Historians devoted to the study of diners—yes, that's a thing—estimate there were 1,000 diners in the city a generation ago. There are now only 398 establishments that describe themselves as diners or coffee shops, according to city Department of Health records. Recent casualties include Soup Burg on the Upper East Side, the Café Edison in midtown and the El Greco Diner in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. (See sidebar below for our explanation of exactly what a diner is.)
The star-shaped, 1962-vintage Market Diner in midtown figures to be next. In July, The Real Deal reported that developer Moinian Group had filed with the city to demolish the 11th Avenue building and replace it with a 13-story condominium.
Indeed, something of a diner deathwatch exists among New Yorkers concerned about losing their favorite places for affordable comfort food. Earlier this year, a rumor surfaced on Reddit and Twitter that the popular Neptune Diner in Queens would close, which owner George Katsihtis denies. The clock is also ticking for the Evergreen Diner, which occupies part of the first floor of a parking garage on West 47th Street, just off Times Square. The Evergreen generates about $1.5 million in annual revenue, but barely makes a profit. "One day they will raise my rent and I will close," said co-owner Ilias "Lou" Argena, who pays about $25,000 a month.
"To me, it's not surprising that diners are closing in New York," said Jan Whitaker, a historian in Amherst, Mass., who writes a blog called Restauranting Through History. "Given how expensive everything is in New York, the wonder is they survive at all."