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 Avenue 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).
2. La Bonbonniere
Not what you’d expect from its name. This is an old-fashioned luncheonette with a book-like menu filled with omelets, burgers and milkshakes. An old-fashioned blender sitting next to the register, and framed photos of famous patrons line the walls. Located at 28 Eighth Avenue near 12th Street.
3. Lexington Candy Shop
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.
4. Floral Park Diner (Formerly Dee Dee’s Luncheonette)
This next luncheonette takes us to 142 Tulip Avenue in Floral Park, Queens. The Floral Park Diner 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, The Floral Park Diner 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.
5. George’s Luncheonette
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.
6. The Cup and Saucer
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.
7. Pearl Diner
[Update: The Pearl Diner is now closed]. 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’s on 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.
9. Eisenberg’s Sandwich
The Eisenberg family opened their luncheonette in the heart of what was then called “Ladies’ Mile” in 1929. Although not owned by the Eisenberg’s, this tiny luncheonette looks very much the same as it did then. Located at 174 Fifth Avenue, between 22nd and 23rd Streets.
10. Hector’s Diner
Tucked away under the High Line, in the shadow of The Standard Hotel, you will find Hector’s Diner. For many years, it served the workers at the numerous meatpacking plants at all hours of the day and night. Today it serves as a little piece of old New York as well as a favorite film location for many of the old Law & Order episodes. Located at 44 Little West 12th Street.
If you enjoyed this list, don’t miss our roundup of top 10 hidden New York City restaurants.
Contact the author @DouglasCapraro