Passing the gleaming prefab husks of my favorite Manhattan diners these days brings a pang. The exaggerated nostalgia of neon signs and swooping stainless steel, of sprawling, manic menus, is now a sort of memorial to itself. I can practically smell the singed, watery coffee as I wander by. But until our favorite haunts return to their timeless, 24-hour routine, we can take advantage of their absence to make some diner classics better—let’s face it—than we could ever find on a foldout menu.
That brings us to one of the great pillars of diner fare—home fries. At their best, home fries are a perfect union of crisped potatoes, browned onions, and grilled peppers. They should be ordered extra crispy, to avoid the tragedy of the steamed, crunchy potato, and should always be topped with a dash or two of hot sauce. We can argue knife skills and varietals—my ideal home fries involve quartered new potatoes, whereas my brother likes a diced russet—but we can all agree that, alongside a diner omelet, with a cup of weak coffee and some good company, this is the perfect breakfast food. And until I can order them at my favorite diners again, I’ll be making them at home.