In December, M’s parents flew out from England to visit us for the first time since our move to NYC. We wanted to knock out some touristy things while they were in town so we made this big spreadsheet full of places to see, activities to do and food to eat. One of the places that checked all three boxes was Ellen’s Stardust Diner in Times Square.
The diner itself is well known for dishing up delicious American fare while serenading guests with songs ranging from broadway classics to new and popular songs on the radio. The only thing that’s kept us from going sooner is the enormous line that is guaranteed to be out the door and around the block almost every single day, rain or shine. This in itself should tell people just how fun of an experience is awaiting them inside. But in case it isn’t convincing enough, let me tell you about our experience!
We got to the diner pretty early and were planning to do a late breakfast. It was absolutely freezing outside and the line was wrapped around the building to the end of the block. Initially we thought we’d get there and beat the crowd but seeing as we’d likely be waiting in line for the hour, we were having some doubts about whether or not it was worth it to stay in line. We bundled up tight and started timing it, seeing how quickly we were moving every 15 minutes! Luckily M’s aunt and uncle who were also in town, stopped by the line to chat with us for a few minutes while we were waiting and it really helped pass the time! We had waited about an hour when we were almost to the door and from there things started really slowing down.
The diner was shifting from breakfast to lunch and the main floor was completely full, so there would be an extended bit of waiting while they were opening and prepping the downstairs area for guests. At this point the cold was becoming unbearable, but we wanted to wait it out considering how long we’d already been in line. When they opened the downstairs area it was a swarm of people cutting the line and flying down the stairs. The lower area was the same experience just without the natural light the upstairs floor had, because there were no windows. It was definitely more intimate of a setting and felt more closed off and like the singers were singing directly to us because there were less people than the main floor.
There were different waiters for different sections of the floor (as with most restaurants), but our waiters were taking orders while singing concert style. Some even did duets and danced around the room. All of the wait staff at Ellen’s have dreams of singing/acting on Broadway and came to sing at this diner in hopes of being recognized. Also, all of the money that goes into the tip jar, helps to fund local singing and acting courses for them. So that’s a fun touch!
It was such an amazing and fun experience watching them perform. One waiter was singing a song while simultaneously typing 5 orders into the register, never missing a beat! That was pretty impressive to watch. Another melted my heart by singing “A Whole New World” from Disney’s Aladdin- and not only nailing the Aladdin parts but actively switching back and forth in a duet fashion between Aladdin AND Jasmine’s voices! Talk about a great show.
The food was great too! We were bummed that we’d missed the breakfast menu but it was still really great food. I had a breakfast burger with a fried egg and bacon sided with—of course— fries!
Overall, I definitely think if you’re willing to brave the line, you’ll enjoy the fun experience of Ellen’s and make a unique NYC memory!