10 Delicious, Classic Diners to Discover around Boston
From a 24-hour downtown landmark to a vintage train car just outside Boston, it’s chow time—and the eggs are over-easy.
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Forget about bar crawls. This summer, take yourself on a morning-through-night diner crawl throughout Boston, stuffing your face with hash browns by morning and patty melt burgers by night. With this list of breakfast-oriented greasy spoons and late-night haunts alike, you’ll know exactly where to go—and find bottomless cups of coffee to power you through it all.
Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe
Don’t let the name fool you. This South End spot slings more than just sandwiches—though absolutely get those too, especially the Reuben on marble rye, piled with corned beef, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut. Still, there’s much more to find inside the old-school, homey landmark, which decorates its walls with framed photos of famous past guests, from Sammy Davis Jr. to Al Gore. For instance, you won’t want to miss the griddle cakes, ginormous fluffy wonders cooked up on Charlie’s (you guessed it) griddle, and topped with cranberry compote or fresh fruit. Heaven! Finally, don’t leave without trying the famous turkey hash, flecked with perfectly crispy bits.
429 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-536-7669, charliesboston.com.
Deluxe Town Diner
This classic train-car restaurant—Watertown native Eliza Dushku’s favorite place in town—is a delightful time warp, luring late risers with all-day breakfasts and comfort food since 1947. The menu, meanwhile, is a timeless study in colossal portions. Take the Hungry Person Special: a short stack of pancakes or French toast, two eggs, home fries or greens, a choice of meat, and bottomless coffee or a pot of tea. All in, you can feed a small army for 15 bucks. Other nicely priced standouts include cornmeal Rhode Island-style johnnycakes, challah French toast that’s dredged in an eggy cinnamon and nutmeg-spiked batter, and savory shakshuka piled high with crumbled feta.
627 Mt Auburn St., Watertown, 617-926-8400, deluxetowndiner.com.
Forest Hills Diner
You might not think of hitting up a diner for its meatballs, but devotees of this JP eatery swear by the gobs of meaty goodness. Founder John Ioakimidis came here from Greece and opened the diner in 1974, and his grandson (also named John) continues the tradition of serving the family’s recipe for beef meatballs and tomato sauce sweetened with a dash of sugar and cinnamon. If you don’t presently see them on the menu, don’t panic: Forest Hill Diners streamlined its selection for the pandemic era, but we’re told the meatballs will be back on the menu in a few months. (Nature is healing!) In the meanwhile, take the occasion to try out some other super-affordable favorites, including chocolate chip pancakes and an extensive selection of omelets.
3696 Washington St, Jamaica Plain, 617-522-8242, theforesthillsdiner.com.
The Galley Diner
With the number of stellar diners in Southie, you could say the streets are practically paved with hash browns. Of course, you’ll find much more than crispy taters in the breakfast bounties offered at My Diner, as well as the legendary Mul’s Diner (now housed within the historic Amrheins restaurant). We have to give special love, though, to the Galley, which makes up for its tiny size with big flavor. Case in point: the Southie omelet, stuffed with house-made hash and cheese, blows the roof off this intimate four-table, 12-stool spot. So do egg plates with all the usual meats, plus special guest stars of hard-carved ham and Portuguese linguica sausage.
11 P St., South Boston, 617-464-1024, thegalleydiner.com.
Your coffee cup never stays empty at Liberty Diner, the kind of friendly, homey spot where servers are always attentive with the refills—you know, when they’re not delivering to your table waistband-busting servings of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Standouts on the menu, which is scrawled in white marker on boards above the bar, include the fluffy-as-air pancakes, breakfast sandwiches with spicy turkey sausage, and a western omelet served with a bucket-load of grits, just as the diner gods intended. The other key, though, is Liberty’s full bar, the place to get a Champagne-heavy mimosa in the morning or a round or two of beers with dinner.
1003 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617-442-9262, liberty-diner.business.site.
Mike’s City Diner
You’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite at this joint owned by Jay Hajj, a familiar face to fans of the Food Network. (Guy Fieri, you see, is a fan of Hajj.) Maybe you’re in the mood for the shredded-to-perfection duck confit hash, the cinnamon walnut waffles, or Mike’s food coma-inducing “Intensive Care” special: 3 eggs, a 10-ounce sirloin, toast, and home fries or grits. Whenever you can’t decide what you’re craving most, though, you can always turn to the Pilgrim sandwich, a full-on turkey dinner—with all the trimmings!—that’s big enough to hold you over until the next Thanksgiving blowout.
1714 Washington St., Boston, 617-267-9393, mikescitydiner.com.
One Family Diner
If you’re both ravenous and homesick for the Obama years, pop into One Family for the commander-in-chief-sized Obama Special, an affectionately named splay of one pancake, one piece of French toast, two eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, toast, grits, and home fries. There’s bipartisan appreciation, meanwhile, for the “family”-feeling vibe promised by the diner’s name—and indeed, those plates heaped with omelets, tuna melts, and pancakes with slightly crisped apples all taste like something Mom might whip up just for you. Lunch and dinner specials, meanwhile, add some Caribbean inspiration via salt fish, rich curry chicken heaped over rice, and sides of plantain.
260 Bowdoin St., Dorchester, 617-436-1577.
The creamy, perfect grits are reason enough to hit up this snug, Southern-style spot in Nubian Square, though you can’t go wrong with any of the streamlined breakfast offerings. Where other diners might offer an attention-addling book of a menu, Silver Slipper hones in on a few can’t-miss favorites, including breakfast plates of corned beef or salmon cakes with eggs, as well as pancakes, a few omelets, and lunch specials of curry goat and oxtails with rice. Along with a big appetite, bring cash—this spot doesn’t accept cards.
2387 Washington St, Roxbury, 617-442-4853, silver-slipper-restaurant.hub.biz.
South Street Diner
If your vision is a bit blurred from a night on the town, you probably need a coffee cup as giant as the mug-shaped sign that crowns this 24-hour landmark in the Leather District. Luckily, the java runs like water here, and it’s perfect for washing down the Boston crème pancakes, layered with Bavarian custard and drizzled with chocolate ganache. You’ll also find hearty hangover preventions (hopefully) in the wide-ranging menu of eggs benedict—hollandaise-soaked selections invoking everything from chili to lobster to portabella mushrooms—plus the gooey patty melt on grilled brioche and baskets of French fries that you can (and should) get doused in gravy.
178 Kneeland St., Boston, 617-350-0028, southstreetdiner.com.
Right about where Dorchester, Roxbury, South Boston, and the South End all meet, Victoria’s Diner has been a crowd-pleasing beacon for all-day breakfast since it started dishing out its behemoth portions in 1949. The family-run business rolls on today, serving sweet standouts like house-made banana bread French toast topped with fresh bananas, sliced almonds, and honey; as well as savory plates such as poutine and chicken pot pie that floods your fork with cream sauce once you dig past the flaky crust.
1024 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617-442-5965, victoriasdiner.com.