The diner is a rightly beloved cultural institution, and yet it remains a curious one. In one sense they all resemble one anotherâ€”you could order in any diner without referring to a menu. And yet they also reflect their owners and neighborhoodsâ€”they may have an unexpected specialty or insist on serving something only one way. (We wonâ€™t get into the hash browns v. home fries debate at the moment, though it is a rich one.)
Consider the Viand, on Madison Avenue and 61st Street. Itâ€™s near Barneys and Hermes, not the exact provenance of a fried eggs and baconâ€”unless youâ€™re ordering room service at The Pierre. The Viand is narrowâ€”the booths are only one person wideâ€”and nearly always crowded with one of the more unusual cross-sections of diners in the city. You may sit at the counter next to a high-powered lawyer or a woman who would typically lunch in a far tonier setting. But itâ€™s not always an overly smart crowd, you come across tourists, office workers, shopping Europeans. Itâ€™s local and international at the same time, which is to say, itâ€™s a uniquely New York institution.
The Viand roasts their own turkeys right there and reportedly go through about 8 a day. Staying close to the bird is probably the right way to goâ€”no complaints with a turkey on rye. The staff is easy going, knowing in just the right wayâ€”they possess the mild bemusement of those whoâ€™ve seen it all before, and you suspect they probably have.