DinerPorn

Selena’s Diner

Tannersville, NY

Often, diners have walls filled with regional trinkets, souvenirs, and photos signed by national or local celebrities. Diners collect the small moments in your life—your old friends visiting town, your neighbors having breakfast, your friends after that wild night—and put them on display like gold medals. Individually, these everyday moments lack context, but together, they represent a much greater concept: at the diner, everyone is family.

Selena’s Diner has a history and a family all its own. Decades ago, the old dining car was transported from New Jersey up the meandering hills of Route 23A, over Kaaterskill Falls, to its current location just outside Tannersville. The diner is technically named “Nick and Selena’s Diner” after the owner and his daughter (coincidentally cousins of our friends at the Village Diner in Saugerties!).

The manager, Amanda, greets you with a snarky-yet-charming hello. As she serves you breakfast, she talks about the town and its people and asks you about yourself. You realize that her duty is not only to serve great food, but also to offer free therapy to everyone in town—and you’ve talked so long that it’s now lunchtime.

This turns out to be a blessing in disguise, because they also serve pizza. Amanda convinces you to order “The Selena,” which is loaded with chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, and dollops of fresh ricotta.

As you say goodbye, you turn toward the photos on the wall, and you know that it’s okay to leave. People may come and go, but the memories remain preserved.

Phoenicia Diner

Phoenicia, NY

The Catskills are known for many things: farm-fresh food, the great outdoors, and ticket-happy state troopers. But in 2012, the region gained a new icon—Phoenicia Diner. The diner is nestled in the mountains, but for the next few months, the harsh upstate winter will keep you from venturing out to explore. You’ll have to settle for the view from a diner booth.

You greet the familiar staff and the friendly owner, Mike, as he mingles with patrons at the counter. You always feel at home here. Everything on the menu comes from local sources, and the chef has a reputation for spicing things up. You can’t choose, so you order a little bit of everything: French toast doused in local maple syrup and slabs of butter, chicken pot pie baked inside a fresh pastry dough, and Creole-style shrimp and grits complete with a delicate poached egg.

 

Sometime between your third and fourth cup of coffee, you chat about the weather with a local guy in the booth behind you. It’s the kind of fleeting companionship that’s only possible at a place like this, while you both devour your food.

As you leave, you look up and notice a few snowflakes. “Four more months of this,” you say. “Maybe it ain’t so bad.”

Grazin Diner

Hudson, NY

We were in love with this place from the first moment we saw it—the building is a classic piece of 1940s Americana, complete with a chrome exterior, leather barstools, an old-fashioned soda fountain, and a jukebox. But the food is anything but old fashioned. After snagging the place at an auction, the owner, Chip, completed revitalized it to create a farm-to-table restaurant—a combination of old-school setting and new-school eco-awareness that’s a growing trend in the region.

As Chip shows us around, he explains that most of their food—the burgers, the fries, and even the soda—is made from scratch, in house. The soda syrup, in cola, birch beer, root beer, and cream flavors, is made by Chip himself. The beef comes straight from Grazin’ Angus Acres, a farm about 20 minutes northwest, in Ghent. And we watch as the potatoes are peeled, cut, and fried right before our eyes.

The result is a meal that Chip calls “everything that is diner porn,” and we have to agree. The “Uncle Dude” is the best burger we’ve had yet, topped with jalapeño relish, chipotle mayo, local cheddar, greens, and bacon (if that doesn’t get you salivating, we don’t know what will). The fries are crispy. The birch beer is bubbly and refreshing. And the friendly staff and big, sunny windows overlooking the bustle of downtown Hudson certainly don’t hurt. Old-school-meets-new-school gets another A+.