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Explain lame New York breakfasts?

As you get further from Manhattan, the bacon gets crispier, the home fries homier...everything from the eggs to the toast gets cooked better. What is it with NYC coffee shops?

It's not like you can't buy a decent plate of eggs or pancakes anywhere in the city, but the basic anthora-cup greasy spoons in our town do a noticeably lousier job than their out-of-town counterparts.

Why is this?

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  1. Perhaps the places in NY are busier so much of it, like the bacon is pre-made or deep fried to cook it. I happen to think NY home fries are the best though. But the eggs at the greasy spoons are terrible.. I was out in Montauk last week and had amazing eggs , actually a fritata , far superior to the average place in the city. In any case, i guess the way around it , is to ask for the bacon well done, or switch it for ham, get the eggs made a particular way, so you get some personalization.

    2 Replies
    1. re: foodwhisperer

      Thanks for the suggestion, but the basic NYC coffee shop breakfast can't be fixed by specifying "extra-crispy bacon", or "I like my scrambled eggs soft.". New Yorkers who try to verbally affect the outcome of their coffee shop breakfast tend to be whiny and unrealistic.

      1. re: knucklesandwich

        When I ask for extra crispy bacon what happens is, "Here's the bacon that's been sitting on the griddle for four hours, burnt to a crisp."

    2. In my experience, most restaurants in NYC are sub-par., but especially the greasy spoons.

      6 Replies
      1. re: danbuter

        What places have you dined at that have disappointed you? I didn't see any Manhattan restaurant posts from you. It would be interesting - and of course valuable - for visitors to know which places to avoid, here in Manhattan.

          1. re: knucklesandwich

            Agree breakfast in the city is abysmal. I love to eat breakfast NOT brunch, which is something I will never do. I have eaten on the upper west side, the east side and in midtown and the home fries are especially terrible. They try to add all this paprika to make it look like the potatoes have been browned. The Red Flame is the worst! That said they are so few real coffee shops left, most are the upscale coffee places with overpriced muffins and pastries, which to me is not breakfast.

            1. re: chervil9

              You go, Chervil. Brunch is a scam. Don't ever fall for it. The problem is that the old diners where you could get a good, cheap breakfast are gone. I never go out for breakfast here; only when I travel out of the city. Your best bet is to get a cup of Joe and a bagel or muffin from a street cart. And they are up early. I like breakfast when I wake up...even on a weekend. Some places you need to wait until 8 until they open. That's breakfast blasphemy in my opinion. Glad someone agrees with the sad state of breakfast in New York.

              1. re: chervil9

                My husband and I had breakfast at The Red Flame last week, and it was great.

                1. re: chervil9

                  The Red Flame was pretty bad the one time I ate there. The food (eggs, toast, coffee) was bland and tasteless, and the service was dismal. What a waste. When we left, we headed across the street to a coffee shop just to get a better cup of coffee, and lamented that we hadn't just gone there instead for a coffee and muffin.

            2. Huh? I am baffled by the post. We eat breakfast out a lot and love the coffee shops/diners. Scotty's in Murray Hill is a favorite since it is so close. 3 Star on the UWS is another. Both are inexpensive and serve great basic breakfast. My lovely wife likes her bacon extra crispy and they know her and keep her happy.
              The only "bad breakfast experience" we've had is Bloom's just up Lex from Scotty's. The hotels in the area send out of towners there and they can get away with "sub-par".
              Where have you been that was bad? You might try requesting the bacon and home fries prepared the way you like them.

              1. Are you talking strictly greasy spoon diners breakfasts?

                If so, I'd say the problem is the quality of diners in Manhattan right now. If you're just talking in general terms, the worst breakfast I've had in NYC has been from Vinegar Hill where the celebrated chef came out and defended the pool of uncooked runny egg pouring out of his "omelette".

                In theory, the farther you get from the farm, the less likely you are to find a fresh tasting breakfast, but the reality is there are no excuses for what some places serve.

                1. I think part of it is that while breakfast is so simple to make, it's easy to screw up. There's an art to cooking eggs. I've also noticed it's hard to find a good low-priced meal for ordinary comfort food in Manhattan no matter what meal you're looking to eat. I had horrible breakfasts at Gramercy Cafe and Little Poland, Ihop was better then that! On the bright side of breakfast, Stage restaurant served up some great kielbasa and eggs.

                  1. My husband and I go to the Landmark diner for breakfast. Never had a complaint. They have fresh squeezed juices and the hashbrowns are always nice and browned. Pancakes are good too.

                    1. Are you talking about bodega breakfasts?

                      1. Balthazar has a great weekday breakfast. For a while, I went a couple times a week because I worked nearby. They offer warm pastries from their superb bakery and the coffee is wonderful. They also have all the major newspapers and very good service as well. A couple times I added a soft boiled egg for $4 but most of the time I just lounged over baked goods and coffee and hardly every paid more than $10 or so. The full breakfasts certainly cost more but the experience was always well worth it to me.

                        1. Your avg coffee shop/diner in manhattan gets beat by the avg LI/NJ/CT/upstate diner. Kind of sad. (also applies to avg pizzeria). Obviously you will find more exceptional places in the city, but I'm talking about the median joint.

                          3 Replies
                            1. re: knucklesandwich

                              Less options in the outer boroughs I suppose.

                              1. re: RebelWithaCause

                                No, the thing is the breakfast at a diner in the outer boroughs (or CT or NJ) is fundamentally better than a manhattan diner breakfast.

                          1. How much are you paying for breakfast?

                            1. I still don't get all of the complaints! Bacon egg & cheese sammich @ Scotty's diner on Lex. I asked for crispy bacon, sunny side up eggs and lightly toasted rye. All perfectly prepared as requested with a nice cup of Joe for under $10 with tax.

                              1. Knucklesandwich is right. Breakfast in NYC is terrible in the places that are supposed to specialize in that meal, namely diners and luncheonettes. The home fries are the worst in the world and if you order scrambled eggs or an omelet it will arrive browned. Who the hell eats burnt eggs? Right now, for me, the best eggs are served at Fairway Cafe Upstairs, at least on Sundays anyway. The omelets are cooked properly and so are the fried eggs whatever way you want them. The pancakes are small but may be the best pancakes I have ever had AND with real maple syrup. I'n not crazy about the bacon or the briosche toast but I get seven grain instead.

                                In my neighborhood on the UES the only two places where I enjoyed eggs for breakfast have both gone out of business. Now Gracie Mews will do in a pinch although their wheat pancakes are quite good. But you can't eat pancakes a lot. East River Diner is ok for eggs but, as usual, you have to ask for the potatoes well done to at least give them some taste. Everyone still raves about The Mansion Diner but breakfast there is a total Greek diner washout now. As far as bacon goes I just don't order it anymore. I get ham and hope for the best, or corned beef hash if I'm really hungry.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Brian W

                                  Good idea. Ordering ham instead of bacon might be the way I have to go in case of, as you so aptly describe it, the 'greak diner washout'.

                                2. I am originally from North Jersey and love, love, love a good diner breakfast. In fact, I may prefer it to a fancy dinner in the city on occasion. There's something so homey about it. However, you're right about the quality of diner breakfast in Manhattan. But, living on the UWS for the past 5 years, brunch has become a tradition/ religious experience for me. Manhattanites are all about daytime brunch cocktails with creative concept egg dishes/ outdoor cafes... especially if you live near Central Park. I'd say, if you're looking for good pancakes and eggs, you'll want to stay away from the diners and shoot for the brunch restaurants.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Pappardella316

                                    You nailed it. Yeah if I'm paying money for breakfast/brunch I want baked eggs/roasted tomatoes/polenta/ricotta in cast iron skillet. I'm not going out and paying for supermarket eggs, monsanto potatoes and wonder bread toast.

                                  2. People are all too busy eating rolls.

                                    1. i've had pretty good breakfasts at Metro Diner or Key West in the UWS.

                                      1. Manhattan joints are so bad because there is endless foot traffic, which ensures that there will always be another customer in the door, and because almost nobody has a car and therefore they are limited by practicalities to whatever is within a very short distance of their home or office. Nobody's going to walk more than four blocks or one avenue for breakfast at the office. Same goes for a generic weekend brunch. Thus, despite being full of so many choices and people, the choices are illusory and the people are actually the same 10,000 or so who are within a reasonable walking radius.

                                        Hence, the offending venue has no genuine need or incentive to improve the food or service. The food can be dog-doo on a plastic clamshell, dished up with a snarl, and they know that there'll be another wallet walking in the door within two minutes.

                                        By contrast, in the suburbs or in a smaller city, all restaurants have to be on their A-game all the time because otherwise people will simply vote with their steering wheel and go elsewhere. The physical and time constraints are almost eliminated. It doesn't matter whether I drive one mile or three miles or five miles, so long as I'm not walking then it's not much of a difference. Most customers would rather drive five miles in the suburbs for a good meal than one mile for a crappy meal.

                                        That's why so many Manhattan food venues suck, and why it will never improve, not so long as walking remains the only decent way to get around most of the time.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: bmacqueens

                                          Hotels are a good bet for breakfast although personally I rather like the slinging-hash quality of diners. Metro Diner on Broadway does a good breakfast.

                                          1. re: bmacqueens

                                            <By contrast, in the suburbs or in a smaller city, all restaurants have to be on their A-game all the time because otherwise people will simply vote with their steering wheel and go elsewhere. >

                                            So it's your assertion that all restaurants with parking lots are good restaurants? I do not think this is true.

                                          2. We were recently in the neighborhood at breakfast time so we ate at Viand on Madison at 61 Street. A breakfast disaster if you normally order eggs. No jelly for the toast, I got bacon even though I ordered ham, bacon was acceptable but not good, home fries were a cut above the usual Greek diner dreck but not worth going back for. Cash only and they have an ATM just in case you didn't prepare in advance. The nearby Gene's is worse.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Brian W

                                              Thank you, Brian. I'll avoid Gene's too.

                                              1. re: Brian W

                                                I liked my tomato and feta omelette at that Viand location in June. I'm pretty sure that they gave me jelly for the toast. I'd go back to that Viand if I was in the neighbourhood. Although the menu was more limited, I found the food at Viand tasted better than breakfasts I've had at Madison Restaurant, and their omelette was cheaper and tastier than my last omelette at the Red Flame.

                                                I also liked what I ordered at 3 Guys Restaurant.