Restaurant Review: Bowery Diner, the Modern Classic American Diner

By Claire Voon

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The American Diner is an icon of 1950s American life, the scene of enjoying classic American dishes like burgers, fries and milkshakes while listening to songs churned out of a jukebox. Bowery Diner, located on 241 Bowery, takes that classic image of a diner and throws in a handful of unconventional twists. Its retro décor — with cozy booths, chrome tables, subway tiles and a jukebox from which the voices of Barry Manilow, Elvis and Gladys Knight flow — is made modern with a large screen television, sleek lighting and a full bar.

Bowery Diner’s menu, too, puts a spin on traditional diner staples. While it sports the classics pancakes, French toast and cheeseburgers, it also offers fried calamari, steak salad, lobster buns and the option to spike a milkshake or a cup of Joe with a pinch of hard liquor. In short, it aims to fulfill one’s pangs of nostalgia with homey, childhood comforts while also satisfying more adult cravings.

The project of Belgian chef Mathieu Palombino, Bowery Diner is open 24 hours on the weekend, serving as a haven for hungry night owls or those stumbling in after a night on the town. 9 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, however, still found the space relatively crowded, with patrons ranging from early-waking New Yorkers perusing their newspapers at the bar to families of tourists.

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The service, although slightly slow with taking orders and delivering the food, was friendly and polite. Belgian waffles ($12) arrived piping hot, slightly browned on the outside yet soft on the inside and drizzled with powdered sugar. The accompanying cool chocolate sauce provides for a sinful way to sweeten the trio of waffles while a smattering of bacon, crisped to perfection, adds a savory touch to the palate. A small dollop of custard makes for either a creamy topping for the waffles or for a light dessert.

Authentic, truly ‘50s American diners may be rare gems, but Bowery Diner does not fail to remain cozy and charming. Altogether reminiscent of the romantic, bygone days of the diner, it might have shed some of the classic eaterie’s traditional atmosphere — as well as its cheaper prices — but it is still a spot with a lot of personality where one may relish in memories and well-crafted foods.

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