Viand Coffee Shop: The High Rent Diner

The diner is a rightly beloved cultural institution, and yet it remains a curious one. In one sense they all resemble one another–you could order in any diner without referring to a menu. And yet they also reflect their owners and neighborhoods–they may have an unexpected specialty or insist on serving something only one way. (We won’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. It’s near Barneys and Hermes, not the exact provenance of a fried eggs and bacon–unless you’re ordering room service at The Pierre. The Viand is narrow–the booths are only one person wide–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 it’s not always an overly smart crowd, you come across tourists, office workers, shopping Europeans. It’s local and international at the same time, which is to say, it’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 go–no complaints with a turkey on rye. The staff is easy going, knowing in just the right way–they possess the mild bemusement of those who’ve seen it all before, and you suspect they probably have.

Words by David Coggins | Photos by Foster Huntington.


Comments on “Viand Coffee Shop: The High Rent Diner

    The Trad on June 30, 2011 11:37 AM:

    Nice shooting, Foster. I’ve always wanted to try this place. If it sucks, you owe me lunch, Coggins. Or at least a bottle of Bushmills.

    Daniel Heard on June 30, 2011 11:37 AM:

    Great photos. Particularly love how well the first shows off terrific sample of New York, with prep school kids, power suits, and high heels out in force.

    (and hash browns are clearly superior)

    Cary Randolph on June 30, 2011 11:45 AM:

    Amazing — I was just there for lunch yesterday. Must be a favorite of RL employees as I recognized at least three others. Also, epic cheeseburgers. Nice shots, Foster.

    JES on June 30, 2011 12:15 PM:

    I love the Viand and its uptown sister on Madison and 78th. Classic old NY.

    MC on June 30, 2011 12:31 PM:

    Grew up going to Viand… love this post!

    Charlotte K on June 30, 2011 12:38 PM:

    The Viand (where I have eaten many times) is not a diner, but rather a coffee shop, a NYC institution that is going the way of the dodo, although not so much on the Upper East Side.

    Cody Hammond on June 30, 2011 1:09 PM:

    Many a coffee have I had in Ol Viand, with that grumpy Greek telling me the place was for paying customers! Always an interesting crowd with Pierre from Loro Piana or John Kozlowski from Polo having their daily meals…

    Jennifer on June 30, 2011 2:37 PM:

    Looks fantastic. Must remember to try it out!

    DS on June 30, 2011 4:49 PM:

    Coffee shops a dying breed? There’s got to be like a million Starbucks in the city. I’ve been there once.

    Clay Kaintock on June 30, 2011 11:55 PM:

    Try the turkey burger. Or the fresh turkey-on view carving. Order rye toast and and experience coffeshopish-“Whiskey down!”

    Logan on July 1, 2011 12:07 AM:

    I believe we can make a distinction between Starbucks and the coffee shops to which Charlotte K was referring.

    JES on July 1, 2011 10:08 AM:

    Coffee Shops: run by Greeks (usually, like diners, their suburban tri-state area equivalent), offering food and often booze. The mainstay of NYers who can’t or choose not to cook in their apartments or rooms, office workers, and devotees of having breakfast at any time of the day or night. There are the moral equivalents all over the country.

    Starbucks: an abomination, home of the overly roasted over-priced coffee and too sweet, stale baked goods. Of the world of malls and preferred by those who really shouldn’t be here (why the heck did you move to NY if you want to live like you live in Anywhere-USA?).

    TMH on July 1, 2011 10:53 AM:

    We lived in the Uptown Viand. A long long
    time ago

    Bogdan on July 1, 2011 11:17 AM:

    You have to go to Lansky`s . Hands down one of those few gems left in the city .

    The Descriptionist on July 1, 2011 2:27 PM:

    Ok. No. I’ve eaten there, and always come out smelling like fried food. There is no romance there.

    That having been said, my fave dive diner, Andrews (on 38th between 7th and 8th) just closed. Now that was a diner. Same old menu, same dated decor, but gorgeous waitresses of eastern European origin.

    Viand is just 10 booths in a hallway.

    Michael Williams on July 1, 2011 2:34 PM:

    There are a few different Andrews coffee shops in the Garment Center. I don’t find any of them particularly amazing. Eisenberg’s is my all time favorite.

    TMH on July 1, 2011 2:50 PM:

    There’s a coffee shop on Lex in the high 30’s that
    literally put me in the hospital. Food poisoning.
    Have not had tuna in 5 years. Fact.

    Marielle on July 1, 2011 4:28 PM:

    I have no love for Andrews or Viand, but for many years I ate at least once a day at The Chelsea Square Diner. When Luis died, I went to his funeral and saw a number of regulars there including Jim Carroll, another breakfast regular. I went stopped in a couple weeks ago and – sigh – I don’t know the old place anymore. This is what makes life in NY a little heartbreaking. Paris is better. Nothing ever changes much.

    Yeil Noung on July 1, 2011 5:07 PM:

    Its all about 3 Guys…Always has – always will be…

    75th & Madison.

    Tim on July 1, 2011 7:25 PM:

    Great choice, Michael. I live in London, but I go to the Viand whenever I’m in NY (which isn’t often enough). Clay is right, you have to try the turkey burger. And I’d also agree with Cody that charm is not foremost among their priorities. I once heard a customer ask, quite politely: ‘The apple pie – does it come with anything?’ The server snapped back: ‘Yeah, it comes with a BMW, whaddya think?’ Then, witheringly: ‘No, ‘course it don’t come with anything.’ The customer ordered it anyway. Maybe I’ve watched too many movies, but that’s exactly the kind of exchange I want to overhear when I’m eating in a new York coffee shop. Long live the Viand.

    DmC on July 1, 2011 7:42 PM:

    Pretty sure the Starbucks guy is joking. Doesn’t everyone prefer to smell like fried food?

    Stu Hodgkiss on July 2, 2011 6:39 AM:

    Added to my places to go next time I hit NYC

    Smith&Ratliff on July 2, 2011 4:06 PM:

    Walked here many nights from The Whitney for coffee. A true NY experience.

    The Simple Connoisseur on July 4, 2011 2:21 PM:

    Thanks gentlemen. All around great post. As a photographer, I need to give some extra love to Foster…great details buddy.

    R J Keefe on July 4, 2011 11:39 PM:

    When I looked out the window of my father’s suite at the Carlton House, across the street, it never occurred to me that he’d be taking me to the coffee shop across the street for dinner. I had something more like Laurent in mind (this was the late 70s). For the past decade, in a different life, my wife and I have had Saturday breakfast at the Viand at 86th Street. I’ve always wondered if it’s related to the Biggest Culinary Disappointment I have ever experienced.

    Kenneth G on July 5, 2011 11:02 AM:

    About to head to NYC for the first time in 10 years. Will be there all next week training with a new company. Last time I was in NYC I was young and really broke. Any advice on a breakfast spot, and a bar to wind down at after training? I will be around Park and 55th and would need spots close to there? Feel free to email me kenglanton at gmail dot com.
    Thanks in advance for the suggestions.

    mat buckets on July 5, 2011 2:43 PM:

    strong hair

    James Delaney on July 6, 2011 2:40 PM:

    This post is missing a mention of the iconic Heinz Ketchup cap, though the photo does represent.

    Helium on July 8, 2011 9:06 AM:

    Well, that was a stretch.

    Akim on July 12, 2011 3:06 PM:

    Photos are good and they make the place better than it is! I work down the street from here and I DO NOT see the fascination with this particular diner. The service is great but it always comes down to the food. The food is marginal at best. I guess its better than having a high-end retail shop going up in its place.

    Dresden on July 14, 2011 2:27 PM:

    Minneapolis has a great local/sustainable scene, does New York City?

    It’s great to be supporting local farmers and eating non-pesticide produced foods. It harkens back to an age that has been lost post WWII in America.


Comments are closed.