Are New York City Diners a Dying Breed?

Are New York City Diners a Dying Breed?

Much has been written over the past several years about the extinction of what was once a city staple: the greasy-spoon diners and unassuming luncheonettes of yore. It’s true. So many of the idiosyncratic places that used to form the fabric of New York City have been replaced with more stylish, homogeneous versions of themselves. The NYC diner isn’t completely dead, but its heyday has seemingly come and gone.

Recent closures include Chinatown’s nearly 70-year-old The Cup and Saucer, the Lyric Diner in Gramercy, the 40-year-old Del Rio in Brooklyn, the Village’s Joe Jr., the 53-year-old Market Diner in Hell’s Kitchen and, of course, the much maligned closure of Broadway’s 34-year-old Cafe Edison, an absolute institution in the heart of the Theater District.

Diners have been upended for a variety of reasons, usually some combination of lower receipts, higher rent, and competition from ubiquitous chain eateries. Those factors, plus the reality that a new generation of college-educated professionals is proving reluctant to run family businesses that involve long, hard hours and slim margins, are converging in what has felt like a massive diner die-off.

It’s no wonder that city staples have been replaced by glossy alternatives like Pret a Manger and Le Pain Quotidien. In fact, a recent Crain’s article said that while the city had over 1,000 diners and coffee shops 20 years ago, today that number has been whittled down to fewer than 400.

And, while many New Yorkers are lamenting the loss of their favorite spots for affordable comfort food, overall, the population’s tastes have changed. Some diners have struggled to keep pace by switching to upscale ingredients or replacing meat-heavy dishes with vegan and vegetarian options. Champ’s Diner in Brooklyn specializes in vegan fare. The Empire Diner in Chelsea offers upmarket menu items like tuna “poke” bowls, beef carpaccio and antibiotic-free chicken. Some might argue that menu items in the $30-range go against the spirit of the diner, while others are thankful for the cozy, retro atmosphere and the ingenuity.

Thankfully, there are still some old-time diners that grace our great city. More of them tend to be located in the outer boroughs rather than Manhattan, but there are diners to be found in either case. Favorites include the appropriately named Manhattan Diner, Broadway Restaurant, Comfort Diner, Bel Aire Diner, and the Neptune Diner.

For most of us, the days of walking a few blocks to get to our neighborhood diner, a place chock-full of friendly and familiar faces, may be over. But that doesn’t mean that the experience is lost entirely. If we’re willing to travel a little farther and perhaps endure a little anonymity, we can still bask in the warmth and comfort of eating scrambled eggs on a vinyl seat, surrounded by chrome and Formica.

Hopefully, the high-profile closures have generated enough interest to convince a large customer base to patronize our remaining local treasures. Perhaps NYC’s remaining diners can survive against the odds, pouring coffee and grilling burgers in perpetuity.

Looking for a different type of NYC eating experience? Read about ethnic food enclaves in Brooklyn and the Bronx, or satisfy your sweet tooth at one of our most instragrammable dessert spots.

The Most Instagrammable Dessert Spots in NYC

The Most Instagrammable Dessert Spots in NYC

 

If there’s one thing about New Yorkers, we love to stay connected, whether that’s by subway or through the internet. Plenty of dessert spots have taken notice of this, and offer up some incredible fare that seems custom made to be shared online with friends, family, and followers. These are a few NYC locales where you’ll find some of the most picturesque sweet treats anywhere.

 

Serendipity 3

Perhaps the granddaddy of all instagrammable desserts, the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate at this Upper East Side cafe is a New York icon. A favorite haunt of Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, and a pre-fame Andy Warhol, this spot is a classic eatery with timeless treats to satisfy even the pickiest social butterfly. While Serendipity is also known for their headline-grabbing offerings like the $1,000 Golden Opulence Sundae, the classic “Frrrozen” delight is how they’ve made their name. Get yourself a reservation and prepare to wait, because a treat this good is always worth it.

 

Brooklyn Farmacy

The treats aren’t the only thing that’s Insta-worthy at this refurbished apothecary in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood. The building carries tons of old-fashioned charm with a delicious blend of classic treats and a retro aesthetic. Try a classic Brooklyn chocolate egg cream or the pineapple upside-down cake, which comes served on a bed of ice cream and fresh pineapples! But take your pic quickly, you’ll want to dig in ASAP.

 

Dominique Ansel

Never again will New Yorkers have to choose between fancy cocktails and flashy desserts. At this trailblazing SoHo sweets spot–creators of the Cronut–their latest cutting-edge confection combines the best of both worlds with their Milk and Cookie Shot. No need for dunking with this one: drink your milk right out of a shot glass made from a chocolate cookie! Break off a chunk and dip, or take a bite right out of the side, it’s completely up to you. Just make sure to share those social media pics first!

 

Holey Cream

Combining two favorites is a winner when is comes to dessert treats, but the Ice Cream Donut Sandwich from this Midtown ice cream shop may well be the peak of the form. Pick from a seemingly endless variety of the circular baked treat to serve as your bread, with two scoops of ice cream sandwiched between them. Throw in some toppings and you’ve got a treat that looks just as good as it tastes. Bring your appetite along with your sweet tooth here, as this unique treat is more than a mouthful.

 

ABC Kitchen

Acclaimed chef Jean-Georges has built a worldwide network of fine dining establishments from Tokyo to Sao Paulo, but New York is home to what may well be his finest creation. This Gramercy restaurant’s ever-changing menu contains lots of seasonal organic favorites, but dessert is where they truly shine: namely, their kettle corn sundae, with caramel-drenched popcorn and peanuts sprinkled all over a delectable ice cream sundae with whipped cream and hot fudge. The toppings put a photo-worthy sheen on this after-dinner classic, since no good dessert should ever be forgotten!

Five of the Coolest Speakeasies in NYC

Five of the Coolest Speakeasies in NYC

Everyone loves a secret, especially New Yorkers, and speakeasies have been a not-so-secret tradition here since Prohibition. Back then, speakeasies were a necessity for anyone seeking libations in a dry town. Now, they are havens for those searching for an off-the-beaten-path cocktail experience. If you’re a New York local or visitor, here are just five of the many New York speakeasies that will ‘wet’ your whistle.

 

Le Boudoir

135 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn

Inspired by Marie Antoinette’s private chambers, this spot is a must-see! Guests enter via a secret bookcase and passageway beneath the restaurant Chez Moi. Le Boudoir offers seasonal craft cocktails in a rich Rococo setting. Each cocktail is a unique piece of art and the attentive service makes patrons feel like royalty.

 

The Raines Law Room

48 West 17th Street, Manhattan

Located in the Chelsea neighborhood, this venue is named after an 1896 law meant to curb New Yorkers’ liquor consumption. But in 2018, patrons are encouraged to consume away!

Venture past the discrete door buzzer and discerning host, and you will find a windowless space filled with a slightly garish flare–which pretty much nails the flamboyant twenties cocktail vibe. And speaking of cocktails! The Garden Paloma, made with tequila, jalapeño agave, Perrier, grapefruit, and a pinch of salt, will take you back in time.

Be sure to arrive early to secure one of the private tables with buzzer service that are surrounded by black gauze curtains for privacy.

 

Angel’s Share/Village Yokocho

8 Stuyvesant Street, Manhattan

Remarkably, Angel’s Share remains completely unknown to some of its neighbors, and that is part of its charm. Loitering and large groups are discouraged which makes Angel’s Share the perfect date spot.

Walk through the side door at the front of the Japanese restaurant Village Yokocho, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a quintessentially East Village experience. Enjoy a view of Stuyvesant Square while sipping one of the city’s best Grasshoppers–served by a tuxedoed barman. Expert bartenders mix up classic cocktails but are also willing to surprise you with a custom-tailored creation.

 

Manhattan Cricket Club

226 W 79th Street, Manhattan

Enter through a green tufted leather door inside the restaurant Burke & Wills on the Upper West Side to find an atmosphere conducive to the oh-so-civilized conversation.  

Keeping with the inspiration of Burke and Wills, the Manhattan Cricket Club is reminiscent of a colonial gentlemen’s clubs of the Old Empire, though ladies are allowed too. Replete with Persian carpets, bookshelves, rich leather chairs, dark wood and gilded sconces, you will find yourself transported to another time and place.

The bar offers a large variety of creative cocktails including a menu section called The Prime Ministers Selection. And if you’re in the James Bond mood, try the Martini service.

Note on etiquette: Guests are requested to dress in a manner that suits the atmosphere and rowdy bar behavior is very looked down upon.

 

Patent Pending

49 W 27th Street, Manhattan

A neon sign reading Patent Pending will lead you toward an intriguing speakeasy behind an unassuming coffee shop in NoMad. It’s all housed in the Radio Wave building which used to be home to the famous inventor Nikola Tesla.

Through a heavy set of after-hours doors, you will come out into a dark, sultry, cave-like space. After making your way through an alcove full of low-hanging lanterns, you’ll find yourself in a dimly lit yet very comfortable bar.

The menu is divided into four Tesla-inspired categories: Energy, Frequency, Vibration and Descent. Drinks are equally compelling with names like the Hit By a Taxi (Japanese whiskey, Armagnac, sweet vermouth, Pu’erh tea, Curacao, star anise) and Radio Waves (tequila, mezcal, Agricole rum, basil, Thai chile, lime, and cucumber).
So, if you’re looking for the most unique and coolest speakeasies, rest easy—New York’s got you covered. For more ideas to enjoy NYC, check out some can’t-miss summer events or the city’s most enticing food halls.

5 Movies That Defined NYC

5 Movies That Defined NYC

While the movie industry calls Los Angeles home, there’s no city that’s been better showcased and paid tribute through the big screen than New York. From Times Square to the furthest reaches of the five boroughs, there’s no shortage of fascinating stories to be told about NYC, and filmmakers for over a century have taken advantage of this one-of-a-kind city as the ultimate backdrop. Here are just 5 outstanding examples of great films that helped to define New York City for audiences around the world.

 

The Naked City (1948)

Every great NYC film captures something about the city that words can’t describe, and the cinematography on display in The Naked City more than any other film does justice to the unique scenery of the Big Apple. This Academy Award-winning film turned 1940s New York into a film noir dreamscape, featuring real people and places shot with a documentarian’s eye. The story of a hard-boiled NYPD detective and a winding story of murder and deception, the film is most memorable for the on-location filming that captured a side of the city few Americans had previously observed.

 

All About Eve (1950)

The allure of Broadway is something that’s drawn hearts and minds to New York for decades, and no film inhabits that world quite like this story of Bette Davis as a star of the stage fighting to stay on top. As Margo Channing, she’s the toast of the city, but her place in the world is thrown into disarray when an ambitious young fan inserts herself into her life, ultimately attempting to snatch away her crown. Outside of the interpersonal drama, this movie uses the setting of the Theater District to full effect, showing that the bright lights don’t always illuminate the whole story. A tale of intrigue, yearning and competition, it couldn’t have happened anywhere but New York City.

 

The Warriors (1979)

This gangland exploitation flick contains equal parts grit and kitsch, capturing a long-gone New York City that many old-time residents were glad to see gone. The Warriors takes viewers on a treacherous subway ride from the Bronx to Coney Island, through the eyes of a tough but overmatched street gang eager to reclaim their home turf and clear their names after being wrongfully accused of a murder. They encounter an array of colorful but dangerous characters along the way, and the  late-70s NYC locations mean much of the grime onscreen is the real thing. While most of us may not find ourselves caught up in the world of street violence, any New Yorker who’s taken a way-too-long subway ride can at least partially identify with the travails of the Warriors.

 

Ghostbusters (1984)

Even the toughest New Yorker needs a laugh sometimes. While many movies showcasing the city choose to focus on dramatic realism, sometimes NYC can be the perfect backdrop for a battle between a few average joes and the forces of galactic evil. In this laugh-a-minute ghost story from the mid-80s, there are only four men protecting the citizens of New York from a full-on paranormal invasion: the self-appointed Ghostbusters. From real locations like the Columbia University campus and the New York Public Library, to a confrontation with an interdimensional supervillain on the roof of 55 Central Park West, the Ghostbusters could have only come from one place. In a city where you never know what’s around the corner, we can all be thankful that these four are keeping us safe from paranormal dangers.

 

Paris is Burning (1991)

New York is a city of many subcultures: small movements bubbling beneath the surface that eventually grow to something no American can ignore. Back when this documentary was filmed in concert halls around Times Square and Harlem, LGBT rights weren’t on even most progressive citizens’ radar, and the ballroom culture featured in Paris Is Burning, a lifeline for many, was an obscurity to most. The film reveals a stunningly colorful world, where drag balls populated by mostly nonwhite gay performers and audiences were an underground phenomenon that would soon reach mainstream America. With Madonna copying their dance moves within a few years, and RuPaul’s Drag Race now in living rooms nationwide, this film captivatingly showcases the nascent stages of one of the most fascinating cultural movements that couldn’t have started anywhere but New York City.

 

Don’t Miss These NYC Summer 2018 Events

Don’t Miss These NYC Summer 2018 Events

Ah, summer in New York City! It simply can’t be beat—even when you’re beating the heat. Grab a treat from an ice cream truck, nap in Central Park, have a ball on Fire Island, and much, much more. Do you feel that NYC summer groove yet?

From cultural festivals to happening concerts to refreshing swims, the big city offers it all during this time of year. Without further ado, let’s take a look at six summer events in NYC that you absolutely have to attend. You should probably start requesting vacation days…like right now.

 

1. Experience literary masterpieces at Shakespeare in the Park

All summer long at Delacorte Theater in Central Park

Even if you didn’t forget all those awesome lines from Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and all the other great works, you know Shakespeare is best enjoyed live. Bring some popcorn and soda to the 1800-seat Delacorte Theater in Central Park and enjoy a professionally-performed Shakespeare play—for free!

Free tickets are distributed every day there is a performance starting at 12 p.m. Check the performance calendar in advance, as tickets go fast.

 

2. Listen to the music at Panorama Music Festival

July 27-29 at Randall Island’s Park

Though Panorama Music Festival just launched in 2016, it’s already one the biggest music festivals in NYC. It’s easy to see why, with some of the biggest names in hip hop, electronic, and rock music coming to perform.

This year’s lineup is stacked. Feature acts include Migos, Gucci Mane, David Byrne, Charlotte Gainsbourg, DJ Python, Jhene Aiko, The War on Drugs, Lil Wayne, and numerous other great groups and individual talents. Clearly, you should be there, too! Grab a shiny glow stick, some retro sunglasses, and whatever other concert gear you need—and go.

 

3. Dance the night away at Midsummer Night Swing

June 26-July 14 at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Remember this saying: Summer is for dancing. Wait, is that a saying? Regardless, take those words to heart—and head to Midsummer Night Swing during late June and the first half of July.

The dance floor at Lincoln Center opens each night at 6 p.m. There are group dance lessons from 6:30-7:15 p.m., which are then followed by live sets. There’s also a silent disco party that starts at 10 p.m. (it’s quite the scene). Be sure to book your tickets in advance, as they sell quickly.

 

4. Watch pro eaters at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

July 4 at noon. at Coney Island USA

Admit it: You’re intrigued by what it takes to win the Mustard Belt. In the men’s competition, Joey Chestnut won the 2017 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest by eating an event-record 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes; in the women’s competition, Miki Sudo won by devouring 41 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Yes, those amounts in that time frame are mind-boggling—which is why the event is a must-attend. The contestants have a unique mix of true grit and highly expandable stomachs that you just won’t find anywhere else.

Even better, you can combine attending the hot dog eating contest with spending a day at Coney Island. Just thinking about all the candy, rollercoasters, and sand to enjoy at Coney Island should have you jumping for joy already.

 

5. Get out in the streets for the NYC Pride March

June 24 at noon, beginning at 7th Avenue and 16th Street

The NYC Pride March began in 1970, and is now the biggest Pride celebration in the world. In 2017 alone, there were more than 450 marching contingents. Famous celebrities, politicians, activists, and artists are always in attendance.

The 2018 theme, “Defiantly Different”, is about showing power and togetherness in the face of adversity. There are expected to be more than 40,000 marchers and 100-plus colorful floats. Grand marshals include Billie Jean King, Kenita Placide, and Tyler Ford. The march ends at 29th Street and Fifth Avenue, so look for a spot early somewhere along the parade route (or march in it!).

 

6. See dragons on water at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

August 11-12 at Flushing Meadows Park

The traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival (‘Duanwu’ Festival) commemorates the ancient poet Qu Yuan’s suicide with a spirited aquatic racing competition. In 278 BC, out of concern for his homeland, Qu Yuan jumped into the water and drowned himself. Local fishermen attempted but failed to save him by throwing rice dumplings to feed the fish (so the fish wouldn’t eat the poet). This is the history behind Dragon Boat Racing.

Each year in Queens, this history is remembered with the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, where roughly 180 dragon-boat teams from around the globe race for glory. While attending, enjoy traditional food, martial arts demonstrations, lion dance performances, and more.