Despite the influx of fancy coffee bars and refined brunch spots, there’s little as central to Brooklyn life as a diner. Where else can you get spaghetti and meatballs, spinach pie, bison burgers, and omelets all day, served with a side of attitude by wisecracking waitresses in hairnets? They’re also the antithesis of destination restaurants, so much less about food than they are about camaraderie and comfort, deep-seeded memories and intrinsic nostalgia.
Which is why we’re aware that a list of this sort is bound to provoke disagreement, and hey, we invite it—even going so far as keeping ourselves out of it, and eventually expunging Park Slope’s much maligned Purity from the list, the consecrated site of our very first date. In one way or another, the following diners, greasy spoons and luncheonettes have all inarguably served as cultural nexuses for their communities, that just so happen to peddle triple decker sandwiches, chicken in a basket, and over easy eggs.
Tom’s: When a restaurant is 80 years old and still attracts lines down the block it really means something—and not that they’ve effectively cultivated a practiced air of irresistible exclusivity. Just the opposite, in fact: Tom’s has fostered an atmosphere of universal acceptance, and the neighborhood adores them for it, along with the lemon ricotta pancakes, cherry lime rickeys and classic egg creams, of course.
782 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights
Kasia’s: This no-frills Polish coffee shop offers everything you need to work off a hangover—as long as you tend to party during the week. Open from Monday-Friday, the family-owned eatery specializes in meaty, starchy, and generally veg-free Eastern European comfort fare, in the form of babka french toast, kielbasa omelets, beef goulash, potato pierogies, and hefty apple fritters.
146 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Hope & Anchor: Granted, the neophyte Hope & Anchor is hardly your traditional diner (heck, they host a drag queen karaoke until 1:30am on weekends), having spent way too much energy than what’s typically necessary on self-consciously chic décor. But like a traditional diner, their expansive menu criss-crosses the globe, with a higher than usual rate of success; think jerk chicken hash, fish tacos, and banh mi burgers, topped with spicy mayo, cilantro and crunchy pickled veg.
347 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook
Anopoli: At 118 years old, this beloved Bay Ridge “ice cream parlor and family restaurant” is officially the longest-running luncheonette in Brooklyn, although the interiors (formica counters, candy cases, 1920s-era photos, cracked leatherette banquettes) and menu ($4 eggs, $6.25 liver sandwiches, $5.75 butterscotch frappes, $6.95 banana splits) barely betray the passage of time.
6920 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge
Vegas Diner: 24-hour diners are exceedingly rare nowadays, and we feel fortunate that this 80s-era Vegas is still standing strong, in our very own, otherwise food-deprived neighborhood (seriously, if we can’t find anything reasonable to eat at 2pm, what chances do we stand at 2 in the morning?) With banners proudly strung high, proclaiming that they were the Daily News pick for Best Diner back in 2005, Vegas is at the ready when the mood for, well, pretty much anything, strikes—from shrimp parmigiana to chicken souvlaki, to outsized wedges of banana pie, crowned with green-tinted maraschino cherries and towering bouffants of whipped cream.
1619 86th Street, Bath Beach
Junior’s: It was touch and go for a while there, but third generation owner, Alan Rosen, decided not to sell Junior’s original, iconic building to money-mad land developers in September of last year. And thank goodness for that, as we wouldn’t even want to imagine a Brooklyn without breakfast baskets full of mini prune danish, steaming bowls of matzoh ball soup, and of course, gut-plugging triangles of the world’s very best cherry cheesecake.
386 Flatbush Ave Extension, Downtown Brooklyn
Perry’s: Perry’s advertises themselves as a seafood restaurant—and while we generally steer clear of ordering stuffed clams, baked scrod and twin lobster tails at diners, we prefer to give the origins of the fish at this Sheepshead Bay eatery the benefit of the doubt. And besides, we’re suckers for their charming brand of AARP-approved excess; dinners include pickles, chickpeas, coleslaw, soup, starch, veggies, your choice of dessert, and a complimentary glass of sweet California jug wine.
3482 Nostrand Avenue, Sheepshead Bay
Angie’s Breakfast Spot: While you’ll still find your standard cheesesteaks, gyros, and Western omelets, Angie’s deviates sharply from the established Greek diner format with a slew of legit Latin American offerings. Try the Spanish breakfast with mashed plantains or cassava, along with quesadillas and empanadas, tripe soup, baked turkey wings, and bubbling beef or codfish stew, along with glasses of tamarind, guava or soursop juice and sides of rice with smoked ham.
1637 Broadway, Bushwick