Look up the term “greasy spoon” and you’ll find a host of definitions, most often with “dive,” “cheap,” “short-order,” and “fried” as part of the descriptions. To me, however, greasy spoons evoke the comfortable, homey luncheonettes of my youth, often with mismatched decor, sticky floors, and a host of regulars hunched over the counter. Though I enjoy an organic chicken salad with locally grown greens as much as the next gal, I’m also a sucker for a place with the ever-present sizzle of the grill, the aroma of scrambled eggs at all hours, and at least one waitress with blue eye shadow who calls you “hon.” The local charm and dose of comfort are the ingredients that make it all worthwhile—not to mention the copious amounts of cooking oil behind those always-tasty burgers and fries.
Being open seven days a week and serving breakfast all day is a greasy spoon requirement, which makes Chappaqua Restaurant & Café (10 S Greeley Ave, Chappaqua 914-238-3869) a go-to spot. While we love the pancakes, omelets, and assorted salads and dressings, the house vinaigrette—made with secret ingredients—is a hands-down favorite that, luckily, can be ordered to go.
How can you not love a place that serves classic American fare at recession-busting prices? At Dorry’s Diner (468 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains 914-682-0005), you can get two eggs any style with home fries, toast, and coffee or tea for $3.75 ($1 extra for ham, sausage, or bacon), provided you order before 11 am on weekdays. The diner, which opens at 6:30 am and is big on breakfast specials, is also known for its seasoned curly fries and cheeseburgers.
Ya gotta love Harbour House Coffee Shop (1927 Palmer Ave, Larchmont 914-834-5558). While the rest of Larchmont goes upscale—or out of business—this old beauty hangs on without having had a facelift in decades. Sure, the waitstaff can be gruff, and, yes, the stools and booths are a bit worn, but the eggs are darned good, the grilled cheese just like Mom used to make, and the prices in the under-$10 range.
Despite its renovation three years ago, Katonah Restaurant (63 Katonah Ave, Katonah 914-232-9241) still ranks among our favorite greasy spoons. It’s definitely a lot more sophisticated than it used to be—think upscale diner versus rundown coffee shop—but the fact that it’s still here after 40-plus years puts it on our nostalgic list. We also can’t resist its thick chocolate milkshakes, grilled panini, and oversized turkey club, made with fresh (not deli-style) meat and served with the requisite pickle, coleslaw, and fries.
Parkway Café (52 E Parkway, Scarsdale 914-723-9008) is a Scarsdale institution that in its 70-ish years in business has aimed to please with a diner-like menu of options. Hearty breakfast items are on the menu, and so, too, are sophisticated salads (we love the argula endive) and creatively concocted sandwiches (go for the Swiss pesto). Mostly, though, it’s the atmosphere—the long counter of stools, the cozy booths, and the sometimes brusque staff—that keep us coming back for a retro experience like no other. And bonus points for cooking fresh—there’s no freezer on the premises!
Like chili? Then you’ll love Hubba’s (24 N Main St, Port Chester 914-939-7271), where the speciality is chili on anything and everything including hot dogs, fries, and onion rings. Known, too, for its late-night hours (it’s open until 4 am on weekdays, 5 am on weekends) and adorable dollar-bill-pressed wallpaper, Hubba’s is the go-to choice for late-night eats when the lure of a greasy spoon tends to be at its peak.
There’s a welcoming, Old World atmosphere at Poppy’s (27 Purchase St, Rye 914-967-1544), where the clatter of plates and barking of orders makes you instantly feel at ease. The narrow coffee shop is known for its hearty homemade soups, breakfast all day, and extensive children’s menu, as well as for its burgers and chicken salad. In a land of high-end rents and gourmet restaurants, we’re happy this no-frills eatery still fills the house with regulars who cherish its comfort fare.
Rocky’s Millwood Deli (235 Saw Mill River Rd, Millwood 914-941-2165) is the ideal after-hours fix when everything else is closed and the thought of home is still hours away. Open 24/7, it’s legendary among Westchester hipsters as the place for hot-off-the-grill sandwiches, gooey cheese-steaks, and eggs any way you want ‘em. Who cares if there aren’t a lot of seats? The food is filling—and always seems to taste better in the early morning hours.
TNT Luncheonette (244 Harrison Ave, Harrison 914-835-9873) doesn’t look like much from the outside—but isn’t that the point? The cozy space, with its traditional railroad counter, caters to a loyal clientele. It’s a place where orders are remembered and names are bandied about. But that doesn’t mean newcomers aren’t welcome. The staff is friendly and among the first to tell you what’s good on the menu. Just be forewarned: it’s a cash-only establishment.
Enjoy the best of both worlds when you visit Vinny’s Luncheonette (182 N Main St, Port Chester 914-939-9591). There’s the Port Chester of yesteryear on the modest stools and worn menu of this 1970s era coffeehouse—and then there’s the Port Chester of today with the gleaming façade of Tarry Market beckoning you from across the street. Lunch platters are big and filling—think a large platter of chicken parmigiana and spaghetti or fried chicken and fries—all for just $7. For those early birds, the coffee starts brewing at 5 am.
You’ll find everything from egg-white omelets to authentic Mexican quesadillas at Hector’s Village Cafe Luncheonette (158 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck 914-698-9822; hectorsvillagecafe.com), where the menu emphasizes Peruvian specialties like arroz chaufa con camerarones and ceviche de pescado. Depending on who’s sitting at the counter on a given day, you can feel like you’re on Main Street, USA, or in a small café South of the Border.
Worth the drive
For a glorified greasy spoon across-the-border experience, head to Eveready Diner (90 Independent Way, Brewster, NY 845-279-9009; theevereadydiner.com; also in Hyde Park, NY), seen on The Food Network’s, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. You’ll find glitzed-out booths and a kitschy, oversized busboy holding a large saucer of coffee. Order the legendary lobster quesadillas.
For Next Summer
The legendary Leno’s Clam Bar (755 Pelham Rd, New Rochelle 914-636-9869)—open in the summer only—is the poster child for greasy spoons. Long known among locals as Greasy Nick’s, it’s worth the visit for its sweet corn on the cob (in a pool of melted butter) along with burgers and dogs smothered in grilled onions.
Jeanne Muchnick (jeannemuchnick.com) loves greasy spoons because she never has to put on her makeup or dress in anything other than her favorite sweats to visit them.