Chefs' Picks: Diners

When chefs want to wind down and ditch the fancy food, they often head to their local diners. Here are their faves.

Diner with Bicycle

Photo by: Ken Wiedemann ©Ken Wiedemann

Ken Wiedemann, Ken Wiedemann

Who doesn’t love a good diner? The ultimate everyman’s restaurants, diners serve a menu of virtually everything at any time of day, from eggs and pancakes for breakfast, to Greek salads for lunch, steaks or burgers for dinner, and sundaes and apple pie for dessert. Not surprisingly, when chefs want to wind down and ditch the fancy food, they often head to their local diners. Here are their faves.

Chad Brauze, chef de cuisine, The Back Room at Park Hyatt, New York

Brauze swears by the Metro Diner on the Upper West Side of New York, where he has been a regular for 10 years. "It's just around the corner from where my wife, Ashley, lived when we first started dating,” he says. “We both worked at Restaurant Daniel. She was in the pastry section, and I was chef de partie of the meat section. Being in pastry, she got out after me every night. I would wait around after our savory team was done and help her break down her station as the last tables got their petit fours. After, I would take her out for fries and chocolate malts at Metro Diner." These days, Brauze and his wife still go to Metro, but they now go on Sunday afternoons for burgers. “It's super-traditional, a nicely seared patty with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo and extra pickles," he says. "It's on the table five minutes after I order it.” And he still gets a chocolate malt. “Can't beat that!"

TORO - New York, NY

TORO - New York, NY

Photo by: Noah Fecks ©Noah Fecks

Noah Fecks, Noah Fecks

Ken Oringer, chef-owner, Toro NYC, and Coppa and Toro in Boston

Mike's City Diner, it's my favorite diner in the world,” says Oringer. “And it’s two blocks from our restaurant Coppa in Boston.” Oringer is a huge fan of Mike’s chef, Jay Hojj: “He’s a buddy of mine, and he's the most amazing diner chef. He's Lebanese, and he cooks incredible mezze. We've had out-of-town guest-chef dinners with him at Toro NYC that have sold out in one hour. I usually pull a Houdini and sneak away for a late breakfast and early lunch at Mike's, around 11:30 a.m. He makes a great turkey hash, which I recommend."

Paul C. Reilly, chef-owner, Beast + Bottle, Denver

“The best Denver diner, for sure, it's Sam’s No. 3,” says Reilly, who has been a regular since 2004. “When I go to Sam's, it's usually for lunch, and I almost always order the patty melt. The rye bread stays really crispy on the outside, and inside it's a perfectly ooey-gooey mix of onions, burgers and cheese. I order a plain ol' green salad and usually iced tea or sparkling water, and it's a very happy lunch indeed.”

New Orleans Milan

Air BnB New Orleans MIlan

New Orleans Milan

Photo by: sara essex bradley ©sara essex bradley

sara essex bradley, sara essex bradley

Tory McPhail, executive chef, Commander’s Palace, New Orleans

“Diners are a nice slice of Americana that is not common in other cultures,” says McPhail. He’s been going to Camellia Grill on Carrolton where it meets St. Charles for 22 years. He also loves the waffles, particularly the pecan waffle with whipped salted butter and sugarcane syrup. According to him: “It is out of this world.”

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