Best Old School Diners in NYC

November 8, 2018 | By Bryan A.

Ah, the diner. So uniquely American. Moreso, so very New York. Residents of the Big Apple have flocked to diners for over a century, coming for good eats shuttled quickly off the grill. Nowadays, it is harder to find good joints capable of serving up timeless classics done right. However, if one looks hard enough, it isn’t too difficult to find diners worth visiting. Here is our list of the best options to go to for a taste of nostalgia.


Located right next to the Flatiron Building, Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop has been an institution since its founding in 1929. This diner is proud to have been “Raising New York’s Cholesterol” since the 20’s, and most diners happily oblige. It is easy to see why. A wide variety of delicious sandwiches (this writer highly recommends getting a pastrami on rye) keep customers coming back during lunch hour. In addition, those who stick around for dessert will be treated to their famous egg cremes, or some pie a la mode. Regardless of what you get, this charming, albeit cramped, diner will have you begging for more.

Tom’s Restaurant

Most who go to Tom’s will get plenty of 90’s nostalgia. Why? As many might know, this diner was where Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine flocked to each week on Seinfeld. And while those four characters made questionable moral decisions, they clearly knew how to pick out a tasty lunch spot. At Tom’s, which has been located in Morningside Heights since the 40’s, diners can get a relaxing atmosphere and no frills food done right. In addition, the milkshakes are arguably the best in New York, and the fries are to die for. For a good meal in a great neighborhood, you can’t go wrong with Tom’s.

Bel Aire Diner

This Greek owned and operated diner is located in the heart of Astoria, where it has gained a reputation as one of the best diners in the city since its opening in 1965. What strikes many upon first glance at the menu is the wide variety at one’s disposal. While all the diner classics are there, you can’t go wrong with both the Mexican and Italian options. However, plenty of Greek food is expectedly on the menu, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The atmosphere inside is great as well; mirrored walls and neon signing outside gives patrons the feeling of stepping back in time. This keeps plenty flocking to one of the best restaurants in one of the city’s most unique neighborhoods.

Joe Jr.’s

Located in the heart of Union Square, Joe Jr.’s has become an iconic spot. While many go to diners for their wide multitude of options, Joe’s is different. While their menu has plenty of options, locals know that the real draw here are the burgers. Fresh off the grill, they are arguably the best in the city, and frequent customers would tell you that there is no debate. However, while the burgers are the staple, diners will flock for everything, ranging from breakfast to late night munchies.

Waverly Restaurant

Situated in the West Village, Waverly truly feels like a throwback. This cash-only operation is visually comforting, with its vinyl upholstery and long counter top. However, to make it in a pricey New York neighborhood, the food better be good. Luckily, this diner delivers. The menu is lengthy, always a plus. While one can’t go wrong with massive sandwiches and double decker burgers, be sure to check out less traditional diner fare, such as delicious Belgian waffles. As a plus, they stay open 24/7!


The final selection on our list is a bit outside the box, but when in the Ukrainian Village, do as the Ukrainians do. Veselka Diner is unique in that it serves virtually two polar opposites: classic American diner fare and Eastern European cuisine. This creates a truly unique atmosphere that is worth checking out firsthand. While one doesn’t typically think of going to a diner for pierogies and cheese blintzes, they’ll soon be begging for more after trying out Veselka’s staples. Owned since 1954, this 24/7 joint doesn’t feel old school inside. However, the dishes at Veselka will taste just like your babuschka made it.

Tags: Manhattan

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