Staff picks: Brooklyn’s best diner breakfasts
Everyone’s got a diner tradition, whether it’s a late-night, post-party blitz or a Sunday morning family gathering. Similar to talk surrounding pizza and bagels, declaring which diner’s got the best breakfast is the kind of hyper-sensitive question that tears loved ones apart and puts friends on the outs — so naturally, we decided to tackle it.
Diners are more than just the sum of their parts — food, service, atmosphere — they’re ingrained in memories and sentiment and loyalty and character. Good diners are complex, and deeply rooted in their communities.
It’s an oft-repeated refrain among Brooklynites that all the good diners have closed down, but it’s just not true. Several legends live on, and any number of small eateries have opened, blending cultures and trends to redefine what a diner breakfast is.
The Brooklyn Eagle news team is here to share our favorite diner breakfasts, old and new. Here are eight diners you’ve got to try. Then let us know in the comments where you like to get some eggs, pancakes or an endless, lukewarm cup o’ joe. — Ned Berke
717 Kings Highway, Gravesend
The Mirage is one of the last remaining old-school Greek diners, with expansive atlas-like menus from which one should only ever order breakfast or burgers. The hostess’ accent is thick; the art deco lamp fixtures need to be wiped down. The guy at the adjacent table is going on, loudly, about “harbor jurisdictions and the politicians who want to do this and want to do that, boy wonders, I tell you. I don’t know, am I a schlemiel, schlemazel?”
There’s something quintessentially Brooklyn — vanishing Brooklyn — about the whole thing. If any of it becomes too much, well, you can always drown it out. Because here’s the real reason the Mirage is worth a visit:
“Compact disc” jukeboxes affixed to every table. Dated as it may be, the selection is as eclectic and surprising as anything in this corner of Brooklyn — Billy Joel, Neyo, the Bee Gees, G-Unit, Sheryl Crow, The Beatles and a collection of Russian language hits from 2001. The most recent album is Lady Gaga’s 2008 debut.
Oh, and the food’s solid, too. — Ned Berke
782 Washington Ave., Prospect Heights
I am an infamously bad orderer of food. I am that dreaded dining companion, overwhelmed by extensive menus, begging you for “just a taste” of your basil chicken with cashews while my weird fusion tofu roll languishes in a half-hearted puddle of soy sauce.
Solution? Tom’s, where one doesn’t even have to look at a menu but can instead rattle off a laundry list of cholesterol-laden breakfast items that you can rest assured will hit the spot. Frankly, the laundry list is incidental — the real star here is the side of housemade spicy sauce delivered in a plastic cup. Pour it over everything.
It’s not as cheap as some other diners — eggs, toast, home fries, bacon and coffee set me back about $12.50 — but the staff is wonderful, there’s great reading material on the walls (every review of the place ever published in print since 1936, it seems), and the sauce, honestly, is worth half of that $12.50 alone.
Cash only, come hungry. — Sara Bosworth
753 Coney Island Ave., Ditmas Park
If you are looking for a typical diner experience, George’s is your place. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for more than five years and always walked past the place but never went in. It’s been around for more than 60 years — but this was my first time.
For $13, you get a breakfast, lunch and dinner — serving sizes are plentiful even for those who are super hungry.
Save room for dessert. Homemade pies make for a mouthwatering display behind the counter. The morning I went, there were cherry, pumpkin and lemon meringue. — Kelly Mena
8610 Third Ave., Bay Ridge
Pegasus is a Greek diner with a cult following. People go crazy for the $12.50 brunch. The line often extends out the door on Sundays.
My favorite diner breakfast is the lemon ricotta waffle with mixed-berry compote, which is a brunch-menu item. The citrusy tang of the cheese complements the sweetened berry topping. The waffle is hot and crispy. By the way, the peaches-and-cream French toast and the bananas foster French toast are crave-worthy as well. If you’re smart, you’ll bring friends with you who are willing to share their meals so you can try all three.
If you think Bay Ridge is too far out of your way for breakfast, keep in mind that Pegasus is just a block away from the 86th Street R subway station. A word to the wise: Pegasus is a cash-only establishment. So bring money with you. — Lore Croghan
Mike’s Coffee Shop
328 Dekalb Ave., Clinton Hill
The only issue with eating at Mike’s Coffee Shop was listening to a couple of Pratt students talking about Saturday Night Live too loudly in the booth next to mine.
The coffee is bad. The orange juice is like Tropicana in a tiny cup. It’s perfect. For $6.50 I get the drinks and two eggs, hash browns, and buttered rye toast and that’s really all I need to get started.
I’m not looking for a fancy breakfast, okay? — Noah Goldberg
6822 Fourth Ave., Bay Ridge
Just six steps away from the Bay Ridge Avenue subway station, the convenience of 24-hour Emphasis Diner can be both a blessing and a curse. For me, it has often been the latter. (Cheese fries at 4 a.m.? Yes, please.)
And it’s got a damn good, albeit basic, breakfast.
For less than $10, you can get an array of different breakfast specials. My go-to is a classic: scrambled eggs, home fries, white toast and an iced coffee. The deal is just $5.50, though the iced coffee will cost an extra buck or so. But, considering the meal’s starting price, and the convenience of an all-night diner that never stops making deliveries, I think it’s still a pretty sweet deal. — Meaghan McGoldrick
Park Plaza Diner
220 Cadman Plaza West, Brooklyn Heights
Park Plaza Diner — a spacious, traditional New York City-style diner — is immensely popular with the locals, along with movie crews and the courthouse crowd. Lawyers and their famous indicted clients can often be seen pouring over their paperwork and getting their stories straight before trial.
I’ve been eating here for years, and breakfast at Park Plaza is just getting better with the addition of real wood-smoked meats. This means that instead of bacon, you can now order smoked pork belly to die for, along with those eggs, home fries, French toast and bagels.
Park Plaza is open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night (and until 1 a.m. other nights), so for those who like to eat breakfast foods after a night out, this is your go-to Heights spot. — Mary Frost
Mex Carroll’s Diner
192 Columbia St., Columbia Street Waterfront District
If you’re someone like me who doesn’t like breakfast, you’ll want to head down to Mex Carroll’s Diner in the Columbia Street Waterfront District. The restaurant serves both traditional breakfast dishes alongside Mexican comfort food.
So whether you want eggs and home fries, or rice and beans, this is the spot. I always go with the Red Hook Sandwich, which is a combination of the two. It has two scrambled eggs, refried beans, cheese, avocado, jalapeños, red onions, bacon and mayonnaise — all on a fluffy Portuguese roll. You’ll, of course, want to drench it in Cholula and wash it down with one of their delicious aguas frescas. — Scott Enman
Want to browse more of our staff picks? You can find the whole list here.
Want even more choices? Here’s a list of both our picks and our readers’ picks.