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Diners fight to survive even in the boroughs

neptune diner

Nov. 28, 2016 Staff Report

The number of diners across New York City is on the decline and it is not just Manhattan establishments that are closing, according to the New York Times.

Health-department records show that there are half as many diners in New York as there were just 20 years ago, reported the Times. In fact, there were 398 diners last year as compared to 1,000 a generation ago.

The article stated that the diners everywhere are coming under pressure.

“Manhattan has certainly seen more diner closings than other boroughs,” according to the Times. “That said, with rising costs in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, classic diners like the Neptune and Bel Aire, both in Astoria, Queens, could soon be under threat.”

The Times article follows a report put out by Crains last year that stated that the rising cost of business has played a large factor in the closings. The Evergreen Diner in midtown makes $1.5 million in revenue, wrote Crain’s, but with a $25,000-a-month rent and other expenses, the owners can barely turn a profit.

Grub Street which reported on the declining number of diners Monday listed five diners that are open that people should visit. One was the The Court Square Diner on Jackson Avenue.

It wrote:

Court Square Diner: The Long Island City restaurant is your classic diner in all of its chrome glory, with a by-the-books interior straight out of Back to the Future. The menu is, of course, approximately the length of a textbook, with chicken-salad melts, ultimate omelettes, and chocolate custard pie.



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Fact is the food at most diners isn’t good for the price. Better meals can be had elsewhere for what you pay at a diner.

The Bel Aire is expensive and inconsistent. The owners are barely there except when someone is doing a press piece and a TV camera is there.

The Neptune diner is just not very good. I always found Mike’s Diner to be gross.

If I want a burger, I’m better off getting Burger Club or Peteys. For Greek specialties, there are countless Greek places that do a better job than a diner.

The only area diner that really evolved is Sanford. Most people in Astoria now probably don’t even know that it used to be a regular old greasy spoon before the Karelakis brothers reinivented the place.


We are talking about real costs. Every aspect of producing you diner food or any other food in a restaurant for that matter has skyrocketed, especially in NYC. And cost over time is specifically what you referred too in the first comment. “The attraction of diners used to be cheap simple food anytime”.
So now, in the present, you get the same food but it costs more. By the way, the thing that is most attractive about diners is their consistency. You go to a diner anytime you want and always get what you want exactly the way you like it. Nothing more, nothing less.


That’s a lame argument. The fact is food cost more now, rent cost more now, labor cost more now which logically means your meal cost more now. Its 2016 not 1996.


That kind of resigned ‘logical’ thinking is why these diners are unprofitable and you suck at business. People eat out more than they ever have, and spend more doing so. A market exists. Also unless we are talking about real cost, any discussion of cost over time is meaningless.


I think the fact that diners used to be family run, with multiple generations cooking and serving probably for little money and crazy hours, is one reason why they are less viable today.


The attraction of diners used to be cheap simple food anytime. You cannot eat at Court Square for less than $15.


Years ago in NYC, especially Manhattan, there were comparatively far fewer places to eat out cheaply for lunch. Options besides diners in most parts of the city were delis for take-out heroes, the Automat, Chock full o’ Nuts, and other similar places like Nedick’s. Today, there are bazillions of places to find decently priced breakfast and lunch, maybe too many. It seems that diners are trying to compete against pricier restaurants and aren’t the simple no BS places to eat anymore. Plus, fancy-pants Nouveau Yorkers today wouldn’t be caught dead in a greasy spoon. It’s too bad because we’re losing many places that exemplified the character of the old gutsy city.


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