Burger One | 1150 Lexington Ave. (bet. 79th & 80th Sts.) | 212.737.0095 | on MenuPages

DINERS IN NEW YORK CITY use to be the bastions of cheap, well-cooked food. Not so much anymore. And as every year I live on the Upper East Side passes, I am shocked by the amount I'm paying to have a ham & cheese omelet with toast and black & white shake delivered to me on hungover mornings, at times costing me over twenty bucks with tip.

So I became as relieved and curious as I was skeptical when a neighbor informed me of a hole-in-the-wall eatery called Burger One that served decent and cheap breakfast, as well as some well-reviewed burgers. She knew I'd be interested enough to want to give it a visit, and although we had planned to go there together for lunch today, having inexplicably woken up at 5 in the morning, I was too hungry by about 7:30 to not decide to preemptively sample some of their dishes at home.

I called and ordered the Corned Beef Hash & Eggs, and a Short Stack of pancakes, all of which arrived hot and within minutes.

Everything had great flavor—especially the corned beef hash, which possessed the requisite amount of crispy, fried edges—and all for about 4 dollars less than an equivalent order from Yorkville's staple diner and my longtime go-to, The Viand. The portions were so more than adequate that I couldn't even finish the whole meal, as I stored the remainder in the fridge and hoped I have saved enough room for lunch.

Collecting my neighbor for lunch a few hours later, I informed her that I had already tried breakfast and now looked forward to trying Burger One's other fare. I have mentioned all of the little spaces that were serving exceptional food down on the Lower East Side; this space on Lexington between 79th and 80th was so inconspicuous it would have been too easy to walk past it were it not for this sign sticking several feet from the building under which it stood.

Gina was psyched to try the burger, having heard from a friend and reading the reviews of how good it was. That left the Mexican part of the menu for me, as I happily ordered the two soft tortilla tacos with rice and beans.

This is a small little miracle of a place—with one man working the grill, one on the fryer, one taking orders and packing to-go containers, and a young girl dealing with the money—producing stellar chow so efficiently and in a space one-third the size of my shoebox studio.

As Gina and I enjoyed our respective repasts at the counter—amount to less than 20 bucks including her soda and my chocolate egg cream—new customers started streaming in at a steady clip, seemingly regulars who each seemed to have a favorite—or several—from its large menu that offers hot and cold sandwiches, wraps, and entrées such as a Gyro Platter, Onion Steak, and Fried Chicken.

That kind of rabid loyalty, along with the food I got to enjoy myself today, may have made Burger One my first new go-to diner on the Upper East Side in about 15 years.

Sorry, Viand (and Big Nick's, and Gracie's...), you lose...!

Bun Apple Tea!


Burger One on Urbanspoon

Burger One | 1150 Lexington Ave. (bet. 79th & 80th Sts.) | 212.737.0095 | on MenuPages