Because it’s close to where I live and has an exhaustive menu with something for everyone at almost any hour of the day, I eat at Neil’s relatively often. Basically Neil’s is a coffee shop with gruff but usually kindly waiters wrapped in traditional white aprons over black pants. Want spanakopita? Check. Taking kids to breakfast? The pancakes are just what they (and you) envision, as is accompanying bacon, ham or sausage. The burgers are good and the corned beef hash with a poached egg atop is right out of the old world playbook, as it should be. If you are an omelet fan, you can have yours with mushrooms, broccoli, feta cheese and spinach, ham or many other varieties. Those pancakes, or waffles if that’s your preference, can be maple walnut, fresh banana, or strawberry served with eggs if you are feeding Paul Bunyan or without.
At lunch there are plenty of salads with standard lettuce and accompaniments. The Greek salad is fine although the Salad Nicoise is basic coffee shop meaning it’s perfectly edible but most of the year the tomatoes are standard offer and the stringbeans mediocre. Sandwiches—regular size or triple deckers-- come on typical coffee shop bread and sometimes arrive too cold in which case you can ask the waiter to warm it a little and he might. The turkey club with all white meat and bacon requires stretching your mouth to get a bite in but, (unless the turkey is just out of the fridge and too cold to taste), it’s delicious. Burgers come topped with any ingredient you can think of from Swiss or blue cheese to a low-cal arrangement served with cottage cheese. Neil’s entrees run to standby’s including meatloaf, open-faced sandwiches like hot roast or corned beef and Greek specialties including a gyro and chicken souvlaki platter with fries.
Basically Neil’s is an old world coffee shop with a neon sign outside and an inside ambiance that feels locked in a time warp down to faded photos of celebs of yesteryear. The place attracts those who live in the ‘hood, Hunter students and faculty and people promenading Lexington Avenue when hunger strikes. At most meals, there are lots of yummy mummies with tots in tow as well as octogenarians and every age in between. Portions are large, prices reasonable given the UES location and service fast, sometimes almost too much so. However, I’ve lingered sometimes and, unless the place was jammed, gotten away with it. The front of Neil’s has a counter with stools; behind are booths and tables. Spaces are tight which is understandable given the price of real estate in the area but looking at it more positively, it could be described as cozy. For decent, totally basic food whenever the food urge hits, Neil’s does the job.