Normally, you don’t usually want to eat greasy foods, let alone set aside a whole day dedicated to them! (Though, considering we’ve already had a ton of sweets and guilty pleasure foods for national food holidays, as well as a National Junk Food Day and a Eat What You Want Day, I guess nothing can be ruled out for the calendar!) When I think about the good times eating greasy foods, it’s usually a time-honored savory treat of mine, like French fries or pizza, or something substantial that’ll settle my stomach during a hangover. With all of the new food trends of eating healthy and being environmentally conscious, the lure of greasy foods may be on its way out. They’re terrible for your stomach, your waistline, your skin, and your mood–but damn, are greasy foods delicious, and when you’ve got a craving for something utterly good and utterly bad for you, nothing else hits the spot. So where in this new enlightened era of food do you go for a little greasy indulgence?
A greasy spoon diner, of course! Although the Wikipedia definition of a greasy spoon derides it as usually “unsanitary” and “working class,” I think of greasy spoons as time capsules, the inexpensive, no-frills kind of diner where the pull is all about the bottomless cups of coffee, the waitress who calls you “sugar,” and the good, greasy food. I’ve got my favorite greasy spoon diners in my college town in Binghamton, where everything from the formica countertops to the plastic-coated menus feel like they’re covered in a thin sheen of oil–but the food and the prices can’t be beat. New York City, on the other hand, is slowly losing its old-time greasy spoons to the insatiable real estate market and the ever-increasing prices of food and living. You can’t get cheap, greasy food in a dirty, un-renovated diner in New York anymore! It’s almost impossible!
Tough, yes; impossible, no. Old New York mainstays like the Cheyenne Diner on 9th and 33rd may be long gone, but if you’ve got the right tools–and the right desire for wonderfully greasy diner food–you can definitely find some greasy spoons still thriving and surviving in the city. Out on Kissena Boulevard in Flushing lies a family diner that’s been around for over 50 years: Pop’s Diner is no longer owned by “Pop,” but the spirit of the greasy spoon is still going strong here. Prices are cheap and the food is top-notch: don’t expect a Peter Luger-level hamburger here, but do expect it to be juicy, hearty, and filling, and cost you less than it would cost to even breathe Peter Luger air. If you want to find the real heart of old-time greasy spoons in New York, this is the place to be.
44 29 B Kissena Blvd, Flushing
“The small Flushing diner frequented by building workers, supers and senior citizens has changed hands a few times since. Eighteen months ago there was a substantial upgrade (from last legs to gently used), but the employees, menu and prices are the same. That includes the sensationally priced Breakfast Special: a waffle, pancakes or two eggs, sausage or bacon, juice and a coffee for $5 including tax, until 11 a.m. (after, it’s $5 before beverages). Schneir likes the reasonable prices, the fact that she knows everyone who enters and the turkey club with French fries. “All the food is good,” she says. “I haven’t got sick of it. It’s a very good place.””–The New York Post
“Decked out in old ads and vintage signs, Pop’s is definitely your typical old school diner. Cheap combos, friendly service, and big portions add to the appeal of this local spot.”–New York Eater
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“This place still has my heart. Not only is the food good, but I have so many fond memories of having breakfast/lunch here with my best friend. The food is still outstanding. I’ve been meaning to try something new on their menu, but it’s so tempting to just place our usual order; my friend and I usually end up splitting 1 fish sandwich with fries, and 1 french toast. We leave pretty stuffed, and our wallets don’t really take a hit because everything is still pretty cheap. Keep up the good work, Pop’s!”–Sara H.
“Simple, cheap, fast, tasty breakfast! It’s also only a few blocks from me and within walking distance. I’ve walked past this place hundreds of times and never went in until my boyfriend suggested we try it. Don’t come in here expecting anything fancy. It’s a diner. But for a quick and tasty meal, stop in! For two people to sit and eat breakfast and leave feeling full, the bill came to $10. How can you beat that?”–Billie F.
But looking for a decent greasy spoon within Manhattan isn’t unheard of…yet. There’s still some old holdouts that feel like walking into a time warp, the dingy, vintage feel of a lunch counter preserved among the new and shiny restaurants popping up on the island every day. One of the darlings of the Manhattan greasy spoon is Johny’s Luncheonette, a tiny little lunch counter surprisingly taking up premium space on 25th and 6th. The style is all old-school, with servers decked out in soda-jerk-chic and catchy names for their popular sandwiches, like the “Brady Bun” (turkey burger, bacon, Swiss cheese, and mushrooms). Do yourself a favor, sidle up to the counter during lunch time, and order up a famous Sloppy Johny sandwich, filled with grilled chicken, bacon, onions, and cheese–and, of course, a good spoonful of home-hearty grease 😉 They really don’t make them like this in New York anymore, so catch Johny’s while it’s still around–you never know when the times will catch up with this old favorite.
124 W 25th St (between Avenue Of The Americas & 7th Ave)
“Filled with fluorescent lighting, formica and extremely limited seating, Johny’s definitely lacks the cozy qualities of a traditional diner. The menu is filled with creatively named dishes like the Protein-Surge (tuna salad with tomato & 3 egg whites on a hero) and Curious George (three eggs, bacon, ham, cheese and French fries on a hero). They also serve breakfast and lunch all day, but are forewarned, eating here may result in a clogged artery.”–New York Eater
“Settle into a stool by the old-school lunch counter at this Chelsea greasy spoon. Short-order cooks in paper hats dish out gut-busting plates, such as the Famous Sloppy Johny sandwich (grilled chicken, bacon, American cheese, onion and coleslaw on a hero) and the Big Man Breakfast (two pancakes, two eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes and toast).”–Time Out New York
“It took the boys a few minutes to figure out what they wanted, but I knew right away. We waited with our coffee, which was a bit burnt, but good overall. Not being from the industry myself, I was amazed at the speed and dexterity displayed by the man cooking our food. My eyes wandered and I noticed other customers were mostly couples or small groups of friends comfortably enjoying their food. Regulars would walk in to a short but warm greeting from behind the counter. With the lull of the television in the back corner and the constant sizzle from the grill, I felt relaxed and at home.”–Real City Online
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“3 words…Cheap fast and great!!!! This was a great breakfast experience! Old school out of a movie, small diner with only a dozen or so counter seats and a griddle. I’m normally wary of griddle places b/c the food tends to be overly greasy but not here. It’s like the know the PERFECT amount of oil to cook the food and not make it drip with grease. I’m sure the nice old and “seasoned” griddle helps. My Greek omelet was good, not as fluffy as others but still had a “light” feel to it. The home fries were tasty and perfectly cooked. Great $6 meal (which included decent deli style coffee).”–Daniel A.
“This is the kind of place that separates the people who are truly passionate about food-coupled experiences from the people who are just into fancy food and restaurants. Johny’s is one of the most New York places I’ve visited. If you you’re looking for a real New York diner, you’ve found it. To me, that means a few no-nonsense guys behind the counter, putting orders together quickly, with a healthy dose of attitude. What it doesn’t mean are fancy ingredients, unique flavors or surprising textures. “–Brad L.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!