This is a coffee shop, not a diner. Big difference. Diners have design trappings of railroad passenger cars including lots of stainless steel paneling. There are very few diners in Manhattan; there is a greater number of coffee shops, even old examples like Neil’s.
Formica counter, booths, stools, no unfunctional stainless steel, egg creams, hamburgers, tuna/chicken/egg salad sandwiches, ‘Jumberjack’ breakfast — pancakes with two eggs and choice of ham, bacon or sausage — and a great outdoor neon sign.
Waiters in white shirts and black vests whose lifelong job has been waiting on tables — professionals, in other words. Maybe even unionized.
Tiny. Middle class. Lots of neighbourhood regulars, many senior citizens. That’s usually a good sign because it often means prices are low, or the food is of good value. But it can also mean tolerance for mediocre food traded for convenience and familiarity. So what — if you’re seeking a New York event.
As if mimicking the TV series Mad Men, Neil’s still offers a ‘Slenderella’ lunch plate: an individual can of tuna, salmon or tuna salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and shredded carrots. But, this is no mimic, it’s an original offering, probably dating back to the fifties.
On the corner of 70th and Lexington. A piece of the old, real New York Eastside.
I go for an egg cream, a sit-down rest and a cultural excavation.