*Review reposted from Diners New York
A Chinatown Diner With A Sweet Secret
Crouched on a crowded sidestreet in Chinatown, shaded by the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, you’ll find a compact little diner with a powerhouse staff serving classic American Breakfast food with a local neighborhood twist to hip Manhattanites and Chinatown natives alike.
Welcome to the Golden Diner.
I visited the Golden Diner this past weekend after a month or so of having it on my list. This is one of the more highly-rated places I discovered while building my archives, and I was excited to try it out, as it’s also the only diner I could find—at least online—located in Chinatown.
Coming in, I was quickly seated at the counter. This is a small space—you could walk from end to end in about ten seconds, though they make the absolute most of it. Groups of tables and chairs are abutted in a lone breakfast nook, and up alongside a long and wide main front window. Patrons discuss the events of their lives, and the plans for their ongoing weekend, in the warm orange light of overhead Tiffany lamps, mosaic shades decorated with roses.
At the counter, servers pass orders to the chefs, who in turn bark those orders—in a friendly, but precise and serious tone—to the rest of the staff. All the cooking is done right in front of you, and more than any other place I’ve been, I felt like I was practically in a real kitchen as the cooks worked in a television flow of manning the grill, chopping ingredients, plating dishes, replying “Yes, chef!” to every question posed, every demand made, every comment passed on under the breath. The Golden Diner, for the time I was there, really was like a fictional, scrappy big city diner come to life—New York’s very own The Bear.
And much like The Bear, I’m partial to believing that somehow the Golden Diner is currently being run by a harried, chain-smoking prodigal son or daughter, a truly divine and common figure of New York breakfast fare, because my meal absolutely murdered.
• The Chinese Egg & Cheese Sando, with avocado and sausage.
• Home fries.
• A piece of green tea cake.
This food was fantastic. The Sando is essentially a breakfast sandwich, served on a milk roll—think a sort of buttery, flaky-but-still-solid kind of crescent roll. Its eggs were gooey, dripping with cheese, and they practically melted in my mouth as I ate. The avocado was fresh and brought a solid flavor to the meal, while the sausage provided a real nice, meaty base. As a side, the home fries were crisp on the outside, soft and warm on the inside—basically little breakfast potato bites, a somewhat simple, but ultimately satisfying sidecar.
Here’s the thing, though—I was absolutely, completely, one hundred percent blown away by the very end of the meal. The green tea cake.
If you go to any diner in the city, right now, please go to the Golden Diner, just for this green tea cake. It is one of the single best dishes I’ve ever had at any diner, not just in the city, but anywhere I’ve been, in my life, and I really, truly, sincerely mean that.
This cake was lush, fluffy, creamy, and still solid in the middle—it had real weight to it. The top was a perfectly baked, flaky crumble, not brittle in the slightest, and seasoned with a loving dash of powdered sugar. Flavor-wise, it was like all the best parts of green tea and chocolate, something so oddly light and colorful, with a rich sweetness and a beautiful clash of textures to it all that made every bite worth the visit.
That green tea cake is God’s gift to Chinatown, and the world. It makes the Golden Diner a heavensent sanctuary of local cuisine, and I will defend it with ardent zeal until the day I die. May we all, one day, be so lucky as to have that be the day we try the Golden Diner green tea cake for the first time.
I think this might be my new favorite diner in the city. It feels like a fictional place, like somewhere that shouldn’t exist, that is so colorful in a quiet way, and powerfully gifted in what it does, that it belongs in a timeless story. Maybe, one day, it might just find its way into one.
I highly, highly, highly recommend the Golden Diner for anyone visiting the city. Step inside, have a hearty, stylish meal, a piece of heavenly cake, and live for a moment inside an episode of one of New York’s best living shows.