When you’re talking about dining that’s destination-worthy, a diner usually doesn’t come to mind.
For me, diners have always been a last resort option when I’m on a road trip or in a small town, and there are no other food options to speak of. Lifeless, stale produce, overcooked chicken and bottled salad dressings- bring it on! I’ve eaten just to get some fuel in my body and ignored the lack of taste. Actually, make that poor taste.
Then, I discovered Carnegie Diner & Café, and all my pre-conceived notions went to the wayside—- and fast. In short, a visit to this Midtown Manhattan gem of a restaurant is a standout experience. So much so that I’m now officially a regular. My kids and husband love it as much as I do and maybe even more.
We’re certainly not alone: the restaurant opened before the pandemic and was an instant hit. Now, hundreds and hundreds of people line up on weekends, especially in the mornings, to get their fix. (Don’t worry about long waits. The tables turn over fast).
As owner and executive chef Stathis Antonakopoulos says, “Coming to Carnegie Diner is like eating at The Smith for half the price.” And he truly is right.
This upscale place serves everyday favorite foods that are made with top ingredients and taste delicious. The produce, mostly organic, is crisp and fresh. You can’t find a better salad in Midtown or anywhere uptown for that matter, and believe me, this salad fiend has tried.
The burgers, which, according to my kids, are “as awesome as the ones from Shake Shack,” are made with organic beef, and the chicken is organic too, along with the eggs. The omelets are great- my no dairy egg whites very well done are always cooked to perfection- , and the avocados are buttery and never brown.
Atlantic salmon is delivered fresh several times a week and served roasted as an entrée with vegetables and potatoes or over a salad. One of Carnegie Diner’s signature dishes is pastrami made with American Wagyu beef from Kansas and Colorado.
“I care about food, and I want value for my money,” says Antonakopoulos who was the director of operations at Kellari, an upscale Greek restaurant with locations in Manhattan and Washington DC. “I’m bringing the concept of farm to table to a diner.”
But I’m just getting started with a glimpse of what his menu has to offer: Breakfast items, which are served all day, include the lobster benedict, salmon avocado toast and the skillet with crushed bacon, potatoes, avocado, diced tomato, melted Monterey jack cheese and eggs your way with an English Muffin. There are a dozen types of pancakes, in addition to super grains breakfast bowls like the BLT quinoa bowl
Come lunch and dinner, and options expand to include rib eye steak and seafood alfredo with lobster, salmon & shrimp.
Desserts are mostly made in-house. There’s a classic New York cheesecake and a 24 layers chocolate cake appropriately named OMG because that’s exactly the reaction you’ll have when you eat it.
The coffee is single origin from Lavazza, and let’s not forget the bar with top shelf spirts, wine and beer.
Make no mistake, Carnegie Diner is the real deal with respect to the food, but the design is notable too. The space is modern with pops of color. Plants, neons and a mosaic tiled floor bring in vibrancy. The walls have subway tiles, and you never want to get up from the comfortable, oversized booths.
And I can’t leave out the service: the staff is warm and obliging and take care to note your allergies and how you want the food prepared.
A diner with so many strong points is is absolutely worth heading to indeed.