pretty special, although you’d probably never guess that it began with a rather ordinary and functional name: Middle Road. Like the 1811 Commissioner’s Plan for Manhattan, which laid out the city’s future expansion in a rational manner, Middle Road was part of an earlier real estate plan by the City Council.
There are few things as characteristic of New York City as the luncheonette. These small, informal dining spaces used to dot the urban landscape as much as Starbucks does today. Although their cheap meals and neighborhood-friendly atmosphere are now far and few between, we’ve compiled this list of the best luncheonettes still in operation. So, in no particular order, here are our picks of the eight best luncheonettes in NYC that are still serving up great grub at good prices.
1. Mike’s Coffee Shop
Located on 328 Dekalb Avenur in Clinton Hill, Mike’s Coffee Shop is the epitome of a traditional luncheonette. With their signature neon-lit sign, Mike’s is a sleeper hit in Brooklyn and is loved best for their selection of cheap breakfast food. A good place to start on their menu would be breakfast staples like grits, egg sandwich, and their delectable blueberry muffins. It’s also conveniently located right off of the G train (when it’s working).
Johny’s on 124 W 25th Street is a classic, no-frills luncheonette that has flourished solely on the merits of its reputation. Signified by an old, blue awning, Johny’s serves a number of signature sandwiches that, though not as cheap as they used to be, are still a bang for their buck. Specialties include a tuna and feta cheese combination sandwich called the Dynamic Dez as well as the Famous Sloppy Johny, which features grilled chicken, bacon, onions, cheese and coleslaw on a hero. You can also buy shirts and other neat memorabilia online.
Lexington Candy Shop is one of New York’s most recognizable and much-loved luncheonettes still in operation. Located on 1226 Lexington Ave., the corner restaurant’s largely unaltered vintage storefront harkens back to the New York City of yore. You can take a seat at one of their red pleather stools and enjoy a classic malted milkshake or butter burger for a decent price. Unlike some of the other low-key eateries on this list, Lexington Candy Shop accepts credit cards.
This next luncheonette takes us to 142 Tulip Avenue in Floral Park, Queens. Dee Dee’s is a local favorite and, although the prices are bit higher than you would expect from a typical luncheonette, the quality of their food more than makes up for the inconsistency in price. Couple that with a great 1950s style interior set-up, Dee Dee’s makes for a great breakfast pit stop if you find yourself in the outer-boroughs. Their classic chocolate chip pancakes is always a wise choice and notable specialties include baked skillet mac & cheese as well as their Country Scramble.
Back in Brooklyn, George’s Luncheonette on 2157 Utica Avenue is one of the boroughs best kept secrets. This tiny local hot spot does not dabble in vintage decor. Instead, what they do offer is exactly what you would expect from an authentic 1950s luncheonette, which means great service and great food for little money. They are a family owned business has been serving the Mill Basin community for 45 years and their breakfast menu particularly shines. A good place for a quick but plentiful bite on the go.
The Cup and Saucer on 89 Canal Street would seem like a funny choice in a neighborhood teeming with as many great ethnic eateries as Chinatown is. But think again. A luncheonette as authentic as the Cup and Saucer is hard to come by. Besides, you’d also be hard pressed to find one that’s nearly as good. Breakfast is the way to go at the Cup and Saucer, which makes it a good pit stop if you’re looking for all-American breakfast platters for an affordable price. The establishment also retains it’s vintage corner storefront that looks like it’s straight out of American Graffiti.
The first thing that strikes most people about Pearl Diner on 212 Pearl Street in Manhattan is the exterior. There are almost no other diners in the city that echo the classic fifties-style luncheonette like Pearl’s narrow lunchbox shaped walls and hanging neon sign. Equally as pleasing is the downright affordability and quality of the food they serve there. As is implyed by the decor, simple, American-style eats are the way to go here. Burgers, fries, and breakfast platters are some of our favorites and the shakes are good to boot.
8. John’s Coffee and Donut
John’son 481 Myrtle Avenue is yet another Clinton Hill establishment that, similar to Mike’s Coffee Shop, is an outrageous bargain. For $3.50, you can get a breakfast platter consisting of meat & potatoes, toast, and two eggs of any style. Comparatively, this kind of bang for your buck brings you back to the good old days of the neighborhood luncheonette of the fifties and sixties in a way that a vintage decor never could.
If you enjoyed this list, don’t miss our roundup of top 10 hidden New York City restaurants.
This Seattle Quartet Plays At The MoMA July 31, 2014. (LEFT TO RIGHT: Lena, Shana, Alice, & Marian) Photo by Zoe Rain
The Seattle indie band La Luz is playing at the MoMA this Thursday at 6:30pm as part of the museum’s summer series MoMA Nights (doors at 5:30). We will be posting a feature on the history of MoMA Nights tomorrow, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you about the music that you can go see right now.
La Luz is a four-piece band that epitomizes dreamy summertime surf rock with modern bass lines, graceful vocal melodies, jangly keyboards, and taut drumming. They’ve received accolades for their witty, and charming live performances and are truly not to be missed. Untapped Cities asked them a few questions about how the urban spaces they inhabit affect their music and what the cities of New York and Seattle mean to them.