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Chicagoist's Favorite Diners

By Staff in Food on Feb 27, 2013 7:20PM

While we are always happy to bring you news on Chicago's finest haute cuisine, we have to admit that two eggs over-easy, bacon, hashbrowns and coffee is the perfect meal. You won't find foie gras or fancy $5 cupcakes at these locales, but you will get the best cheap burgers and breakfasts. Pull up a chair, shut up and chow down.

The Diner Grill. Photo Credit: J. Knecht

I love Diner Grill, mostly because their cheeseburgers are so greasy and it's close to the Long Room and Ten Cat. You get a certificate — a certificate! — if you finish the Slinger, not that I've done it myself. The Slinger is one of the best hangover foods invented: Hash browns covered in grilled onions, topped with two cheeseburgers and two fried eggs (sunny-side up!) and then smothered in chili. They add two pieces of toast on the side, just in case you're not quite full. Plus it's housed inside a converted Evanston trolley car circa 1937, meaning it automatically feels cozy. There are no tables, just a counter facing the grill, so you can watch the cooks crank out simple, perfect burgers and breakfasts. It's open 24 hours, meaning the clientele varies between lunchtime blue-collar neighborhood regulars and late-night drunkards. — Melissa Wiley and Samantha Abernethy
The Diner Grill is at 1635 W. Irving Park Road.

Huddle House. Photo Credit: Katherine of Chicago
The Huddle House in Albany Park is a dingy remnant of the neighborhood's hillbilly past. Its wood-paneled walls, the menu posted above the grill, video poker machines, fluroescent lighting and orange bucket seats is a decor I like to call "bus terminal chic." Huddle House looks like the kind of place where runaways are last seen before they disappear permanently. At least they get to vanish on a full stomach on some of the best no-frills biscuits and gravy in Chicago. Surprisingly, Huddle House also has one of the best burritos in Albany Park, although I will admit that my drunken 3 a.m. self may be remembering this wrong. Huddle House is worth a visit, regardless of your state of inebriation. — Chuck Sudo
Huddle House is at 4748 N. Kimball Avenue.

A damn good egg salad sandwich and dozens of other tasty diner staples make Stella's Diner one of the best diners in town, and personable waitstaff make eating there even more inviting. The vanilla malts are also delicious. And the prices are actually worthy of a diner too: $20 can easily cover dinner for two. — Rob Christopher
Stella's Diner is at 3042 N. Broadway St.

Belmont Snack Shop in Avondale is conveniently located between the Belmont Blue Line and two of the city's best late-night haunts Alice's and Late Bar. That makes it the perfect spot to sop up the liquor before you stumble to the train. We promise it tastes just as good when you're sober, though. Belly up to the counter and watch the cook whip up simple meals in record time. Seriously, they're fast. We recommend the $3.99 biscuits and gravy, the fresh-cut fries, basic breakfasts and the surprisingly delicious cup of black coffee. — Samantha Abernethy
Belmont Snack Shop is at 3407 W. Belmont Ave.

Huck Finn's Donut Delight. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Huck Finn's has earned the derisive nickname "Fuck Him" from South Siders looking for something to absorb the previous night's regrets for years. Kids and adults alike light up at the "donut delight" dessert: A giant doughnut topped with whipped cream and your choice of ice cream. The food here is surprisingly good, especially the burgers and open-face hot sandwiches, but anything tastes better covered in gravy and mashed potatoes. Huck Finn's omelets are bursting with meats, vegetables and cheeses, which makes up for the lack of skillets. — Chuck Sudo
Huck Finn's has three locations: 3414 S. Archer Avenue in Chicago, 6650 S. Pulaski Road in Chicago and 10501 S. Cicero Avenue in Oak Lawn.

Daley's Restaurant in Woodlawn is not only one of Chicago's best diners, it's one of the city's oldest restaurants, dating back to before the World's Columbian Exposition. Owned by the same family for 95 years, Daley's has served up some of the city's best soul food for a clientele ranging from neighborhood regulars to dignitaries like the late Mayor Harold Washington and entertainers during the Golden Age of Bronzeville. High counters frame each end of the dining area, which is packed with tables and seating, but rather comfortably. The walls not adorned with celebrity photos are tastefully painted, with darker wood accents and molding at chair height. The catfish platter comes teeming with breaded, deep-fried filets, fries and slaw. Chicken gumbo is also a must-order, as is chicken smothered in gravy and a delicious patty melt. Almost all of the menu items are cooked in butter or lard, so stay away from the salt shaker and spice your meal with liberal splashes of pepper vinegar. — Chuck Sudo
Daley's Restaurant is at 809 East 63rd Street.

Cozy Corner Diner & Pancake House. Photo Credit: BartShore

Cozy Corner Diner & Pancake House is probably the next best thing to waking up to the smell of scrambled eggs and bacon in the comfort of your own home. No reservations, straightforward menu, and a bustling atmosphere makes this spot one of the best diners in Chicago. It's also in a very convenient location off the California Blue Line stop and close to both California and Milwaukee buses. I am a fan of the more straight-forward breakfast items like pancakes (fluffy!) and hash browns (crispy!) here, but their biscuits and gravy is noteworthy as well. If you find yourself craving hearty breakfast food, I suggest you make your way down to Cozy Corner and sit at the counter. — Tiffany Kwak
Cozy Corner is at 2294 N. Milwaukee Ave. and at 4356 W. Diversey Ave.

The Palace Grill's perfect patty melt. Photo Credit: Amy Cavanaugh
I learned about the Palace Grill in the West Loop from Big Star chef Justin Large, who directed me toward the patty melt. He said it was the best in the city, and he's correct—this sandwich is insanely good. But it's not just the food. The restaurant has been open since the '30s, everyone's friendly, it has lots of Blackhawks memorabilia and is a popular spot to go after games. And for those of us who don't watch hockey, that's why there are patty melts. — Amy Cavanaugh
The Palace Grill is at 1408 W. Madison St.

Hyde Parkers and University of Chicago students have a love/hate relationship with Valois. It's one of the few diners of note in Hyde Park that takes its motto literally: "See Your Food." Much like Manny's Deli, Valois is cafeteria-style food. You take a tray, slide it down and call for your order, then pay at the register at the end. The food is healthy in the "tastes amazing" definition, not the "good for your heart" variety. The Greek chicken here is exactly the kind of overseasoned delight one would expect in other diners across the country. Sandwiches here are served plain and open-faced, smothered in gravy, breakfast is served until 4 p.m., and you can dine surrounded by walls painted with Hyde Park landmarks. — Chuck Sudo
Valois Restaurant is at 1518 E. 53rd Street.

Photo Credit: Chuck Sudo

Steak N' Egger's motto is "We doze but never close" and, when they doze, it takes a while for them to clear the fog. The venerable Pilsen greasy spoon is probably more revered for its 24/7 operation than its food, but no one complains when shoving giant forkfuls of hash browns in their mouths at 3 a.m. The counter here has a few decadesof embedded fryer grease on it, the waitresses are young and perky and the fry cooks have never gotten my orders right. What the food here lacks, however, is mitigated by heaping portions that would choke a fat man trapped in his house. — Chuck Sudo
Steak N' Egger is at 1147 W. Cermak Road.

Alexander's is Greek. Well, Alexander, the owner and oftentimes your server is Greek. This friendly, family-run neighborhood diner can make you anything you want. We recommend sticking to breakfast here. They offer original skillets and omelets, or get the kayana, a tasty scramble of eggs, onions, tomatoes and feta. It's simple and perfect. Every dish comes with an orange slice on the side, but get yourself some fresh-squeezed OJ, too. Whatever you order, be sure to wash it down with a slice of pie. Check the countertop displays for the daily offerings. — Samantha Abernethy
Alexander's is at 6158 N. Clark St.

I grew up in Diner Central, aka South Jersey. Most of my teenage years were spent sitting in diners, shrouded in clouds of my friends' cigarette smoke, nursing cups of coffee until scowling waitresses gave us the ultimatum to get some grub or get out. For me, diners are the place to be either late morning, nursing a hangover, or late night, preventing one. Diners are supposed to be open late, and the truest of them are open 24 hours a day. That's why I heartily endorse New Archview in McKinley Park. It's open all day and night, so customers can rub elbows with insomniacs, cops, third shifters, and teenagers who can't hang out in bars yet. In addition to classic diner fare (they make a great Monte Cristo!), they also feature menu items that are a nod to the diner's Greek owners. Nestle up in a vinyl-clad booth, get the lemon- and garlicky Athenian chicken or a gyros skillet. There's even counter seating if you want some banter with your gravy sandwich. Bonus points for the bizarro liquor selection. White Russians and mashed potatoes? Welcome to the South Side. — Erin Drain
New Archview Restaurant is at 3480 S. Archer Ave.