Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to a shiny new "diner," and the superior classic diner across the street.


The slightly-upscale diner trend is totally fine by me—you know, the "diners" serving up familiar favorites made with skill and top quality ingredients that, even if more expensive than the classic old school diners, are still cheaper than most regular table-service restaurants. When it works, it's great, as at the surprising Soho Diner, open 24 hours inside a boutique hotel on West Broadway, and at Sam Yoo's Golden Diner, one of my favorite new restaurants in the city. I will never not root for these things.

Rosalu Diner, in Clinton Hill right across from Pratt, is the latest entry into the field. The chef here is Matthew Hamilton, who cooked at Prune in the early years, then ran the underrated, long-since-closed Belcourt, as well as Fort Greene favorite Lulu and Po (also now closed). Hamilton's partner in this venture is Gemma Redwood, of the popular nearby coffee shops/cafes Bittersweet and Sit & Wonder.

Rosalu takes over the same spot that held the Clinton Hill Diner for about nine years, and the Pratt Coffee Shop before that, but Hamilton and Redwood have gut-renovated the space. It looks like a diner, with tables set with classic diner accouterments. And there's seating for about 50 at vinyl booths, wooden chairs, linoleum tables, and stools along the counter and facing the window peering out at Pratt.

Meanwhile, as I was leaving a recent brunch at Rosula I realized that Mike's Coffee Shop was right across Dekalb Avenue on the corner, where it's been for over 65 years. Mike himself is long gone but Jimmy Velaoros and his brother and another partner have been holding it down for at least 25 years, and every time I've been there, they've been there. The place is still bustling on a Sunday late morning, it looks the same as ever (the framed Daily News review is from 1986), and if you're in the mood to sit in a diner, you will not be disappointed by the experience here. Below, we're going to dive into both: the shiny new kid on the block, and the authentic mainstay.

Rosalu Diner

Scott Lynch / Gothamist


Rosalu Diner's Hamilton is a talented chef, so I'm not sure what's going on here, but it feels like there needs to be more love back there in the kitchen. Love for the food, as well as love for the customers. For my brunch one recent Saturday, I don't even Hamilton he was there, which is maybe why the French Toast was kind of sad. Two slices of Orwashers, six pieces of raw banana, a meager puddle of syrup, poured in the kitchen. I mean for twelve bucks at least caramelize that fruit? The Classic Breakfast was competent but almost as stingy—just one slice of Taylor Ham? This one was saved by the best thing I ate at either meal here, some crackling Hash Browns, the patty type that you rarely see, and is far superior to all other versions.

Lunch also was a puzzle at Rosalu (it's only breakfast, all-day brunch, and lunch for now; they'll be doing dinner once they get the liquor license). The Classic Cheeseburger was ok, prepared smash-style with basic toppings; however, my requested bacon didn't make it into the stack. I declined to have it ushered over "on the side," but was still charged for it. Not a big deal, but I was literally the only customer in the place, so the sloppiness was odd. And the proportions were all off on my Rueben, which was more like a sauerkraut sandwich. For your carby side: the Fries are better than the Potato Salad.

Meanwhile at Mike's Diner I felt like everyone in the whole place cared about my meal. The servers, the owners, the runners, all fully focused on the customers, while still laughing and having fun. The three pieces of French Toast came with four slices of crisp bacon, all the syrup I wanted, an unexpected blob of cream cheese on the side for spreading, and a glass of orange juice. None of it was the absolute best I've ever had, but when you order French Toast at a diner, you want it to be like this. Same with my Two Eggs, which also came with a glass of OJ, a mound of decent potatoes (ask for hot sauce), and two slices of rye toast with, of course, grape jelly. The Sausage is extra, but you get two fat links, sliced vertically for maximum char and still plenty juicy.

Mike's Diner

Scott Lynch / Gothamist


Rosalu has an appealing menu of diner classics, and the space is comfortable and bright, but it's been open since November so at this point it shouldn't feel so haphazard. Mike's is Mike's. Do you like coffee shops/lunch counters/classic diners? Then you should go here.

Rosalu is located at 274 Hall Street in Clinton Hill, just north of Dekalb Ave, and is currently open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (374-725-4423; rosaludiner.com)

Mike's Coffee Shop is located at 328 Dekalb Avenue, at the corner of Hall Street, and is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on the weekends from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. (718-857-1462)