Diner junkie’s top five BK favorites

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The Bridgeview, photo by Lindsay Buckley.

I love diners; I always have. Partly it’s because I grew up in Jersey, in a town with a famous railroad-car-style diner across from the train station (the Summit Diner—get the navy-bean soup), at a time when, if you didn’t have an older sibling to buy you some beer, the bulk of your teenage social time was spent crammed in six to a four-top booth, splitting a single piece of pie and playing the jukebox. Partly it’s the decor; I dig the solid, comforting, chrome-and-linoleum atomic-bobby-sox styling of a diner, right down to the retro pillowy mints at the register.

Brooklyn’s got dozens of diners, and I aim to eat in each of them at least once.  If you don’t have that kind of time, or that much elastic in your wardrobe, dig my Best Ofs below and see how your local stacks up.

(Note: I’ve listed my favorites in various categories, but those favorites may not feature the lowest prices—I’d sooner pay $7.95 for a great omelet than $5 for one that’s runny and blah.)

Best Burger and Fries:
The Bridgeview, 9011 3rd Ave. at 91st St., Bay Ridge, (718) 680-9818

You might get a booth with a sightline to the Verrazano at the Bridgeview, or you might not, but if you order the fries, you won’t mind either way. The Bridgeview’s small-bore steak fries come out piping hot and with juuuuust a faint glow of oil; every fry is cooked through, but not overcooked. The Platonic diner-fry ideal. The burger itself is above average, which sounds like faint praise, but “above average” is about the best you can hope for at a diner, where the concern is not necessarily quality beef or painstaking prep, but rather slapping a patty from Costco on the grill and getting it plated ASAP (burger and fries, $10). With that said, the Bridgeview’s cooks do understand the meaning of “medium rare”—rare in and of itself.

Best Coffee:
New College Restaurant
, 224 Union St. at 4th Ave., Park Slope, (718) 522-2083

Diner coffee doesn’t always offer a nuanced taste sensation; its purpose is to wake you up, and fast. For a buck, the New College serves a non-sludgy cup, though; thanks to the high volume of MTA-employee traffic all day long, the joe doesn’t have a chance to sit too long and get that burnt bouquet.  The to-go version with milk and sugar is the best-tasting—light, fresh, and won’t jangle the nerves OR the taste buds.

Vegas Diner, photo by Lindsay Buckley.
Vegas Diner, photo by Lindsay Buckley.

Best Décor:
Vegas Diner, 1619 86th St. between 16th Ave. and Bay 13th St., Bath Beach/Dyker Heights, (718) 331-2221

Several diners, including the Americana, offer patrons old-school-diner scenery like cocktail placemats (likely the only reason anyone under the age of 70 has heard of a Brandy Alexander) and in-booth jukeboxes, or hilariously inept full bars heavy on the crème de menthe. The Vegas’s advantage is two-fold: superior size, and superior people-watching. The place is gigaaaaaantic, which means the counter seems to go on for a good half a mile, accessorized with yards and yards of single-serving cereal and carefully constructed ziggurats of glassware and cheese Danish. I counted TWO revolving cake displays the last time I ate there, but since I got lost on my way back from the ladies’, I may have counted a single one twice. And then you’ve got the patrons. Sopranos fashion lives, my friends…and it lives out loud. Visit during the Sunday post-church rush and play Punch Buggy with Members Only jackets.

Honorable mention: Grand Canyon, 179 7th Ave. between 1st and 2nd Sts., Park Slope. Inexplicable Western/wagon-wheel décor, made even more surreal by the addition of a pin-lit portrait of Abe Lincoln.

Best Omelet:
Purity Diner
289 7th Ave. at 7th St., Park Slope, (718) 840-0881

Your average diner omelet winds up as more of a frittata in terms of the egg consistency. This isn’t a distinction I care much about making as long as the dish doesn’t skimp on the fillings, and a Purity omelet gets the whole food pyramid in there. Everything’s well enough done to give you the flavors, but not so well done that the vegetables go limp, and the cooks don’t subtract any cheese to make room for veggies, either. Your best bet: the Greek ($7.95).

Honorable mention (for medium-well toast): Grecian Corner, 234 7th Ave. at 4th St., Park Slope, (718) 788-1478

Tuna melt at Manhattan Triple Decker, photo by Lindsay Buckley.
Tuna melt at Manhattan Triple Decker, photo by Lindsay Buckley.

Best Tuna Melt:
Manhattan Triple-Decker,
695 Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint, (718) 389-6565

Not even Hubert Keller could pretty up a tuna melt—it’s just a dowdy dish—but the Soviet-cafeteria-style Manhattan Triple-Decker diner makes an extremely well-executed version. (The splurge-y $8.25 price includes bacon and potato salad, but they’ve been known to throw in a free soda). The sandwich nimbly avoid the most common melt pitfalls, way too much tuna salad and sweaty-but-not-melted cheese, with a carefully proportioned and uniformly toasty sandwich. Extra credit for the pickles, which actually seem to come from this decade (but were AWOL when our photog visited).

Read more about Sarah D. Bunting’s favorite diners and dishes on brooklyndiners.blogspot.com.

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  1. It’s no longer called The New College Diner. It’s Station Cafe. Same location, same owners, same coffee.

  2. Oh you really need to come to SI and try out The Annadale Diner….anything you get is great….good prices (meaning very reasonable) with huge portions…..

  3. Just started a burger blog that mostly covers Philly, but will include NYC too since I have family there. My brother sent me this link and I’m making the Bridgeview the first stop on my NYC burger tour this weekend. Always glad to see someone showing love for life’s simple pleasures.

  4. One of my favorite really tiny authentic Brooklyn diner-esque spots is ‘Cathy’s Place’ down in Bay Ridge. It’s on the corner of 4th ave and 95th Street, right by the train station. The place is pretty small by diner standards – and has a traditional luncheonette counter. The crowd is heavily local and the staff not only knows many patrons by name, but also has their regular orders memorized.

    Their prices are super cheap and their food is pretty good. I had breakfast there recently, 2 scrambled eggs with a large serving of the best peppery/oniony homefries I’ve ever had, 2 slices of toast – and a cup of coffee for $3.45.

    This place is as Brooklyn as it gets.

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