Saturday, August 1, 2009

"Nothing Could Be Finer...."

....than a breakfast in a diner in the mo-o-o-r-ning. If you're like me, breakfast in a real diner is the way to start the weekend. I'm not talking about the chrome spaceships that pass for diners today, but the neighborhood places with the Greek owner and the breakfast specials. We are lucky in Staten Island with a number of such diners to choose from, although as each one gets old and then renovates, they open with fancy fixtures and higher prices. We had a legendary example of this American institution called the Victory Diner on Staten Island for many years. It was closed recently, and plans call for it to be re-opened, but I'm skeptical. Staten Island's Once-iconic Victory Diner

Another great Diner was the Market Diner on Manhattan's West Side. This was your basic, no-frills establishment whose only claim to fame was fast service and great food, things many of today's diners lack. For many years this was our go-to place after family visits to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. We would drag the kids out of bed, bundle them up and pile into Uncle Arthur's van, and stand in the cold watching the balloons go by. Over the years the parade got too crowded (see "How The Yuppies Spoiled Thanksgiving" View ) and sadly, the Market Diner closed.

Whenever we ended a date, it seems like no matter where we were, we would wind up at a diner on Sunrise Highway in Lynbrook that I thought was called the Sunrise Diner, but I can't find it listed anywhere except in Wantaugh, and I know it wasn't that far out on the Island. There is a Lynbrook Diner; maybe it was re-named. No matter, this was our after-date place to hang out. It was open all hours, and no matter that you had just eaten, there was always room for a cheeseburger platter. The movie "Diner" was an uncannily real recreation of this time in my life.

Don't ask me why, but when I was a young man, my buddies and I hung around airports for a time. That's how we found the Airline Diner, Astoria Blvd. and 70th Street in Astoria. Recognizable to moviegoers from its appearance in Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas", the Airline was built in 1952. It features classic chrome and pink booths, overhead fans, vintage Coke and gum machines and old signage. If you get the right seat, you can watch airplane after airplane landing at LaGuardia. After a night prowling LaGuardia Airport, sausage and eggs at the Airline was a must.

Great diners were a part of everybody's youth. Breakfast always included homefries (very well done please), big, fat sausages, not the sissy links they serve today, pancakes the size of Frisbees, and coffee that made your hair stand up. The waitresses were all named Flo and never got an order wrong. They always smiled wearily at your lame jokes that they'd heard a million times before, and re-filled your cup without being asked. Late night meant burgers, fries and Cokes or shakes. I'm sure my arteries would be much clearer today were it not for diners, but you know, it was damn well worth it.

LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

JP: 8/1/9


The Whiner said...

The Victory Diner is re-opening. Hmmm, won't be the same. And I remember going out late with my girlfriends in high school and downing the Hamburger Deluxe at whichever diner to which we were closest. Hamburger deluxe was $4.95 and included huge burger with onion, lettuce, tomato, plus fries AND onion rings. So for 6 bucks i could stuff myself and leave a buck in the tip pool. And mever gain a pound. Sigh, those days are long gone...

Jim Pantaleno said...

I remember it well. Guess where we just got back from....THE DINER!

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

TLW and I start every Sunday after mass at our diner. It is a must, and it is the one time I really look forward to. Especially after communion, when I'm hungry, I start thinking about those eggs and sausage.