It’s 4am, do you know where your Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity breakfast is? Forget gospel brunches at Sylvia’s, the real reason to hoof it to Harlem is to chow down at the only IHOP in Manhattan, open 24 hours from Thursday til Sunday. Closest fixes: 2290 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Harlem; 73-01, 155-17, and 248-16 Northern Blvd., Queens; 2101 Ralph Ave., Brooklyn.
Ruby Tuesday might be considered the poor man’s Knickerbocker, but then again the Knick doesn’t have a 65-item salad bar and thirty varieties of burgers (who says bison and bacon don’t mix?). Closest fixes: 2454 Route 22 W, Union, NJ; take NJ Transit train to Newark and transfer to 94 bus. Driving Time: 35 mins.
1226 Old Country Rd, Westbury, NY. Take LIRR to Westbury, restaurant is a couple of blocks southwest. Car time: 45 mins.
The ice cream at Friendly’s doesn’t hold a candle to the olive oil gelato at Otto or the durian ice cream at Spice Market, but that’s beside the point. To visit Friendly’s is to revisit childhood birthdays, before menus described M&Ms as “cocoa nibs.” Closest fix: 683 Old Country Rd., Westbury, NY. Take LIRR to Westbury and catch a cab at the station. Car time: 49 mins.
Dairy Queen may not have the street cred of Mr. Softee, but DQ was the OG. You can celebrate the Blizzard’s 20th birthday just a few miles away. Closest fix: 6903 Kennedy Blvd., Bergen, NJ. Take the PATH to Journal Square and transfer to the 88 bus. Car time: 12 mins.
Make a fist with your hand. That’s the size of a Fatburger. Now splay your fingers out on a flat surface. That’s the size of a Kingburger. LA expats were definitely raising their firsts in celebration when Fatburger opened its Jersey City location. The burgers— topped with eggs, cheese, and chili upon request— aren’t as succulent as some others, but then again, you can’t play “Lump” on the mp3 jukebox at Burger Joint. Closest fix: 286 Washington St., Jersey City, NJ. Take the PATH to Exchange Pl. Car time: 14 mins.
The Ground Round
Birthday kids will remember this as the place where a clown blew balloons and eye-candy like railroad signs hung on the wall. After recent bankruptcy, Ground Round’s franchises have taken on a more grown-up look, but if nostalgia calls, there’s still steak fajitas and bottomless soda within city limits. Closest fix: 196-50 Northern Blvd., Flushing, Queens. Car time: 14 mins.
Brunch at Sarabeth’s is all well and good, but for some the scene is more uptown than “down home.” Given Cracker Barrel’s politics you won’t find them in Chelsea anytime soon. You’ll have to trek to Trenton for a nice tall glass of buttermilk to wash down specialties like turnip greens with cider vinegar, ham or steak biscuits, and kettle fried corn. Closest fix: 825 Marketplace Blvd., Trenton, NJ; take NJ Transit train and transfer to Mercer County bus. Car time: 72 mins.
Nevermind brunch, what about a good ol’fashioned hangry-man breakfast? We’re talking breakfasts so classic that they’re registered trademarks: like the Lumberjack Slam®. Although Denny’s even has a restaurant in Guam, their closest location to NYC is 25 miles away.Closest fix: 1286 St. Georges Ave., Avenel, NJ. Take NJ transit’s 115 bus from Port Authority. Car time: 45 mins.
Car times are from Times Square. Source: Yahoo Driving Directions.
PLUS: A WISH LIST
You’ll have to cross time zones to get to these chains, but if they ever open franchises in NYC, we’ll greet them with mouths wide open.
Think of Sonic as the Shake Shack without the lines— burgers too juicy to be fast food, thick chocolate cream pie shakes and peanut butter fudge malts, and 44-oz. slush drinks of every flavor under the sun (blue coconut, anyone?). Plus it’s all brought to your car by a girl on skates. Trust us when we say it’s worth renting a car and driving to Ohio or West Virginia where the nearest locations are—it might take less time than waiting in line in Madison Square Park.
Krystal is known as “the White Castle of the South”—their bite-sized steamed, oniony sliders are so good that Takeru Kobayashi once ate 69 of them in 8 minutes (granted, he was competing for $10,000…) Given that we have White Castle here in Manhattan (although not many— one on the Upper East Side on 103rd St near 1st Ave, one in Harlem at 7th Ave and 124th Street, and one at 36th St and 8th Ave) there’s really no reason to travel to the nearest location in Burlington, North Carolina, but we’ll welcome the day the K comes to NYC.
Sure, more and more places are offering LA-style burgers, but that doesn’t stop exiled La La-Landers from threatening to move back so they can sit under a palm tree like Ferdinand the Bull and sniff their In-N-Out burgers for all of eternity. After all, how many other fast food joints let you order off the menu using codes phrases like “animal style,” and got namechecked by Ice Cube back in the day?