A good neighborhood diner should be ready to prepare any food at any given time. From jalapeño poppers to broiled fillet of sole, all cravings must be satisfied—sometimes 24 hours a day. With that in mind, here are the best orders diners have to offer.
This dish can be hit or miss at diners mainly because a truly flawless poached egg is not easy to achieve—but when the cook absolutely nails the yolk’s runny consistency, it can be the quintessential diner breakfast dish. Served open-faced with Canadian bacon on an English muffin, with ladles of warm hollandaise sauce, it’s a filling meal that requires a skilled hand for a chef to master. And sometimes skilled chefs are indeed hidden behind a diner’s swinging kitchen doors.
Two Eggs, Any Style
Usually listed among the breakfast specials, two eggs, any style with bacon and hash browns are about as staple as a diner dish can get. Eggs over-easy are the way to go here, as the requisite side of toast begs to mop up the runny yolk. Feel free to order the bacon any way you please—whether that’s floppy or crisped to death—any good diner will meet your request. The hash browns add some heft to the meal, ensuring a full stomach well into the afternoon.
For diner short stacks to be not just good, but great, they must fill the entire circumference of the plate. Also, they should be fluffy and sleep-inducing that the experience should be akin to eating your favorite cozy comforter from bed. Best when covered with whipped butter and drowning in faux-maple syrup, a side of sausage is encouraged for maximum enjoyment. Bring a small bottle of real maple syrup from home if you dare.
Sometimes served open-faced on an English muffin, other times served in a pita or on rye, the tuna melt is a lunch counter favorite and a diner mainstay. The greatest of diners somehow melt the cheese without overheating the tuna salad—a truly skillful technique.
Triple Decker Sandwiches
Cut into triangle wedges and stuffed with turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato, these sandwiches are a no-frills lunch item that sits perfectly with a side of fries. Just be sure to remove the toothpicks to avoid impaling the roof of your mouth.
Diners are trying some fancy preparations with burgers these days—pizza toppings, bleu cheese crumbles, etc.—but the best take is the simplest one. After all these years, the classic cheeseburger deluxe is a mouth-watering vision to behold. Always served open-bun so the tomato and lettuce stay crisp on one side, diner burgers are reliably juicy and often include a few onion rings, even if you didn’t ask for it.
Thick-cut and absolutely drowning in brown gravy, meatloaf is the heavy dish with a side of mashed potatoes and a vegetable that you imagine only old men ordering. Well, old men are onto something because when it is done right, diner meatloaf is a fantastic dish.
In a perfect world, it is Thanksgiving everyday—and at most diners, this dream can be a reality. Served with giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and some kind of vegetable—let’s say, green beans—this hot dish is yet another comforting classic that tastes of home cooking.
Broiled Roumanian Steak
Known in some circles as the “quintessential Jewish steak,” Roumanian steak is usually made with that humble skirt cut of steak that is rendered full of flavor after the searing process locks in all those meaty juices. The outer-edges are gorgeously crisp, while the meat itself cooks to a perfect medium rare in a matter of minutes.
Odds and Ends
Also known as Jersey Fries, thick-cut fries are covered in melted mozzarella cheese and served with a side of brown gravy for dipping or pouring over the fries completely, like a simplified version of the Canadian classic Poutine.
Matzo Ball Soup
Whether as a side to your diner gyro or a meal on its own, a giant Greek salad is the best way to get your greens at the diner. Covered with feta, red onions, cucumbers, tomatoes a few olives and at least one or two stuffed grape leaves, the sheer multitude of bite combinations makes the Greek salad a diner go-to.